Muddy stays: St Giles House Hotel
There’s an episode of Sex and The City (season 5) where Carrie has writer’s block: “The worst thing about not being in a relationship,” she explains “is when your job is to write about being in a relationship.” In this scene, Carrie bemoans her single status as the cursor flashes before her.
While sitting at my desk this week wondering what to post, I was reminded of this episode. Not that I’m short of inspiration – have you met my boyfriend ‘Norfolk’ yet? He’s friendly, beautiful, quirky, arty, cool and independent – but I hadn’t lined up a review to post and, as such, was feeling fairly ‘Carrie-ish’.
I decide to put some messages in bottles and wait – cursor still flashing. Within an hour Alice at The St Giles House Hotel in Norwich emails back to say she would be happy to host me for dinner, bed and breakfast and when can I stay? “Tomorrow?” I type cringing (too desperate?). “Lovely,” she replies. “See you tomorrow.” Bish, bash, bosh, review arranged.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, just think, if the Assistant Manager of one of the best hotels in Norwich can be that efficient and magnanimous towards a humble journalist trying to make a living, imagine the lengths she’ll go to for actual paying guests? See…
And just look at this building – there is so much history associated with this Georgian, Grade II listed property that it could well be a museum with a £6 entrance fee (less for children, I’m imagining). It’s also located in what I consider to be the nicest part of the city – at the mouth of the hip, cobbled streets of The Lanes and near St Andrews Street, with The Smoke House and Cinema City as neighbours.
This beauty started life as the HQ for The London & Norwich Fire Insurance Company before becoming the office of Norwich Union. During WWII it was the regional residence of the GPA; rumour has it that members of the government would enter the church opposite and use the underground tunnels (still present under Norwich) to attend secret meetings in the hotel’s Walnut Suite.
This suite is now a popular wedding venue with its ceremonial licence, stylish wood-panelling, perfectly corniced ceilings and draw-dropping chandelier, together with private bar and balcony overlooking the city (can you imagine saying ‘I do’ here?).
The building finally opened as the St Giles House Hotel in 2005 with a distinctive art deco interior – think original parquet flooring, geometric monochrome carpets, ornate coving, beautiful chandeliers and lavish antique furniture.
There are 24 rooms, including four suites and two deluxe suites. My suite is called Marie Antoinette and is as grand as it sounds with more parquet flooring, thick roped curtains, beautiful pieces of art deco furniture (including a stripy sofa in rich tones of red, gold and purple) an open fire place and regal king size bed that affords the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.
The wow factor is the bathroom with its giant, sloping, copper roll top bath complete with gold taps; opposite it is another open fire place. And here begins the dilemma: how am I going to fit in dinner, an episode of Masterchef on the giant flatscreen (Oh come on, I didn’t say Eastenders…) and a soak in the tub with Elemis bubbles before I turn into a pumpkin (that bath will take over an hour to fill, surely)?
Luckily, knowing that my travelling companion is a three-year-old girl, Alice automatically thinks ahead and books an early dinner in the 2 Rosette restaurant. Everything from the warm brioche bread to the scones (afternoon tea is an institution here) is made from scratch, while the fish comes from the same supplier as the Queen (I kid you not) and the meat from a local, organic butcher of high repute.
The restaurant and bar showcase more of that art deco style with strip lighting, decorative gold mirrors and dark red walls.
There are three menus for guests to peruse: a light menu served until 6pm, a three-course set menu and, the star of the show, an à la carte menu. I start with Ricotta Grundi – Ricotta balls served with roast Celeriac and Parmesan and Truffle cream, and pair it with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Homemade fish fingers, creamy mash and baked beans arrive for my daughter as soon as ready, together with a colouring book and crayons – proving how well the staff understand guests’ needs (and the needs of families in particular).
I follow my yummy starter up with the fish of the day, which is grilled tuna served on a bed of creamy spinach risotto.
While my meal is being prepared Scott, one of the managers, joins me for a quick chat and tells me about some of the deals currently on offer. Most hotels of this grandeur would refuse to seemingly ‘cheapen’ their product in this way, but The St Giles House Hotel realises the value of a full hotel every day of the week and achieves this through clever packages – see below for details.
After dinner, I am shown around the cosy lounge area (more beautiful ceilings; more open fire places) and take a peak at the outdoor terrace, a suntrap for the after work crowd wanting to enjoy a cocktail.
The hotel also has a well-regarded spa offering an array of treatments including pregnancy massages, Elemis anti-ageing facials, facials for men, Hopi Ear Candles, hair removal, eyebrow tinting, lash extensions, BareMinerals make up applications, and OPI manicures and pedicures.
When Scott asks if I have any further questions, I can only think of one thing: why isn’t this a five-star hotel (it’s four). “Because we don’t have enough space to accommodate some of the items five star status requires, like a pool for example,” he shrugs.
Pool schmool I say, with character like this, I know who I’d rather bed down with. What do you say, Carrie?
The St Giles House Hotel, St Giles Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1JR. Tel: 01603 275180. stgileshousehotel.com
The St Giles House Hotel has several offers for April:
Friday dinner, bed and breakfast deal – £145; Sunday dinner, bed and breakfast deal – £120; Spend £95 on food and drink get a free night’s stay (until 28 April); Book a spa treatment and bring a friend for free; £75 spa day: exclusive use of lounge, 45-minute treatment and Champagne afternoon tea