From my vantage point, nestled in a purple velvet chair behind a shining expanse of glass, I could see a marina, complete with gleaming yachts, bijoux apartments and bustling cafes, and a slowly pulsing stretch of deep, navy sea. But I wasn’t in Portofino and neither is the Salthouse Harbour Hotel. Instead, I was in the middle of Ipswich. The Salthouse is part of the city’s upmarket Neptune Marina and opened in 2003 after a lengthy previous existence as a merchant’s warehouse. Now a seven story, 70-bedroom hotel with a cool European vibe, the building retains many of its original Victorian features,including pretty arched windows and high, beamed ceilings.
Just two hours drive from London, the hotel’s cosy confines make it the perfect weekend bolthole. Decorated in an eclectic style, the Salthouse Harbour is decked with the work of local artists and boasts a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. We checked into the sail loft marina where rooms are fitted with whopping king-size beds, fun arty décor and, the best bit: an enormous copper bath with a wonderful view of the marina. Just to make it extra snug, there’s underfloor heating, fluffy bathrobes and a large flat screen TV.
And the cosy theme doesn’t just apply to the bedroom. It reappears in the hotel’s award-winning, rosette-boasting restaurant which focuses on toothsome seasonal produce served up in rib-sticking portions. We started with pre-dinner cocktails in the lounge overlooking the marina before heading into the restaurant for a gastronomic treat. We ate seared scallops with chorizo, runner beans and butternut squash and a hearty confit duck leg terrine with rocket pesto and a wonderfully fruity fig chutney – a neat nod to the hotel’s cosmopolitan mercantile roots. Mains like pan-fried wolfish with crab and chorizo risotto and roasted duck accompanied by caramelised parsnip, creamed peas and bacon proved a tasty way to keep out the winter chill, all the more so when washed down with plenty of wine. To round it off – and I was looking very round by this point – there was an excellent sticky toffee pudding and a savoury selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses.
The next day, hoping that a comfortable night’s sleep would result in a renewed appetite, we headed down for breakfast which, in now-familiar Salthouse fashion, turned out to be generous in the extreme. Surrounded by a newspapers, we tucked into Pinneys smoked salmon and poached egg bagels with a Salthouse’s Suffolk breakfast: a local take on the traditional full English which uses Suffolk bacon and sausages – on the side. Later, we headed back to London wishing we could have stayed a little longer. But even if, like us, you’ve only got a few days to spare, the Salthouse is a good place to relax, eat and explore the stunning Suffolk coast. You might have trouble tearing yourself away from that bath though…
B&B starts from £140 per night in a double room. The hotel is currently running a Starry Nights offer which is available until 31st January and includes accommodation, full Suffolk breakfast and a bottle of Champagne in your room on arrival for just £130 per room, per night. For more information, see salthouseharbour.co.uk
IN THE AREA…
There’s plenty to see and do in the beautiful coastal towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold which are a short drive away. Best known for being the birthplace of British composer Benjamin Britten, Aldeburgh is a charming town with a striking shingle beach and plenty of tempting independent boutiques in which to while away the hours. There is also the nearby Snape Maltings, a regular performance venue for internationally renowned musicians. A more traditional seaside experience can be found in Southwold thanks to its old fashioned pier which has been recently renovated and includes all the classic amusements. The coastal town is also home to the famous Adnam’s brewery, and as a result, there are several very cosy pubs to take advantage of.
For a little culture head to Christchurch Park: Ipswich’s first local public park which opened in 1895 and houses the Christchurch Mansion which is now a museum and art gallery exhibiting pottery, glass and contemporary art, as well as 70 acres of beautiful parkland. Make a stop at the famous Suffolk Food Hall to refuel. Located in Wherstead Hall, the space combines a food hall showcasing the county’s best local food and drink producers, a garden centre and an impressive restaurant.