The Swan at Lavenham
If you love quirky, higgledy piggledy historical properties you’ll be swanning with joy over The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa.
A study in beams, this medieval 15th century gem is everything you’d wish for in a period property. The hotel is comprised of three houses from which the hotel was later developed. It's not fully known when the conversion from houses into an inn took place, but it was well established in 1667. During its heyday in times bygone, it served as a public and posting house, with stabling for 50 horses.
So many beams!
Today, the 4-star hotel has 45 bedrooms, all of which are unique. We stayed in Room 34, The Newton Room, which had a very low ceiling and original timber-beamed walls. Although the room was on the small side, we had enough room for a cosy double bed, a desk, two arm chairs and an en-suite bathroom with chequered tiles and country-chic wooden panelling.
Our cosy bedroom - The Newton Room
Within the hotel there are two on-site restaurants – the Brasserie, a relaxed restaurant with original stone floors and contemporary décor serving casual fare, and the award-winning two rosette The Gallery restaurant. On a warm summer’s day, guests can also enjoy afternoon tea in the garden.
The back entrance of the property adjacent to the garden
The chef at the helm is Head Chef Justin Kett, who is passionate about classic British cuisine featuring quality, local ingredients. Wine lovers will be pleased to know that the restaurant also has a sommelier, Head Sommelier Francois Belin (previously of the Goring Hotel in London), who is on hand to help guests navigate the extensive wine menu to find a wine that beautifully matches their chosen dishes.
Dining at The Gallery has a real sense of occasion to it, with its stunning minstrel's gallery where a pianist plays popular medleys on the grand piano while diners enjoy their meals. We opted for three courses, all of which were delightful and served with a smile by our friendly server.
After a restful night's sleep, guests can tuck into the complimentary breakfast, which includes a selection of breads, porridge, yogurts and a cooked breakfast featuring favourites such as smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or Eggs Benedict.
Weavers' House Spa located within the hotel is a serene space with a soothing colour palette of sage green and white, making it the perfect place to chill out after a hectic week. The spa uses Temple Spa products, all of which are available for purchase.
Weavers' House Spa at The Swan at Lavenham
The on-site spa facilities include a sauna, steam room and an outdoor terrace with a small whirlpool - a great place to relax if the weather is cooperating! Guests can choose from more than 30 treatments from hot stone massages to a unique brush massage or more traditional facials, manicures and pedicures.
Upon arrival guests are given an exceptionally fluffy robe and slippers and are then asked to fill out a questionnaire, which arrives on a cute tray with an olive branch decoration and a hot towel and a fresh fruit smoothie to help you ease into your visit.
During my visit, I experienced the New Beginnings mummy-to-be massage (£70), an extra-gentle 60-minute massage tailored for pregnant women. Instead of a traditional massage where you lie on your back, you rest on your side on top of a special water bed as the therapist gives you a head-to-toe massage. Although the massage was relaxing, I found myself wishing for a bit more pressure, but to ensure safety, the therapists have to be as careful as possible, which is why they use such a light touch throughout the treatment.
Exploring further afield
As the hotel is located right in the heart of town, taking a stroll is a must. Lavenham is considered one of England’s best medieval villages with more than 340 listed buildings, so it’s worth checking it out. One of the key things to see in Lavenham is its gorgeous church - the church of St Peter and St Paul - which boasts a striking 141ft-high tower.
If you’re into shopping, head to Snape Maltings with its seven acres of Victorian buildings with shops, galleries and restaurants. If you’re a foodie, head for the Suffolk Food hall, near Ipswich, which boasts more than 8,000sq ft of space filled with some of the best food from Suffolk.
To book a stay at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa visit www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk.
Rooms start from £185 per night for two sharing including a full Suffolk breakfast; dinner from the a la carte menu is from £39 per person for three courses. Overnight guests have a complimentary two-hour session with use of the facilities in Weavers’ House Spa including the sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge.
The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa
The Crab & Lobster features four double bedrooms (standard and deluxe), plus a cottage with two double bedrooms. I stayed in room number one directly above the restaurant. The first thing I noticed was the thick carpet and I couldn’t resist taking off my shoes to feel the sensation under my bare feet. The room is finished to a high standard with a comfortable bed, a mismatching deep sofa, tub chair and a bureau. There is an exposed beam almost in the centre so, I made a mental note to try not to clash with it. Sadly the opposite happened and I had only been drinking tea!
The room overlooks Pagham Harbour, a nature reserve, which I could have observed for many hours; but the long journey had made me sleepy so, I drew the thick curtains for 40 winks before my friend Jo arrived. The snooze in the darkened room did me wonders, even though I could faintly hear the hum of the diners below. However, a good night’s sleep was assured without the sound of cars or any other noise.
Feeling suitably hungry after my nap, I bounded downstairs and back into the pub. The snug room with its rich colourful upholstery gives a contemporary vibe to an otherwise ancient place. The low ceilings, warming fireplace and snug seating arrangements around the bar adds to its charm.
The menu, as the pub name suggests, makes good use of locally caught seafood by nearby Selsey fishermen; but there are also meaty dishes like Char grilled Premier Scotch Reared Steak and Pan Roasted Fillet of Pork wrapped in Serrano Ham. There is also a specials board to order from, which changes daily, and wine lovers can rejoice with a list so long it resembles an encyclopedia.
Sadly, I was unable to make room for a whole dessert, as I was stuffed from all the homemade bread and squid I had for a starter as well as the fish of the day I enjoyed with delicious seasonal greens. Though, when my friend's Stem Ginger Treacle Tart with Clotted Cream Ice Cream arrived, I was happy to help her finish it! Light in texture (and made on the premises), it provided a sweet ending to the meal.
