I’m familiar with the Hoste – the Gastro Boutique Restaurant and Hotel in Burnham Market, Norfolk. I’ve been here many times before, first when it was still just a pub, some twenty years ago, and more recently for a night away when Annie and I somehow managed to arrange three concurrent sleepovers for the children.
On one of these nights out, I ordered the most bizarre starter; pigeon on toast with fruit jus and black pepper icecream – it was at least two courses on the same plate at once. I was expecting some genius revelation combo of previously unthought-of and unmarriable ingredients – but, it was even more awkward than pigeon and icecream sounds. You hope for more than the sum of the parts, what I got was an essay in subtraction. I spoke to a chef friend, and asked him why something so ill-conceived hadn’t been pulled straight off the menu? “Oh, no. Disasters like that can stick around for ages. Everyone assumes it must be brilliant so they’ll order it – once. Emperor’s new clothes.”
On this occasion though it was October, a damp late Sunday afternoon. I was with our six year old daughter. “I’m hungry, Daddy.” I’d thought to get her a fizzy orange and a packet of crisps in the bar, but it was packed and very loud, and it stank – I mean really ponged – of wet spaniels. We went through the back to the bizarrely African themed conservatory.
Kitty is very fond of ordering tea. I think it’s anAlicein Wonderland thing. She’s Alice, of course – I guess I’m everyone else. I ordered her the Jubilee Afternoon Tea, ‘a selection of sandwiches, a homemade scone with jam and clotted cream, a selection of cakes, and a pot of tea.’ It arrived, as you would expect on one of those triple-stacked tiered-plate arrangements. Square plates on this occasion.
The egg mayo sandwich was good enough that I didn’t get a look in, the same with the ham sandwich. The smoked salmon and cucumber sandwich failed. It is normally two distinctly separate sandwiches, it was not a happy combo. Kitty further turned her nose up at the idea of a scone with jam and clotted cream, so I ate it. The scone was hot from the oven, and had sultanas in it – always a mistake in a scone served with cream. Nice to have some proper clotted cream though.
The cakes where good, although the miniature meringue on top of the bite-sized lemon tart turned a decent lemon tart into a silly lemon meringue pie. A good eclair, a nice macroon, and a shortbread biscuit all devoured by a hungry six year old.
As I was paying the bill I asked the waitress why it was called a Jubilee Tea? “Why – it’s the Jubilee year! And it’s been very popular – so we’ve just kept it on the menu.”
Afternoon tea for one person £15, a small bottle of fizzy water £1.60
The Hoste Arms, Burnham Market,Norfolk,PE31 8HD,01328738777