Settee of Stories: A sit down with James Holliday and Anna Duttson

Norwich. A city of mavericks and makers, creators and trail blazers. A big-hearted city beneath even bigger skies, and open air, open minds. In Norwich, everyone has a story to tell. And we’ll be sure to tell it. Every month, we’ll be sitting down with local writers, designers, makers, artists and influencers to discuss life in Norwich. This week we’re joined by owners of the Norfolk Mead Hotel and Anna Duttson Events Ltd, James Holliday and Anna Duttson.

James Holliday and Anna Duttson

Married couple Anna and James bought the riverside Georgian red-brick manor house The Norfolk Mead, Coltishall in 2013. Having been unloved for many years, they immediately set to work completing a full refurbishment, opening as a luxury boutique hotel and moving on to open a dedicated event venue, the Garden Room, in the existing walled garden which hosts weddings as well as corporate and private parties. They have also opened onsite Treatment Rooms offering spa treatments for both visiting guests and locals, and have an English Harbour Yacht available for hire. The onsite restaurant holds a 2 Star AA Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence and the 16 bedroom hotel boasts an AA Four Star Silver Country House Hotel grading.

Anna has a strong catering background, having attended catering college and worked in catering roles for international holiday firms. James grew up in Hotels, his father having owned a Hotel himself, and met Anna when they were both working for McLaren on the international Formula 1 circuit.

We sat down to discuss their careers and why they chose Norfolk as the place to pursue them.

Settee of Stories: James Holliday and Anna Duttson

Anna Duttson and James Holliday, owners of The Norfolk Mead Hotel

Why did you choose The Norfolk Mead? 

Initially, we made the decision to set up our own catering company – Anna Duttson Events, which we still run from The Norfolk Mead. We were looking for a dedicated venue for ourselves when we stumbled across the Mead for sale. We could see the potential but it was definitely daunting taking on such a large renovation project and with the building being grade two listed. But the location is just spot-on – near to Norwich which we love for the quirky and individual shops, fabulous foodie scene and gorgeous cobbled streets – but also only half an hour from the beautiful Norfolk coastline. The Hotel is within the Broads National Park which is so unspoiled and peaceful.

The Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads

What do you love most about Norwich and Norfolk, and why?

With Norwich and Norfolk, there are so many things to do. The people are very kind and we have a great community where we are.

There is also absolutely fantastic produce which we can use throughout our restaurant. We are lucky enough to have some fabulous suppliers locally and across the eastern region. The majority of our Full English Breakfast ingredients are sourced in our village, including sausages from our local butcher, mushrooms and tomatoes from our village greengrocer, eggs from Broadland Eggs, and kippers from Lowestoft under an hour away from the Hotel. Our smoked salmon is locally smoked, we use local jams and honey, and we also home make our muesli, granola and marmalade in house.

The Norfolk Mead’s popular Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed in its 2 star AA Rosette restaurant, or to take away.

Favourite places to eat in Norwich and Norfolk?

We love going to Benedicts, Haggle, Figbar and Socius. There are some great pubs all along the North Norfolk coast including seafood at the Marshside terrace at the White Horse in Brancaster Staithe.

We’re lucky to have some other great eateries in Coltishall including the ever-popular Recruiting Sergeant pub. We all try to support each other and it is important that our guests can visit other eateries nearby during their stay with us.

Benedicts, Norwich

Benedicts in Norwich

Favourite places for a coffee/beverage?

Bread Source is fantastic, as is Strangers. We also have a new start-up, Dollies Bakery, in Coltishall which is absolutely brilliant, offering artisan bread and great coffee.

What did you miss most during lockdown?

We miss having our guests in the Hotel, and hosting our events through the Hotel and Anna Duttson Events. We love hearing positive feedback from guests after an event and put so much time and effort into planning and preparing the menus and food. We have been a little lost without them, but have put our energies into making the Hotel the best it can possibly be for our reopening.

The Norfolk Mead Hotel Bar

The Norfolk Mead Hotel Bar

What are you most looking forward to now restrictions are easing? 

We’ve missed our team days out – we usually close the Hotel twice a year to treat our fantastic staff to a day out which has previously included the races, theatre shows, crazy golf, karting, archery, shooting, It’s a Knockout and more. We’re planning a big do for this October in and around Norwich. We also love travelling, and visiting other great Hotels around the world for inspiration (and the chance to relax!). We’ve a long list of places we hope to get to once we are able to travel again.

And finally, what does ‘Norwich’ mean to you?

Norwich is the place we come to relax, explore and unwind. Living onsite at the Mead and having guests with us 24/7, this can be hard to do, but we try to come into the city when we can and it is always a lovely experience where we find something new to enjoy.

Elm Hill, Norwich

Elm Hill, Norwich