Hotel of the week: The Crown, Southwold


Where is it?

Where is it?

In the picturesque centre of this tiny seaside town on the peachiest stretch of the Suffolk coast. With its eclectic collection of villas, lighthouse and perfectly preserved curiosities such as the Sailors' Reading Room, Southwold is a tourist board's dream. It has been thoroughly discovered (house prices top many areas of London) but does not yet feel like a suburb. The local twang still resonates in the high street

What's it like?

Shambling coaching inn, rebuilt in 1750. The action is centred on a relaxed and airy gastro-pub at the front, which is the place to hang out (a tiny lounge upstairs is depressing). It's a bit scruffy round the edges - parts could do with a paint job and new lighting - but then this is a cheapish hotel: b&b for two in a double or twin room costs £75.

Ambience?

Relaxed and informal. Walk down the coast through endearing Walberswick and past Dunwich to look in fear and trembling upon Sizewell B nuclear power station, then feel comfortable treading mud and sand back up the stairs to your room. There is no need to change for dinner - you can eat formally in the dining room (which is being refurbished) if that's what you like, or flop in your muddy jeans on to a bench in the bar and tuck in.

Food

Fantastic, the reason for staying here. An early out-of-town convert to modern British cooking, the present chef, Chris Coubrough, has also introduced Pacific Rim options. A great antidote to over-fussy, over-rich hotel food, the cuisine is hearty, the quality consistently high - and all GM-free. A continental breakfast, which includes a huge exotic fruit salad, makes the full English, on offer for a supplement, somewhat redundant.

Clientele

London mini-breakers. Liberal-minded foodies. The value-for-money accommodation attracts cash-strapped Hackney types rather than their flashier Islington neighbours, who favour the nearby sister hotel, the more luxurious Swan.

Service

Sweet, helpful and unaffected in the bar/restaurant; perfunctory elsewhere. The hotel facilities can feel tagged on to the raison d'être of the operation: the food and drink.

Rooms

Top b&b standard: smallish rooms, inoffensive wallpaper, wooden furniture, nice bathrooms. Still has rooms without bathrooms for a real budget outing. The haphazard development over centuries has created a labyrinthine system of passageways and staircases and some weird idiosyncrasies - the fire escape for our floor was approached through our bathroom window.

Address

The Crown, High Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6DP (tel: 01502 722275).

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