Located in the centre of England’s most perfectly preserved medieval town, The Swan at Lavenham is one of the UK’s finest examples of a 15th century coaching inn, and we eagerly looked forward to staying there.
Local tourist information doesn’t seem to be able to decide if this is Constable Country or Gainsborough Country, but whichever Old Master lays claim to it, Suffolk has a wealth of delicious eye candy to offer its visitors.
Amid the tall, oak framed halls, huge fireplaces, and long, creaking corridors, The Swan Hotel takes you on a romantic journey though 600 years of English history. It’s like being catapulted into a lavish costume drama about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. You don’t often get the chance to actually eat and sleep in a building with so much history, so its something of a privilage. But The Swan at Lavenham is not just about the past – it’s about unashamed modern luxury and fine dining.
Click here to listen to exclusive interviews with the General Manager and the Head Chef of The Swan
Extensive refurbishment of the lounge and bar areas has taken over two years, and is virtually complete. It’s not easy to blend ancient architectural features with contemporary decor and design, but the hotel appears to be achieving this balancing act with flair – adding modern touches and convenience throughout, while at the same time maintaining the hotel’s very traditional Tudor flavour.
The original oak beams in our en-suite room were made even more atmospheric by clever use of soft uplighting, and the furniture in the room was plush and comfortable – incorporating wool carpets and upholstery in order to reflect Lavenham’s proud past as a centre of the wool industry.
The bar at The Swan was once frequented by bomber crews from the USAF, and many of their messages and signatures are still lovingly preserved on the walls, along with a fascinating collection of WWII memorabilia from nearby air bases. There’s a good selection of traditional ales on offer, many of them brewed at the nearby brewery in Bury St. Edmunds.
Guests can choose between two restaurants – a stylish new Brasserie, or the more traditional Gallery Restaurant – which focusses on British cuisine, and features a stunning vaulted, oak-beamed ceiling.
We plumped for the more atmospheric and candlelit Gallery Restaurant, and enjoyed a starter of cured boar, soft boiled quails eggs and asparagus.
Our chosen mains were rack of lamb with a carrot puree, and beef with a Choron sauce – both served with a selection of locally produced summer vegetables. The dishes were cooked to perfection and artfully presented. We finished with a miraculously light apple crumble, cleverly served with cider jelly.
At breakfast time we had an opportunity to sample one or two of the excellent speciality breads, baked fresh every day in The Swan’s own bakery. It’s little touches like this that make this hotel such a very special place to stay.
We thoroughly enjoyed our short time at The Swan. I only wish we could have stayed for longer.
Official web site: http://www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk/