“A 15th-century village coaching inn revitalised as a popular gastro pub-with-rooms in the heart of Constable country”
All 7 bedrooms come in different shapes and sizes, as befits this historic building. Expect half-timbered walls, sloping and creaking floors, and original details: Elsa, Boudicca and Constable have fireplaces, Wards has ancient wattle-and-daub exposed on one wall.
Five original rooms are accessed up stairs beside the Oak Room adjacent to the bar, and all except Wards overlook the road. The 2 newer rooms, Butchers and Dovecot, created in 2011 above the dining room, are entered via a half-open Elizabethan staircase - they can be taken together by a larger family or friends seeking additional privacy. Dovecot can be set up as a double or twin and has a walk-in shower separated by a partition.
We stayed in Elsa, which has original panelling and beams, a four-poster bed, and supposedly a ghost, who we didn't have the pleasure of meeting - no wonder as we slept so well. Beds range from queen to super-kingsize; all are pocket-sprung and dressed in Egyptian cotton and goose-down bedding.
Colours are heritage-inspired and muted (think soft green, clotted cream and dusky white), amenities are high-quality and understated. All rooms have iPod docking stations with DAB radios, flat-screen TVs, good-quality shower bathrooms and bathrobes - Butchers and Phaethon have baths as well. Complimentary toiletries are by Miller Harris. Thoughtful details include bedside water carafes and a good range of teas and coffee.
The atmospheric bar and its adjacent traditional snug (the Oak Room with its vast original fireplace), along with the restaurant, are very much the beating heart and raison d'être of The Sun Inn. Italian-influenced menus proudly credit the farmers and artisan producers - eating local is a strong ethos here.
The dining room has been extended into the former stables. Here you'll find the lovely breakfast buffet - cereals, fruit compotes, yoghurts, homemade jams, cured meat, fresh fruit salad, croissants, and wonderful local apple and pear juices. Cooked items are seasonal and made to order - we loved the smoked haddock omelette and spring vegetable frittata.
The lunch and dinner menu changes daily. Midweek there's a set menu option, and steak and pies are always a feature on Fridays; picnics and afternoon teas are also available on request (see Rates). We chose a tomato and bean soup and a carpaccio of marinated haddock with pickled rhubarb and micro leaves as light starter dishes (these can be scaled up as mains), and were tempted by the daily evolving sharing antipasti. For mains we went for Dedham duck leg and breast on beetroot and leaves, and the pork chop with beans and chard. We finished up with a medley of desserts, including almond tart.
The excellent wine list, which features relatively unknown gems, is overseen by Hamish Anderson of Tate Galleries UK; he and Head Chef Ugo Simonelli host successful wine pairing evenings from May to September, where you sample a tasting menu of 5-7 courses. My husband was also excited by the variety of artisan ales and stouts.
Other dining options nearby include The Boathouse in Dedham, The Crown at Stoke by Nayland, and Mistley Thorn.
Children are made welcome here and will enjoy exploring the village and strolling beside the river. In the garden there are some play structures (slide, swings) and bushes and trees to play hide and seek in. There are kids' options available at lunch and dinner, and even the fussiest of children will find something appealing at the buffet breakfast. But overall there are few special facilities for children on the premises, and the focus is mainly on couples - we brought the kids with us and left them in the room with a monitor while enjoying a very special meal à deux downstairs.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Elsa, Wards and Phaethon (all Superior Rooms) are the largest rooms and can accommodate a cot and up to 2 extra beds. Larger families/groups can take both Dovecot and Butchers, which are newer and share a common entrance up an original Elizabethan staircase
A baby monitor is available on request
The staircases up to the rooms are a little steep. The Inn is right on the main road in Dedham, so keep an eye out if your toddler is inexorably drawn to viewing the traffic (such as it is in this small village) - as ours was