Great British boltholes: A review of The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds

Great British boltholes: The brilliant restaurant with rooms in Bury St Edmunds set within a Victorian villa that’s had a chic makeover

  • James Litston checks in to The Northgate, which is a stone’s-throw from Bury’s 1,000-year-old abbey  
  • ‘A sense of playful opulence is apparent the moment you step inside’, he writes
  • The hotel serves seasonal East Anglian fare such as Norfolk asparagus, Suffolk tomatoes and salt marsh lamb

Taking a mini-break in Bury St Edmunds is all about dipping your toe into history, but staying at The Northgate means you can do so in the latest style.

Set within a Victorian villa that’s been given a chic, metropolitan makeover, this restaurant-with-rooms is a brilliant base for exploring the town – it’s a ten-minute walk from the railway station and a stone’s-throw from the 1,000-year-old abbey at Bury’s heart.

A sense of playful opulence is apparent the moment you step inside. Huge chandeliers, bold fabrics, feature walls and vibrant wallpaper dominate the restaurant, with geometric tiles and jazzily bronzed banquettes in the bar.

Jazzily geometric: James Litson enjoys a stylish stay at The Northgate. Pictured is the funky bar area

James says the rooms have ‘every boutique essential’ from walk-in showers to fancy furniture and fluffy white towels

Beyond is a sheltered, sun-soaked terrace that’s hugely popular in summer for alfresco dining and Aperol spritzes. For an individual spin, the Northgate’s spritz is flavoured with chestnut.

A far more restful palette of pastel shades sets a different tone in the rooms. There are nine, all surprisingly large and individually styled, which have a relaxed feel with giant beds and upmarket, French-inspired furnishings. Every boutique essential is here, from walk-in showers and free-standing baths (in some rooms) to fancy furniture, fluffy white towels and British-made toiletries.

Original features are in abundance too, from the large sash windows to fireplaces.

When you’re ready to explore Bury, its sights are on the doorstep.

The town’s reason for being is the now-ruined abbey which was established by King Canute in 1020 and became one of the richest Benedictine monasteries in England until it was destroyed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Join a walking tour (£7.50pp, to see crumbling remains in the lovely Abbey Gardens and learn about the town’s evolution from medieval monastery to Georgian resort and Victorian cultural centre.

Moyse’s Hall (, a gallery and museum housed in a centuries-old building, continues the cultural fix.

The Northgate is a ‘brilliant base’ for exploring Bury St Edmunds, writes James. Pictured is the town centre

The hotel is located near to the town’s now-ruined abbey. James went to see its crumbling remains in the lovely Abbey Gardens (pictured)


The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds. B&B from £110 based on two sharing (

When it’s time to retire to The Northgate, start your evening at the lively bar with a cocktail or fruity mocktail, then hit the large, all-weather terrace with its fairy lights and faux-fur throws.

Exceptional suppers here are filled with fresh flavours, with each dish almost being an edible work of art.

You can expect seasonal East Anglian fare such as Norfolk asparagus, Suffolk tomatoes and salt marsh lamb. Breakfast is similarly regional, and all menus have plenty to keep vegetarians happy, be it porridge, pastries or poached eggs Florentine.

Both bar and restaurant are popular with locals, so there’s always a bit of a buzz; but it’s laid-back and refined, not a boozy or party scene, with an appeal that spans generations. There’s a real mix of young couples, post-work friends and well dressed women and gents, so there’s plenty of atmosphere but absolutely no pretension. Both my septuagenarian mother (my dining companion) and I felt at home amid it all.

Everything is delivered by youthful staff who are upbeat, bright and engaging: the extra element that makes a stay here really special. 

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