The Crown at Stoke by Nayland

Suffolk, East Anglia, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
Phenomenal food and a mellow mood at this boutique pub with rooms in a quiet Suffolk village
The Crown began its days as a simple pub. It became a rather more food-focused pub in 2003, then a pub with rooms in 2008. Nowadays it's award-winning; one of Suffolk's gastro gems. Set in a historic village in the depths of Constable country, it's a comfortable country haven - leather armchairs, tartan sofas, low beams, local ales. Outside, an alfresco terrace brims with flowers; just beyond are green fields and water meadows. Locals come for a drink and stay for a while. Sink into leather armchairs by the fire to read the papers, then order exceptional local food: just-caught fish, farm sausages, straight-from-the-ground veg. The wine list is extensive and excellent, the staff warmly welcoming.

Afterwards, wander around the back to the attractive 11-room hotel. Everything is in place for a relaxing stay: kingsize beds, power showers, a DVD library. Sleep deeply, then stride out for a country walk, or visit nearby wool towns and the Suffolk coast. Wonderfully restorative; we loved it.

Highs

  • Fabulous food, with an emphasis on local produce. When we revisited in 2012, the smoked rare breed bacon and sausages made for one of our best breakfasts ever
  • Barely 2 hours' drive from London, it makes a glorious weekend escape from the big smoke
  • A fantastic pub with local beers, an extensive wine list and a warm, convivial atmosphere
  • Ticks all the boxes in terms of extra: iPod docks, free WiFi, an array of toiletries, waffle robes
  • Countryside views from most rooms and various stunning gardens within driving distance

Lows

  • Rooms lack homely touches, although they are still comfortable and welcoming
  • Some of the dining areas have less atmosphere than others. We advise eating in the main pub, which has lovely high ceilings and bit more buzz
  • Our bedroom got very hot at night; we had to sleep with the window open

Best time to go

Any time of year. The English weather is always unpredictable, but come in spring for wild flowers, in summer for the beach, in autumn to admire the trees changing colour, or in winter for brisk walks and local ales by the fire.

Our top tips

Our ideal stay would involve arriving early to take a walk around the village and then heading into the Dedham Vale countryside to wander one of the public footpaths. If you're staying for more than 1 night, you could tie in a visit to nearby Aldeburgh (35 minutes) or the Snape Maltings to explore the antique shops and galleries.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

A more recent addition to the original pub (built in 2008), the 11 rooms are housed in a weather-boarded building out back. Inside, they are immaculate, with kingsize beds, top-quality linens, and country views or terraces. Look more closely and you'll find some beautiful fittings and furnishings made by Jim Lawrence: woven-metal handles and curtain rails, beautiful porcelain lamps and classic armchairs.

Style-wise, our top choice would be the country-style rooms on the first floor (2 Superiors and 1 Deluxe), which we loved, with their white iron bedsteads and aqua Nina Campbell 'Birdcage' wallpaper. The ground-floor rooms are contemporary with cherrywood sleigh beds, scarlet damask curtains, boldly patterned wallpapers and suede lampshades, but (we felt) slightly sterile, with a lack of homely touches such as paintings and plants. That said, the rooms in general couldn't be more comfortable and everything is in place for a relaxing stay: DVD player, well-stocked minibar, WiFi, an ironing board etc.

During our 2012 revisit, we stayed in one of the upstairs Superior Rooms (210) and we particularly liked the amazing views looking over those Constable-country hills. Deluxe Rooms have the added luxury of walk-in showers, and if you really want to push the boat out you can opt for the expansive Executive Room with its private terrace and charming countryside views.

Bathrooms are super modern and a real strong point. Most have large bathtubs and all have powerful showers, French toiletries and piles of sumptuous towels. Underfloor heating was lovely in the mornings, but less so in the middle of the night, when the bedroom got rather hot.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Meals are served in the pub and restaurant area. The latter seemed a bit formal but overall there was a convivial, warm atmosphere; we loved it. We stayed midweek and the bar was buzzing with a mixture of hotel guests and locals. Divided into lots of little sections, the tables felt cosy and private, but the open kitchen acted as a focal point. In summer, there's a stone terrace surrounded by tubs of flowers for alfresco dining, but we were there in autumn and loved the roaring log fire in the middle of the room.

The food itself was utterly delicious. The emphasis is on local produce and hearty portions; happily, we're fans of both. A nice half pint of local smoked shrimps and a warming stew-like vegetable soup got our dinner off to a good start. For the main course, we ordered steak (the gastro-pub litmus test: it was perfectly cooked and absolutely huge) and pan-fried duck with wild mushrooms in a red wine sauce (one of the tastiest meals we have ever eaten). Other options included stuffed globe artichoke and new season partridge, and there’s also a 'Catch of the Day' section with daily changing, freshly caught fish - mussels, oysters and mackerel make regular appearances.

Puddings are perfect and often had a fun retro twist: lemon roly-poly with vanilla brûlée, chilli roasted pineapple with Greek yoghurt panna cotta, homemade pina colada sorbet, and Muscat crème caramel. In addition to their excellent Adnams beers, Richard (the managing director) has compiled an excellent and extensive wine list. We were recommended a lovely white to complement our meal. There's an a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner, as well as a lunchtime taster set menu.

The chefs are equally passionate about breakfast - a rarity among gastro-pubs - and the choice was unbelievable, with each section (English, Hot Alternatives, Light Start, Healthy) containing a range of options. Between us we tried eggs Florentine (wonderful), a free-range omelette with goat's cheese and tomatoes (a bit dry), French toast with berries, bacon and syrup (sublime), and the full English (incredible smoked rare breed bacon and sausages). In the interest of research, we also tried the yummy banana, raspberry and blueberry smoothies. It's a tough job...

Other nearby options include The Sun Inn in Dedham, and Mistley Thorn.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Walk out into the beautiful Suffolk countryside; the inspiration for many of Constable's paintings

  • Gardening enthusiasts will love Belth Chatto Gardens and The Place for Plants - both are nearby and offer oodles of horticultural inspiration. A little further away is Helmingham Hall Gardens - also well worth a visit

  • St Mary's Church in Stoke by Nayland is a local landmark. Its 120ft tower features (out of context!) in several of Constable's paintings

  • Historic Lavenham is an easy drive away, famed for its 15th-century church and crooked medieval houses

  • Also worth a visit is Long Melford, another former wool town with some excellent antique shops

  • Hire a boat at Flatford Mill or Dedham and row through the water meadows of the River Stour

  • Tennis, horse riding, fishing and golf can all be done nearby; enquire at reception

  • The hotel can also assist with bicycle hire and spa visits

  • Further afield, the Suffolk coast is lovely. Head to Aldeburgh for a shingle beach and fishermen's huts selling fresh catches, to Snape Maltings for concerts and art galleries, or to Dunwich Heath, a National Trust reserve with a pebbly beach where once the sixth largest city in England stood, before the sea started swallowing it up

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis

Kids

Children are welcome but there are no special facilities for them and the vibe is adult rather than family. Extra beds can be provided in some rooms but there are no baby cots. There is a small dedicated children's menu.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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