A historic venue in the heart of Norwich’s city centre was named Small Serviced Accommodation of the Year at the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024 earlier this year.

The Assembly House on Theatre Street, which was designed by architect Thomas Ivory in 1754, is famous for its historic elegance, beautiful bedrooms and legendary afternoon teas.

Chef director Richard Hughes, who was himself honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Norfolk Food & Drink Awards 2023 for his impact on the county’s food and drink industry, explained how he came to open the business 15 years ago.

He said: “Along with fellow director Iain Wilson, with whom I took over the business in 2009, we set out to create the kind of establishment we would love to find in one of the UK’s most beautiful cities; one where old-fashioned hospitality is valued, food is delicious and where beautiful surroundings can be found hidden around every corner.”

Eastern Daily Press: Richard Hughes, chef director at The Assembly House, received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Norfolk Food & Drink Awards 2023Richard Hughes, chef director at The Assembly House, received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Norfolk Food & Drink Awards 2023 (Image: The Assembly House Norwich)

The hotel is home to 15 characterful boutique bedrooms, many filled with genuine antiques and some with gardens and balconies, as well as a restaurant which opens daily for breakfast, Beforenoon Tea, lunch and its beloved afternoon teas.

“We have set out to become the home of afternoon tea,” Richard explained. 

“Not only can you enjoy afternoon tea under chandeliers in one of our gorgeous Georgian dining rooms, you can also enjoy a breakfast-themed version (Beforenoon Tea), a savoury version (Afternoon Cheese) and a seafood version (Afternoon Sea).”

The hotel offers themed afternoon teas, baby shower teas and bespoke wedding breakfast teas, all made by former Claridge’s head of pastry Mark Mitson and his team.

It also hosts events including weddings and conferences and is the home of The Richard Hughes Cookery School, the inaugural winner of The British Cookery School of the Year.

“I think that the way we approach afternoon tea is the same as in all other areas of the business,” said Richard.

“Our rooms are just as unique and special as our teas. Our approach to everything we do is to always go the extra mile and stand out from the crowd.

“We pride ourselves on offering customers a really magical experience.”

Eastern Daily Press: The Assembly House aims to be ‘the home of afternoon tea’The Assembly House aims to be ‘the home of afternoon tea’ (Image: The Assembly House Norwich)

The historic, Grade I listed building is owned by The Assembly House Trust, a registered charity which has the role of renovating and preserving The Assembly House on behalf of the people of Norwich.

The commercial functions are operated by Richard and Iain, with the rent they pay for the building going straight back into ensuring The Assembly House can be maintained.

Commenting on being named this year’s Small Serviced Accommodation of the Year, Richard said: “We were really touched to see how thrilled our customers were to hear we’d won this award and how so many came forward to tell us just how special The Assembly House is to them.

“It’s hearing their stories that really makes you realise that we are custodians of a very special business at a very special house.”

After an “incredibly tough” few years for hospitality, Richard said that the whole team at The Assembly House is grateful for “the loyal customers who have helped us to secure the future of the wonderful building in which we are based”.

Moving forward, The Assembly House aims to continue improving, innovating and being “the very best” at what it does.

“We have so many exciting things planned for the immediate future, including our huge, themed summer tea, our Christmas igloos, the largest art show in the east, one-off special afternoon teas and lots of other treats we’re keeping under wraps until they are announced,” said Richard.

For more information, please visit assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk