The Lifeboat Inn, Thornham
Stephanie Mackentyre heads to the coast for some R&R
The 16th Century Lifeboat Inn started life as a working farm and later a beer house although rumour has it the characterful building was popular with smugglers. You can see why. With its unrivalled location in Ship Lane there’s nothing between it and the salt marshes leading to the sandbanks and coastal views. It was renamed The Lifeboat Inn in the nineteenth century and each of the 13 exceptionally comfortable bedrooms have been named after the crew of the last pulling lifeboat stationed at Hunstanton.
Recently refurbished, our bedroom with its king-sized double and sizeable bathroom was well appointed with a selection of teas, cafetiere with ground coffee sachets, hot chocolate and a mini Kilner jar filled with home-made shortbread as a welcome gift. Our border collie Bonnie was also made instantly at home with her own welcome pack complete with treats, freshly laundered dog blanket and china food bowl. The Inn has plenty of nods to its interesting past with its traditional bar with quarry tile floor, settles and log burners. The refresh of the building has been sympathetically carried out to ensure guests can enjoy the sophistication of 21st Century living with chic bathrooms, flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi throughout the building.
We were able to take our dog downstairs to dine with us; dog owners eat in the conservatory with its 200 year old vine. Set on two floors it overlooks a courtyard, they also have a separate lounge which leads to their main restaurant on the opposite side of the building for the two-legged diners.
The restaurant gained one AA Rosette status last year and the menu reflects that, cleverly mixing some more contemporary dishes with traditional favourites. Being so close to the sea there are plenty of fresh fish options. Pan-fried smoked haddock and potato cakes served with herby crème fraiche or torched local mackerel on a potato and spring onion salad with a creamy horseradish dressing. We chose to start our meal with mushroom soup served with rustic bread for my guest and for me it had to be their courgette, lemon and pumpkin seed linguini sprinkled with sage parmesan and served with fresh rocket leaves on top. The soup was rich, thick and creamy with slices of home-made bread - one slice of white and one sun-dried tomato. My linguini was attractively presented in a pretty blue pottery dish. A generous portion and each of the elements blended together perfectly to make a very enjoyable start to our evening.
With the dog happily asleep at our feet we ate and felt ourselves unwinding over a bottle of their house wine, a crisp, chilled white from La Mancha in Spain – Macabeo, Castillo de Benizar, Bodegas Ayuso, offering an elegant nose with fruity undertones.
Main course was an easy choice for me, although tempted by the Norfolk slow-roasted pork belly glazed with honey served with dauphinoise potatoes and a cider jus, it had to be the Lifeboat’s fish pie with a cheesy mash. Being this close to the sea I knew the fish would be super-fresh and I wasn’t wrong. Fresh flakes of cod, smoked haddock and salmon with plump prawns in a white sauce with cheesy mash expertly piped. For my dining partner their pan-fried lamb’s liver served with crisp rashers of streaky bacon, onion rings and mash complemented by a roasted baby onion jus. The substantial portions meant I had to leave some of mine to make room for dessert. I was glad I had as the crème brûlée with poached apricots and more of their home-made shortbread rounded off a very pleasant evening indeed. My guest chose their white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake with a raspberry sorbet and very pretty it looked too.
After a fabulously restful night we woke to the sound of early morning birdsong. After a dog walk through the reed beds we came back to enjoy breakfast. Full English looked very tempting but instead we chose fresh kippers with grilled tomatoes and porridge for me followed by scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Even the dog was catered for with a sausage!
This is definitely a place if you’re looking for a spot of sweet repose; ideal for walkers, dog owners and those in need of some revitalising, salty Norfolk air.
The Lifeboat Inn