The words "Ipswich" and "glamour" don't normally go together but the recently refurbished, independently owned Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Suffolk neatly makes the connection. Set on a waterfront full of shiny new yachts and the odd traditional wooden barge, the hotel forms part of the Neptune Marina, which is being smartly developed with apartments and restaurants.
Dating back to the 1800s, the redbrick building in which the hotel is set was once a merchant's warehouse and many original features such as the arched windows, and iron columns and beams have been retained. The hotel has added 27 new rooms and revamped its lobby, which is set with bright green and orange bespoke Chesterfield sofas, and has sheer glass fronting the harbour.
The hotel brims with the work of local artists, plus Vivienne Westwood rugs and Damien Hirst posters, frivolously camp suits of armour strung with pearl necklaces, and a Kalashnikov-toting version of Michelangelo's David by a French street artist. This is a hotel that confidently seeks to amuse and interest its guests.
The new rooms continue the soothing themes of the old – pale olive walls, plush mustard carpets and curtains – but they have luxurious curved, brown leather chaises longues from which to admire the view in comfort. Some rooms have free-standing copper baths, plus rich orange chenille throws, pixellated urban night-scene wallpaper and flat-screen televisions. Bathrooms have slate grey tiles with under-floor heating, walk-in showers, natural Ren products and quirky but homely touches such as giant wooden seahorses and large windows looking from bathroom to bedroom.
The food and drink
Even on Monday nights the refurbished Eaterie bar and restaurant, which has two AA rosettes, is buzzing with locals and guests. It has elegant leather chairs, oversized curved snugs, and plenty of friendly, attentive staff. The Eaterie serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and provides a feast for the eyes with large modern art and sculpture pieces adorning the walls. The excellent menu features mainly local delicacies such as Orford smoked salmon with lemon and capers, Dedham Vale rump steak, warm salt beef with Suffolk Mud Mayo (made with lots of grainy mustard), and potato salad with pan-fried calves liver and smoked sausage, bacon and mash. Puddings are perfectly presented and some continue the humour – rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb includes a tiny thimble of jelly, a tiny mound of rhubarb crumble and a miniature glass of rhubarb and custard. About half the extensive wine list is available by the glass. Three-course dinner without wine is from £27.40 per person.
Unusually for a hotel of this calibre, the Salthouse Harbour Hotel does not have its own spa or gym. However, day membership to a nearby gym can be arranged for £5. PlayStations are available from the reception and free WiFi is offered throughout.
Nearby, the imposing Old Custom House, built in 1845, presides over the dockside with its four-columned portico. Just a 10-minute walk brings you you to Friars Street and the Unitarian Meeting House, built in 1699, which is one of Ipswich's most important historic structures. At nearby Snape Maltings, Victorian granaries and malthouses have been converted into shops, galleries and restaurants. The unspoilt Suffolk coastal towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold are about an hour's drive away, with Aldeburgh's famous Festival of Music and the Arts taking place each June (visiteastof england.com).
Access for people with disabilities on the ground floor and in lifts. Four rooms have been specially modified and there are reserved parking spaces. Pets admitted. Children welcome.
Double rooms from £100 B&B. The Dine and Recline package is available when you spend £55 or more on a three-course dinner for two, pay £70 per double room per night (saving about £65). This offer is valid for Sunday nights only until 31 December, subject to availability.
1 Neptune Quay, Ipswich IP4 (12A)X (01473 226 789; salthouseharbour.co.uk).