Believe me, I know exactly how seductive North Norfolk villages can be in late summer and Burnham Market edges out most of the competition in the prettiness stakes. I’m going to stop short of saying that thing everyone says about chocolate boxes, but if I wasn’t so restrained, that’s exactly where I’d be going to describe this delectable place, just a few miles from the North Norfolk coast, but a million miles away from the real world. So even before I arrived at Burnham Market’s relatively new kid on the block, I was already steeling myself against charm by association. I needn’t have worried, Number 29 more than matches its exceptional location.
Laid back island spirit, alive and well in Burnham Market
Set on Market Place right in the heart of town, from the outside, Number 29 is every inch the elegant Grade II listed Victorian townhouse right down to the beautifully restored brickwork, Farrow & Ball heritage paint and tumbling wisteria round graceful sash windows.
Inside it’s a different story entirely. Here almost all the traditions belong to owner Tim Roberts, a maker of bold design decisions which really shouldn’t work, but really do. Think chesterfields upholstered in distressed Union Jack leather and portraits of Hollywood icons - oversize and candid, of course. Dramatic period features mixed and mingled with overblown graffiti, exposed stonework gauzily rendered to look like art in its own right, and everything held together by what seems like acres of vintage oak flooring, softly coloured paintwork and ridiculously well designed lighting – one of many little details to which Tim pays minute attention. A great habit no doubt honed at Gin Trap, the bar and restaurant in Nevis which he also owns and from whence comes the Caribbean twist at Number 29, hinted at by powerful shots of Bob Marley and an equally powerful collection of over 100 different rums at the bar.
I wouldn’t have immediately put North Norfolk and the Caribbean together, but obviously Tim can add atmospheric alchemist to his list of talents, because the laid back vibe he’s created here with the team manages to feel both totally authentic and gently elevated. Be warned though, it’s an endearing combo and dropping in for a drink inevitably leads to lingering a lot longer, so plan ahead – Number 29’s only been opened for 18 months, but it’s already ranked as a must for locals and word’s out, well beyond the boundaries of Norfolk.
Fresh, local and fantastically theatrical food
Of course atmosphere and aesthetics alone aren’t responsible for growing the hotel’s stellar reputation in so short a time. Quite a bit of credit for that has to go to Executive Head Chef, Jeremy Parke who, after spending 25 years mastering the art of cooking with live fire, has now transformed the open kitchen at Number 29 into a culinary theatre producing the most sublime flavours from almost exclusively local ingredients.
How local is local? Well if I tell you that the restaurant has a first buyer’s licence for fish and Jeremy can often be found picking up fresh sea bass direct from the boat at 1am, you’ve a pretty good idea how he feels about making sure all his produce is as low impact and sustainable as possible.
During summer, Coals in the Courtyard sees Jeremy break out the Big Green Eggs and cooks up a live fire storm outdoors. But I have to admit to being more than a little tempted to book one of the delightfully intimate private dining rooms for an evening this winter – I’m already thinking Brancaster oysters cooked over hot coals, washed down with chilled Piper and almost certainly a tot of rum, or two, before bed.
And so to bed ….
Everything about the suites at Number 29 comes with a light touch. Mine was named the Marley Suite but didn’t overplay the theme with anything more than a few striking, black & white portraits of the man himself, carefully arranged on dove-grey walls.
There was a gentle whisper of Victorian country house decadence in the wrought iron bed and snowy-white bedlinen but it came counterbalanced by a very right-now organic mattress and you may not think you need a large, freestanding bathtub in your bedroom, until you have one, I’m now a complete convert.
Each of the hotel’s six suites has its own, private patio. Naturally, since it was August, I had morning coffee outdoors, but can just easily imagine star-gazing in frosty November or wrapping up warm for the romance of a misty winter dawn.
Speaking of coffee, a sleek espresso machine has that covered, there’s also a good selection of Teapigs teas and cute little ginger biscuits, shaped as the numbers ‘two’ and ‘nine’, are about as heavy as the branding gets here, which is something else to like a lot.
Good to know
Number 29 has six suites, all with private patios. Three executive suites are dog-friendly right down to bowls, blankets and a menu of treats, dogs are also welcome in the bar and outdoor dining terrace.
The main restaurant and outdoor terrace seat up to 90 guests, and two private dining rooms upstairs seat 10 guests each.
Service is impeccable, with front of house run by Rachel Parke and her handpicked team; Tim taking care of the all important details; Jeremy heading up the kitchen and a beautifully trained bar crew mixing flawless G&Ts and making mean Rum Punch.
As well as summer Coal in the Courtyard cookouts, the hotel also serves traditional Sunday Lunch with a live fire twist year round and hosts live music events every second Friday.