Want rural tranquility and food sourced on the doorstep? Then The Bildeston Crown in Suffolk is for you
What’s the score?
If the rolling green fields and farms full of plump, healthy animals didn’t give it away, you’re not on a city break if you’re staying at The Bildeston Crown. The food-forward hotel takes pride of place at the centre of the quiet village of Bildeston near Ipswich, which is lined with multicoloured houses.
In what was far from my proudest moment, I casually assumed that the hotel’s rooms were each named after fafm animals, until I realised the sign that read ‘duck’ outside ours was a warning about the hallway’s low beams. The rooms themselves blend sleek modernity with the building’s cottage-like structure – twisting beams and occasionally creaking floorboards are combined with lots of space, a smart TV and an enormous, luxurious bathroom with a rain shower so big you couldn’t reach either side. Perfect for winding-down after all that strenuous eating and relaxing.
With local produce as good as Suffolk’s, chef Chris Lee’s food – served at the hotel’s airy restaurant from two à la carte menus, or via a tasting menu – doesn’t need to overcomplicate things. Sun-yellow yolk oozed from the first cut into a tangy haddock fishcake, and asparagus – as seasonal as it gets – was bursting with flavour, too. My main, a braised collar of Suffolk ham, drenched in warming mustard sauce and served with crispy croquettes, was another example of a light touch applied to a piece of local meat that sang with flavour.
Ideally, you’ll want a car to travel around this part of the world – train stations aren’t exactly in abundance. Make sure you check out Hollow Trees farm, a 15-minute drive away – say hello to happy goats, pigs, cows and chickens on the farm trail, and save time to browse the enormous farm shop, full-to-bursting with local Suffolk meats, cheeses, wines and more. Given where you are, you’d be remiss to overlook it.