Shall we meet for breakfast?

Trends of when to go out to eat have always been fascinating. The classic evening dining experience will never be replaced, of course, but it seems that any other time of the day is up for grabs. In England, we have been traditionally slow to catch on to the long continental lunch starting at about 12 and ending about 3, after a bottle of wine, several courses, a good chin wag and a bit of a doze. ‘Doing lunch’ did eventually arrive and has since fizzled a little. Over the last few years afternoon tea has now become the time to dine. Surely this, in part, must be due to The Great British Bake Off encouraging sugary sensations; it no longer takes a connoisseur or a long-in-the-tooth granny to know her semifreddos from her macarons. At The Grove, we took the unusual step, when we started serving afternoon teas, a couple of years ago, not to make any money out of it. Our afternoon teas are provided by the local charity called About With Friends, who also do a lot of our gardening. About With Friends are a fantastic group who provide work and meaningful daily activities to men and women with either severe learning difficulties or who are mentally challenged. All the proceeds of our afternoon teas go straight to this worthy charity. And if you haven’t come along and sampled one of their cakes or sandwiches, served with our loose-leaf tea, you are missing out.

But lately, it’s an altogether earlier culinary experience that has been catching people’s taste buds. Breakfast. And it’s not your motorway services stuff-yourself-silly-for-a-fiver breakfast, it’s breakfast with quality breads, fresh fruit, homemade jams and preserves, top quality sausages. (Ours are officially the best bangers in Norfolk, from Icarus Hines.) Incidentally, we do serve breakfast to non-residents, but only when booked in advance.

So if you are staying away and breakfast is included in the price, why go elsewhere? Indulging our appetite for eating trends, it’s easily noticed, recently, that a great deal of our self-catering guests are booking in for not only dinner, which is to be expected if you are staying at a venue with a two-rosette restaurant, but breakfast, too. Which suggests that the typical Norfolk self-catering guest is not so much self-catering, but self-snack-preparing.

Our six lovely self-catering cottages do, as you might expect, come with kitchens, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it. We had a guest who had been staying with us for two weeks in one of our converted Barns, this summer, ask how to turn the oven on. It was on their thirteenth night. The couple just hadn’t got round to eating in.

So what is the advantage of self-catering over B&B accommodation? Well, I can only really speak for our guests when I say that they can use all the facilities of our Guest House. Eg, the restaurant, the pool, the gardens, the walk through the woods to Cromer’s cliffs and beach and of course, the wine list. But too, they have their own space. They can watch television from a comfortable sofa without the noise of their wife in the shower in the background. They can spread out, leave the broadsheet strewn across the table, and the floor for that matter. Light meals are the norm and when they’ve run out of food, or can’t be bothered to cook, or haven’t worked out how to use the oven yet, they can pick up the phone and book into a two rosette restaurant 50 meters away for dinner, or even breakfast.