Muddy Stays: The Chequers Inn, Thornham
The Chequers Inn is a 16th century, white-washed pub and restaurant with rooms set in the North Norfolk village of Thornham. A complete refurbishment has brought it bang up-to-date, with a cosy snug (ubiquitous wood-burning stove in situ), a stylish restaurant where Tapas, street food and wood-fired pizzas dominate the menu, and 11 well-appointed bedrooms.
We arrived on a chilly, sunny February afternoon and were immediately impressed with the courtyard around the back – check out the cedar wood pavilions with their plastic ‘windows’ protecting guests from inclement weather, comfy seats, tables laid out for dinner and cosy blankets to wrap up in.
There’s a lot going on in this little village: this is where multi award-winning restaurant The Orange Tree is located; it’s also home of Thornham Deli, with its quaint shop and outdoor marquee heated by wood-burning stove, and Shucks – the well-known restaurant housed in a Yurt. As for pubs, there are two of note: The Lifeboat Inn and The Chequers Inn, which – in a village stuffed with great places to eat and drink – have their work cut out for them.
It’s a challenge that The Chequers Inn rises to with great aplomb, as we discovered during our stay. Don’t leave without checking out Thornham marshes either, particularly beautiful on a misty morning.
The hotel’s 11 rooms are all named after native British trees, and vary in size and design. They are, rather honestly, divided into categories of Small Good, Good, Better and Best, each with cosy, on-trend décor – think king-size beds, duck down duvets and pillows, statement lighting, smart DAB radios and contemporary bathrooms.
Best rooms make the most of their attic setting, with freestanding baths, and separate seating areas.
We loved the lighting in our room, Linden, which had a massive walk-in shower and hexagon floor tiles that I wanted to chip up and take home. Pictures of trees on shiny gold canvasses dominate the hotel; I’m guessing the one above our bed is a Linden tree?
The rooms don’t have bells and whistles in the traditional sense – you won’t find a fridge filled with overpriced little bottles of plonk – but there are lovely ideas to admire, including the ability to make a proper cup of coffee using a smart silver cafetierre and foiled sachets of good-quality ground beans.
Make sure you look in the tiny Kilner jars with their orange lids, too – one contains two nutty/chocolatey cookies which are a delight.
The best idea? A tiny bottle of Sloe gin to help yourself to. Bedtime tipple anyone? How civilised…
And, in the bathroom, quality toiletries from no other than spa wonder-brand ESPA.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Chequers Inn is many things to many guests – enjoy a quick drink at the bar, dog at your feet (something many a friendly visitor was doing on Friday evening as we came down for dinner), sit in the snug and order Tapas to nibble on or head into the newly-refurbished restaurant area and enjoy a three-course meal.
The menu is extensive and varied, reflecting the wide clientele welcomed at The Chequers Inn. Fancy a snack during the day? Order from the Street Food menu with its bagels, pancakes and wraps served between 12pm and 6pm. For evening scoff, there’s stone-baked pizzas with nine inventive toppings plus a ‘create-your-own’ option (buy two pizzas and a bottle of wine for an incredible £24), a children’s menu and a selection of dishes for the larger, more refined appetite – or a treat.
My fresh, handmade tagliatelle with chilli and lime tiger prawns and seafood bisque from the Main Courses menu was fresh and tangy, with chunky, juicy prawns and a rich sauce.
My daughter understandably devoured her fish goujons with chips and peas, with its great big flakes of white fish and sweet garden peas.
The dessert menu is larger than most, with choices including velvet chocolate mousse with peanut butter ice-cream, apple & plum crumble with cinnamon foam and tiramisu with amaretto ice-cream.
Full, but not willing to throw in the towel, we opted for a scoop of chocolate ice-cream each, which came beautifully presented (two bowls; one board). I can still taste the rich chunks of chocolate at the bottom of each spoonful.
Guests staying overnight have the advantage of tucking into breakfast the next morning. Help yourself to pastries, jams and juices attractively laid out on a central table before ordering from a menu of British breakfast classics.
My Norfolk cooked breakfast of local sausage, black pudding, crispy bacon, tomatoes and fried egg was the perfect start to the day.
All in all, a lovely stay in a lovely part of Norfolk.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Casual drinkers, couples, dog-lovers, families, groups of friends, passers by and those celebrating an occasion.
Not for: I honestly can’t think of anybody that The Chequers Inn wouldn’t/couldn’t cater for.
The damage: Tapas £4 each, 3 for £12, 5 for £20; main courses from £15, street food from £9; pizzas from £9; desserts from £6; sides from £3.
The Chequers Inn, High Street, Thornham, Norfolk, PE36 6LY. Tel: 01485 512229. chequersinnthornham.com