The magnet of the prospect of exciting food in a delightful hotel will draw us out of our crowded corner of the South East; a 200 miles’ round trip was well worth the agonies of the Dartford Crossing and the M25.
The film set of the square in Suffolk’s Lavenham is dominated by the most highly decorated Tudor Guildhall; a very bold statement of success and wealth of the local cloth industry in the 16th century. There are numerous other Tudor buildings around the Market Place, the central square of the small town; The Great House is just that, its origins lye in the 14th century built by the important weaving family of the Caustons. It had additions built in the 15th century and the Georgian façade added in the 18th century. Despite the truly spectacular neighbour, the Guildhall, it has a presence that can proudly and comfortably sit alongside. The heavily beamed interior has been carefully and successfully adapted to hotel use without compromising the layout, atmosphere or practicality. It is thus very appropriate that it accommodates arguably the best restaurant in Suffolk as well as being a notable AA 5* hotel with just five very individual rooms.
When we arrived, there was a warm welcome and we were shown our room in which there was a personalised, detailed letter setting out everything we needed to know about the whole experience from the timing of our dinner booking to the complimentary Wi-Fi. The attention to detail followed throughout our stay as did the personal attention.
Our room appropriately called ‘The Loft’ had a double aspect; to the front of the building is across Lavenham’s square with its unbroken vista of period houses and a few locally owned shops. It was all a very intimate town scene and charming with it. The other aspect to the rear is across an intriguing roofscape with at least twenty five different roof facets creating a fascinating collage. Beyond and not too far away are undulating fields with mature hedgerow trees presenting the rural idyll. The Loft was our favourite room cum suite; being in the attic area, it would be usual to have little space and low ceilings but a lot of design input has worked a treat. The room and bathroom is open to the eaves and the bathroom has half height walls, thus it also has an airy feel to it without losing privacy. The furnishings were of today whilst respecting the age of the building, altogether it was cleverly put together.
The staff were personable and very attentive without being intrusive. We much like the little things that we added in the room, not so little was the decanter of good sherry but the home made biscuits soon disappeared.
In writing up our experiences, we do not look at the prices at the time as that can divert us from the experience. However, when it comes to the write up, we then take into account the value for money. Dining in the Great House was a positive and memorable experience which was not fully represented in the prices; the three course’ (plus amuse bouche) set menu was £36.50p. Remarkable.
The restaurant was elegant and rather French in style a reflection of the classical French cooking which combined with Asian ingredients added a modern innovative touch. There is plenty of choice on the menus with quite a few fish dishes together with a superb selection of scrumptious puddings and naturally, as the chef is French, an excellent cheeseboard selection. The fist full of culinary awards fully reflects our enjoyment of the experience.
We can’t wait to go back as this is a very relaxed but at the same time smart, contemporary and a delicious place place to stay. Regis and Martine Crepy have created a shining star with great finesse with their hotel adding to one of the most charming medieval ‘villages’ in the delightful Suffolk countryside.
There are lots of reasons to visit Lavenham and the local area; historic interests abound including antiques in the form of the late 1980s popular television programmes ‘Lovejoy’ which went into five series that was filmed in the area. The last programme was titled ‘Last Tango in Lavenham’. More recently, there are several scenes shot in Lavenham and nearby for the Harry Potter films.
We are often at odds with the opinions of the Telegraph on their travel articles but here we heartily agree: “One of the best hotels for winter weekends” we would only differ as it would be great year-round. And, you cannot disagree on this occasion with the Sunday Times “One of the best restaurants in England”.
Bonnie Stevens ©