Review of the Marriott Sprowston Manor, a golfing, spa and country club hotel by senior Dining Out correspondent David Hughes.
Twilight was falling as we turned into the approach to the hotel, and as soon as you are past the modern signs at the entrance, cruising gently down the formal drive to the manor, you are looking at the grand brick façade and planted centrepiece to the carriageway front.
There`s plenty of parking, but when a space suddenly appeared right out front by the Christmas tree I thought “perfect”. Sometimes small pieces of serendipity like this just seem to make things all fall into place. A short walk to reception, and soon we are installed into the Walpole suite.
I don`t know if that particular former prime minister ever laid his head on a pillow here, but the booklet of Historical Notes in the room tells you this house has had plenty of famous owners and visitors over the years. What`s certain though is that you get the same standard of luxury; huge bed, finest linens, posh French soaps and that very modern “essential” 2 TV`s.
There`s a big dinner party booking for 7.30 tonight, so we elect to go earlier. M starts with scallops, black pudding balls and cauliflower puree. Bar the puree being a bit cool this got high marks. I`m very much in favour of letting the ingredients show their origin, so whilst my crab and baby prawn fishcake was perfectly acceptable, blending the contents to a paste seemed a slightly missed opportunity. A coarser, more rustic approach would allow each flavour to come to the fore individually, and let the piquant lime crème freche dance alongside.
Continuing the local produce theme for the mains, we chose Norfolk leg of lamb steak, and the Norfolk pork belly & cheek. Once again, M has the edge on me, with the braised pork melting in the mouth, the Chantenay carrots flavoursome and crunchy, and the apple mash with just a hint of tartness. Given the aspirations of the menu, putting lamb leg steak with chips on an evening menu had me wondering what fine dining twist would be brought into play, but somehow it looked a bit more “pub lunch” rather than evening meal. The flavours were fine, but there`s room here to be a bit more imaginative.
To offset this slight disappointment, a special mention here to the bin end specials on the wine list. A lone bottle of Veramonte Chilean Cab Sav was priced at a beyond reasonable £15, and was delicious. A slice of Wensleydale blue and a glass of port preceded a Pear tatin, with its scoop of brandy and pudding ice cream nostalgically reminding me of Old Jamaica rum and raisin chocolate. M`s Tia Maria Eton Mess was a stacked and semi deconstructed crunchy pile of sweet meringue and piquant raspberries, and provided a fine bookend to the meal. All that remained now was to head up to that fluffy pile of pillows and dream some sweet dreams.
Go for: great service, indulgent long weekends and golfing breaks, conferences and trips to nearby Norwich.