Holt is one of my favourite places in the whole world, so what a place to showcase after an extremely busy 'life' week that has left my blog a little neglected. Poor thing. Thursday afternoon saw me dragging my suitcase along to work and leaving off early to surprise my mum in Norwich for her birthday. The plan went off without a hitch and so I 'accidentally' gate-crashed her birthday breakfast at Byford's the following day.
If there's a place that justifies an hour's drive from one side of Norfolk to the other, it's Byford's. It's not so much the little gem of Holt but the cosy living room; crackling fires in winter, a delicious menu full of local produce and scrubbed wooden tables you can spend a good few hours discussing the morning papers over with a big cup of coffee.
Have you ever ordered a dish in a restaurant and thought it was so mind-blowingly lovely that you've dreamt of eating it again ever since? Such describes my relationship with the kedgeree I had a few years ago at Byford's. My mum and I actually squeeled with glee when we saw it was back on the menu. Delicate haddock, shrimp and a gooey poached egg is in my opinion the perfect breakfast. Like a warm hug for your belly. Mmmmm.
The unique and quite unusual thing about this place is it's perfect combination of indulgent and comfortable. Having breakfast at Byford's is such a treat, for the way it slowly unfurls your day whilst encouraging a good morning chat over a second pot of tea as the streets fill up with busy feet clad in Hunter wellies. Inevitably you end up picking up some treats from the deli on the way out. That's my kind of 'exit through the gift shop'…
The bakery opens out into the shop and the place smells of buttery pastry and rich root vegetables all day. It's an extra special home away from home that brings me back to myself, especially after being away from Norfolk for a little while.
As a teenager I used to ride a friend's horse near Holt every Saturday, where after a long hack through woods and down icy lanes I'd fall into the car with weary legs and happily chomp on a Byford's sausage roll on the way home. A golden memory, which when eating their food always nurtures a familiar feeling of pure contentment.
Of course, I can never go to Holt without visiting Voewood's Book Shop. Inside it's a labyrinth of rickety staircases, low ceilings and hodge-podge bookshelves hiding some absolute gems if you take the time to look: cricked necked guaranteed when scanning over the titles on book spines.
As follows tradition, my parents relinquish me to the shelves and disappear for half an hour until I've had my fill and my bank account has taken a hit.
I was never a book hoarder when younger - the library was my second home, although the same cannot be said for now. I started collecting old and rare books about five years ago and as it can be an expensive task, my collection is a slow grower with each member carefully selected and lovingly cherished. A full explanation deserves it's own blog post most likely in the coming weeks, but what I will say is that quite a few of the gang were taken from this book shop in Holt. They even have old leather cushions flumped in front of book shelves, possibly to help with the neck-crick situation.
If you're ever in the North Norfolk vicinity you should absolutely add Holt onto your 'To Do' list. It's full of beautiful little shops, most of which have been there for years, with so many coffee shops and tea rooms you could well do a 'cafe crawl' and still not be finished by the weekend.
To finish off what once was the morning and was now the afternoon, we wandered in and out of little courtyards and lingered at the windows of far too many shops, coming home with far too many bags. Inside tip: at the weekend a lady sells local Cromer crabs from her kitchen window - such is the spirit of Holt.
Do you have a favourite place that always makes your heart glad after a visit? Let me know!