Hotel Review: The Assembly House

The delightful Bedroom One

The delightful Bedroom One - Credit: Chris Taylor

The luxurious new rooms at The Assembly House in Norwich are a wonderful addition to delights of our fine city, writes Angi Kennedy

The bathroom of Bedroom One is absolutely stunning - and huge!

The bathroom of Bedroom One is absolutely stunning - and huge! - Credit: Chris Taylor

I was born in Norwich, did much of my growing up here, have worked here for more than 20 years, but I have never stayed in a hotel in our fine city. Why would I, with home just a short drive down the road?

But that’s about to change - and in the most glorious of styles, as I book into The Assembly House, one of Norwich’s most iconic and historic buildings.

It has to be one of the best locations to eat and stay in the county

It has to be one of the best locations to eat and stay in the county - Credit: Submitted

Since the 11 luxury bedrooms were opened this spring by Assembly House director and cookery school owner Richard Hughes and hotelier Iain Wilson, the man behind Norfolk institutions Byfords, The King’s Head at Holt and The Dial House at Reepham, with an aim to bring a new level of style, service and facilities to guests, it has been people like me - from Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia - who have made up the majority of the visitors. It is, I imagine, the thrill of claiming a little piece of Norwich’s heritage for ourselves, the perfect place for a special celebration or very indulgent treat; of walking through the ironwork gates and into The Assembly House, where countless weddings have taken place, thousands of afternoon teas been enjoyed, hundreds of artists seen their work displayed, musicians and singers been cheered, speakers applauded, meetings held, decisions made. This place truly has been at the heart of Norwich’s culture for centuries.

Our stay is to be in the showpiece Room One, a superb ground floor suite with a beautiful bedroom with six-foot half tester bed, a very comfortable lounge, its own terrace, and a simply stunning bathroom that features a large drench shower and double-ended bath. It is a favourite with bridal parties, and it is easy to see how the huge bathroom is perfect for a bride and bridesmaids to get ready with so much space for the wedding dress and all the finery.

For my husband and I - 25 years on from our wedding day - the suite is quite simply a wonderful taste of luxury in the centre of the city. We arrive after work, in time to be greeted by the always helpful and friendly front of house team. Manager Georgina Postlewaite shows us around, pointing out clever touches like the in-room speakers that mean you can play TV and music around the suite, and a fridge with mini bottles of fresh milk and Assembly House fudge. She also gives us a sneak peek into some of the other vacant rooms - all individually designed by the oh-so-talented Norfolk-based Annabel Grey to have a unique and special personality. There are retro references, charming curiosities, hidden gardens - it’s a delight of a conversion that has transformed this wing of the old mansion house into a place guests will want to return to time and again to sample the different rooms. Artwork is everywhere, and with a strong county theme, and the high standard of finish on every aspect reflects across the whole range of rooms.

We are booked in for an early dinner - the pre-theatre three-course meal that is most definitely to be enjoyed, whether you are staying at The Assembly House or not. Although now autumn, the evening is still enticingly warm, so we opt for the lighter choices of herring and Caesar salad starters, followed by sea bass and salmon mains, with a dessert of lemon posset and cheesecake. Each dish is perfectly judged, beautifully presented, served in the glorious restaurant by attentive, personable waiters, and is a treat to savour. This early dinner - just £16 for two course and £20 three when ordered before 6.30pm - is a revelation and shouldn’t be reserved for just those wise theatre-goers who time their visit to tie in with a show at the neighbouring Theatre Royal Norwich.

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After dinner, we decide to play tourists in our own fine city and take a wander around the Lanes and Cathedral Quarter. However many times I walk this route I can never tire of the beauty of Norwich, and viewing it this evening as if we were visitors here, we are reminded again of how lucky we are to have this amazing city as home.

As we live surrounded by fields and marshes, I wonder if I will be able to sleep soundly in the heart of the city - but, when the crisp white linen on the inviting canopied bed calls, I am soon asleep and wake late to the sound of seagulls - a surprising alarm call! Breakfast is the final treat of our stay and again the standard is wonderfully high, with everything from fresh croissants to fruit salad, kipper to pancakes to choose from. I opt for a light and creamy omlette Arnold Bennett with smoked haddock, while my husband is fortified by The Assembly House full English.

Work is just a short walk away, but it is very hard to pull ourselves away from the luxurious indulgence that lies on the other side of those Assembly House gates.

Stay at The Assembly House:

Angi’s stay was courtesy of The Assembly House.

Dinner, bed and breakfast in the Room One suite, Monday to Thursday is £260 a night, and £280 on Fridays and Saturdays (bed and breakfast is £220 and £240 respectively). Tariffs for other rooms within The Assembly House range from £160 to £260 per night.

Pre-theatre dinner is £16 for two courses or £20 for three. A separate dinner menu is available from 5pm, last orders 8.30pm.

The Assembly House, Theatre Street, Norwich, NR2 1RQ; 01603 626402;