Roger St Pierre reports on the Legacy Duke’s Head HotelOnce among Britain’s busiest ports, the West Norfolk town of King’s Lynn justifiably claims to be ‘brim full of history’. The serious silting of the River Ouse and the Wash combined with the arrival of ever-larger cargo ships reduced the town’s eminence as a trading centre. But a rich architectural heritage has remained and smaller boats carrying cut flowers, wood and other products still set sail with the tide across the North Sea to Holland.
Despite the arrival of large out of town shopping complexes, the pedestrianised High Street of King’s Lynn thankfully remains vibrant, unlike so many of its ilk and, at the heart of the town and currently under massive refurbishment, the so-called Tuesday Market is one of Europe’s largest and most imposing town squares, peppered with historic buildings.
The huge windows in the exquisitely grand Vancouver Suite at the historic Legacy Duke’s Head Hotel, which was our home for a night, look across that square to the magnificent 15thC Guildhall – the oldest surviving building of its kind in the UK.
Georgian in origins and classical in style, the property features an ornate portico and a grandiose main stairway plus a range of welcoming public rooms.
For years a part of the once pre-eminent Forte Hotels portfolio, it later passed through various ownerships. It is now part of Legacy Hotels, a forward thinking group that has made a major financial and expertise commitment and restored the property to its former glory.
The 81 recently refurbished guestrooms include economy doubles, de luxe rooms, feature rooms and suites, all decorated and furnished in rich contemporary style, with lavish use of hardwoods and natural tones.
Amenities include super-comfortable king-size beds, well-appointed bathrooms with spacious walk-in showers and a neatly designed executive work area. Extra-large wide-screen TVs offer more than 100 channels, while Wi-Fi is complimentary in all rooms.
The hotel’s spacious 20m x 9.5m ballroom is neo art-deco in ambience and hosts many of King’s Lynn’s major social occasions, as well as corporate events for up to 220 theatre style.
The Vancouver and Nelson Suites, the Lynn Bar and Turners Restaurant are available for smaller events, with capacities ranging from 25 to 50.
A choice of buffet or full-service breakfast is served in the spacious Gryffens Café, which is also open for lunches, afternoon teas and dinner.
There’s a gourmet option too. Named after one of the property’s early owners, Turners Restaurant offers a relaxing ambience and contemporary fine dining.
A comfortable setting and attentive and friendly service add value to a nicely balanced menu of contemporary British cuisine, with regular and menu-of-the-day options.
I started with a pretty carpaccio of candy-striped beetroot with goat’s cheese bon-bons, horseradish cream, candied walnuts and micro leaves, which was followed by roasted pollock, which came set on a potato rosti and accompanied by cockle meat, Jerusalem artichoke puree, roasted beetroot, spinach, truffled pea shoots and oven-dried tomatoes.
Pollock is a not-often-seen fish that demands respect in its preparation. Too often in this country, fish – and pork too – are cooked to the point where they loose their juiciness and turn horribly dry – but not this time. Like the rest of the meal, it was a triumph, presented in an attractive and manageable portion – which meant there was room for a delightful pudding of vanilla panna cotta with fruit coulis.
King’s Lynn has a range of nightlife, with several decent restaurants plus bars and nightclubs as well as health and leisure facilities. Norfolk is a county without any motorways but the traffic is generally lighter than in other parts of the country, so distances seem to shrink. Kings Lynn has direct services to London while the nearest airport is Norwich, less than an hour away, providing services to the Continent.