The next morning, the waft of breakfast - especially the bread - had me jumping out of bed quicker than normal and I headed down to the dining room to munch on a small selection of cold food such as Dorset cereals, freshly cut fruit and yogurt while I waited for my cooked breakfast to be delivered. The fishy theme continued with smoked salmon and mackerel, but I opted for the fresh bread with scrambled eggs.
The Crab & Lobster is a restaurant where both visitors and the community mix in total harmony. The service was superb, efficient without being intrusive, and made me feel like I was in the company of old pals, so much so, that I am already planning a return visit. Perhaps this time in the summer so I can explore the peaceful surroundings of this part of the world.
A night’s stay for two at the Crab & Lobster on BB basis costs from £175. A night’s stay for two in Crab Cottage on BB basis costs from £290. Main meals in the restaurant start form £16.75, starters from £6.75 and desserts from £7.25.
Perched on the side of Richmond Hill, The Petersham Hotel is a gorgeous 4-star hotel in Richmond overlooking the bend of the River Thames and the surrounding Petersham Meadows. Built in 1865, this historical hotel has 58 elegant bedrooms and an award-winning 2 AA Rosettes restaurant.
If Victorian buildings are your cup of tea, then you’ll love this glorious example of Victorian architecture at its finest, which at the time it was built was referred to as ‘florid Italian Gothic’ style.
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the lobby is the magnificent Portland stone staircase, which seems to go on for days. If you continue to cast your gaze upwards toward the magnificent ceiling, you’ll notice a plethora of intricate oil paintings - the work of Italian painter Ferdinando Galli - which further adds to the hotel’s opulent feel.
Guests can choose from a variety of rooms including Classic Bedrooms (the most budget friendly option), Superior Bedrooms overlooking the countryside, Classic Riverview Bedrooms overlooking the Thames or for those who really want to treat themselves - the Penthouse Suite.
We stayed in one of the Classic River View rooms, which had large floor-to-ceiling windows and a patio door, which led onto a long narrow balcony with two iron chairs, which would have been the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cuppa as we watched the boats go down the river had it not been a dreary January afternoon! Needless to say, it was still a pleasure lying in bed and look at that view. The décor was very traditional, think heavy drapes and antique style furniture, but having looked at the website, some of the rooms feature more modern décor.
The best feature of our room was our HUGE bathroom, which was the size of most bedrooms, boasting a large bathtub and shower, both of which fit two people comfortably, should you wish to have a cheeky, romantic weekend.
Feel like a star for a weekend
After we settled into our room, the hotel’s friendly and knowledgeable concierge took us on a tour of the hotel, where we learned that the hotel has been graced by many stars from the worlds of sport, music and film. If you stroll the halls, you’ll see a Hall of Fame with pictures of famous guests who have visited such as Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Catherine Zeta Jones, Sandra Bullock and Michael Douglas, who stayed at the hotel for two weeks in hopes of escaping the prying masses while holing up to read a script.
The hotel is also exceptionally popular with brides who want to feel like a star for the day. During our stay a wedding was in progress, which made our visit feel all the more special as we watched the bride and groom in all their finery flit from room to room with their photographer in search of the perfect photo opportunity.
The Petersham Restaurant
The 2AA Rosettes Petersham Restaurant has become a foodie destination thanks to chef Adebola Adeshina, whose culinary credentials include working with the Aubergine team under Gordon Ramsey and at Petrus under Marcus Wareing.
The décor is elegant with inky blue furnishings and mirrored walls featuring sconce lighting, which lend an air of Art Deco chic to the restaurant, while its navy velvet chairs and crisp white table linens add a sense of formality.
The restaurant is unique in that the large picture windows afford guests at every table the opportunity to drink in views of the serene River Thames as they enjoy classic modern British cuisine, focusing on fresh, seasonal produce. Diners can order from a variety of menus including an a la carte or fixed price menu or they can enjoy a spot of afternoon tea or a hearty Sunday lunch.
The food at The Petersham Restaurant
When we visited on a Friday evening, we plumped for the three-course dinner menu, enjoying starters of rabbit terrine - very moist and a great balance of flavours without tasting too ‘gamey’ - and the pork belly served with a spiced apple - also tasty, but not nearly as nice as the rabbit, which was in a league of its own.
For mains, I opted for a whole Dover Sole, which was expertly de-boned by our waiter at the table, accompanied by new potatoes and a mini jug of an indulgent brown butter sauce with capers, which added a buttery saltiness to the fish. It was also served with a lemon presented in a muslin cloth - a nice touch to the overall presentation.
My husband sprung for the Halibut with chorizo and lentils, which was exceptionally moreish - and very photogenic as you can see below!
Although we were stuffed to the gills after dinner (no pun intended), after seeing fellow diners greedily devouring the Cherry Soufflé, there was no question which dessert we’d be going for. When the soufflé arrived in all its fluffily risen glory it didn’t disappoint. Its lovely smooth texture and intense cherry flavour was in one word - sublime. We felt like MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace as we slowly savoured each bite, trying our best not to coo with pleasure to avoid strange looks from neighbouring diners.
Throughout our meal service was faultless and attentive without being intrusive. The mark of a great restaurant.
Another lovely addition to the hotel is their wine cellar, which boasts an extensive wine list that would appeal to any wine connoisseur. The cellar is small and quaint with two rooms for hosting tastings. Within the cellar, thousands of bottles line the walls, giving the impression that one could have a very good time here indeed!
There is also a separate room for champagne, which was only half full but I was informed that they went through a LOT of fizz over the festive period. It would be rude not to imbibe after all! For those who want a private tasting, the cellar can be hired out for groups of 12 or more.
This is a fabulous place to stay if you want a peaceful retreat away from the madness of London but near enough that it's an easy journey when you're ready to join the seething masses feeling fully restored.
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