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Why less is more at Fritton House

PUBLISHED: 13:08 18 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:58 20 February 2013

Chocolate and hazelnut brownie, toasted marshmallows and summer fruit ice cream.

Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

Chocolate and hazelnut brownie, toasted marshmallows and summer fruit ice cream. Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ruth French discovers the joys of Fritton House, a small boutique hotel and restaurant nestling in the Somerleyton Estate

Ruth French discovers the joys of Fritton House, a small boutique hotel and restaurant nestling in the Somerleyton Estate

Somerleyton is one of the first parishes that tip-toes back into Suffolk from the southern end of the Norfolk Broads. Its pastoral and pleasing route round the bends of the B1074 leaves behind the vibrant hub of activity and town life and offers the tourist a perfect setting in which to unwind or indulge in more leisurely pursuits.
It was here that Sir Christopher Cockerell designed his famous mode of transport, the Hovercraft and where youll find the fitting memorial to him in the form of a bronze Hovercraft column.
At the heart of this glorious 5,000 acre estate is the Tudor-Jacobean mansion of Somerleyton Hall and its gardens. Privately owned by the Crossley family since 1863 and open to the public, it forms part of a diverse group of businesses with holiday breaks and hospitality firmly in mind.
I visited Fritton House, a small but perfectly-formed country house restaurant owned by The Adnams Group, lying in the heart of Fritton Country Park and fortuitously bordered by Fritton Lake.
Its the perfect place to enjoy exceptionally good food whilst being able to experience everything else that the Somerleyton Estate has to offer such as fishing, boating and golfing. It has a particularly warm and informal feel throughout which has been cleverly achieved by mixing boho-chic decorating touches with resident pieces of antiques and tasteful, soft furnishings.
I instantly felt at home in the double-fronted hub of the house and was soon welcomed into the rear bar and dining room by restaurant manager Tom Ginn. He explained that Fritton House delivered an exciting and informal family lunch experience during the day with its fresh modern menu in a bespoke setting and yet it was able to transform into a sophisticated and fine dining restaurant in the evenings with the very best of dinner menus. The outside Terrace boasts a newly-opened seafood bar normally selling fresh oysters and a fine array of other fishy delights.
Alas, the inclement day of my visit meant it was closed so I had to admire its accompanying view from the windows of the dining room. Still though I was afforded a stunning vista of the parkland and lakes edge.

Lee is modest to a fault regarding his talents. So much so that Jack, my attentive young waiter for the day said: Lee lets his wonderful
food speak for itself... How right he was

The nine double bedrooms including two attic rooms are individually and tastefully appointed, again with The Frittons unique blend of old and new fittings and sumptuous furniture. Tom was also proud of the barn conversion, used for weddings of up to 150 guests and the fully-equipped conference room that can accommodate 15 delegates.
Fritton House offers a unique dining experience, which I was eager to sample, and I was also keen to meet the head chef.
Lee Knight, a highly regarded and amiable man, who previously worked at The Crown in Southwold, grew up in Somerset where his parents owned and ran a pub restaurant. It was there that his passion for food grew as he picked his way through errant and spare kitchen dishes as a child. A former fisherman, he decided to change tack and turn his attentions to his love of cooking by becoming a chef. The knowledge garnered from his fishing days though was to prove invaluable and now his skill at cooking fish is very much respected.
Lee told me that his drive for producing exceptional food at Fritton House was furthered by having such fresh local ingredients around. The Somerleyton Estate provides much of the fresh meat and Lee sources the rest himself from local suppliers.
When it comes to fresh vegetables and herbs, Lee grows much of it himself and picks it most mornings. He has also just been granted a quarter-acre plot at Fritton House where he has invested in a poly-tunnel for vegetables and herbs. This should be well under way by next season, providing the restaurant with much of the more unusual and harder to find varieties. A man of few words, Lee is modest to a fault regarding his talents. So much so that Jack, my attentive and knowledgeable young waiter for the day said it all. Lee lets his wonderful food speak for itself... How right he was.
The wild weather naturally guided me towards the more autumnal dishes and I chose Butternut and Sweet Potato Soup created by Frittons Hungarian sous chef, Csaba for my first course. Flavoured with sage, nutmeg and parmesan, it had a beguiling flavour found in vintage recipes yet it was thoroughly up to date if not trendy. Writing about food has its drawbacks though; adjectives get used up pretty quickly so Ill truthfully say that this was the best soup Ive tasted in a very long while.
It had to be fish for the main course and due to the weather, it had to be hearty too. Roast Lowestoft Cod Fillet with shrimp and fennel butter was my choice. Served with peas, broad beans and crispy potatoes, it went a long way to sustain.
Lees skills became clear when I tasted the cod. Cooked to perfection, balanced and generous, it left me in admiration of his timings and judgements. As a cook, I know how easy it is to disappoint with fish by under-cooking or render a delicate fillet tasteless by over-cooking. No such faux-pas with Mr Knightit was sublime and consequently I left nothing for Mr Manners!
By now though there was a danger that Id have little room for dessert. Thank goodness then that I noted the Bread and Butter Pudding; a perfect seasonal choice. Made with croissants, it was a fantastically tasty twist of the classic version served with a small sprig of zingy whiteberries for a dash of acidity and a velvety, sweet sauce anglais with vanilla ice-cream.
Jack suggested a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from the Forrest Estate in New Zealand, which complimented beautifully all three dishes.
It was genuinely hard to decide on my menu at Fritton House so Ive promised myself a return visit in order to sample more, such as the Roast Sirloin of Somerleyton Beef with creamed potatoes, chard and an oxtail caf au lait. Or perhaps it will be Seared Loch Duart Salmon with salad Nicoise.
Decisions, decisions... I cant wait.

  • Fritton House, Church Lane, Fritton
    Tel. 01493 484008


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