Monday, 30 April 2012

Stratton's Hotel, Swaffham, Norfolk

Sunday 16.00 When by happy coincidence a planned visit to Monsieur 1’s family in Norfolk coincided with Monsieur 2’s birthday, we decided to extend the weekend and treat ourselves to a night somewhere fabulous after our few days en famille. We asked around for recommendations and one name kept coming up - Stratton’s.

Strattons Hotel
Tucked away up a narrow close off the market place which Swaffham is known for, Stratton’s resembles a small country estate - an imposing main villa, a couple of attractive outbuildings and a cafe-delicatessen, all within immaculate landscaped grounds. It feels delightfully secluded, despite being in the heart of the town. We’re immediately relaxed  - and we’ve not even checked in yet.

The Red Room has an open fire and a private courtyard garden
A couldn’t-be-friendlier receptionist, Michaela, welcomes us and walks us through a comfortably-furnished lounge - where one of the hotel’s three adorable resident cats is curled up peacefully on a chair - and shows us to The Red Room. We gasp as we walk in; it’s amazing. There’s a vast oak four-poster bed on a dais, a lounge area, a tea table with armchairs, a library for goodness’sake...I rack my brain to think of where I’ve seen a bedroom this opulent before, and then it comes to me: Chatsworth. When Michaela says “And here’s the key to your private courtyard garden” I’m already wishing we’d booked more than one night.

We make tea, slump on one of the three sofas and put our feet up. While Monsieur 2 flicks through the TV channels and logs the iPad onto the free WiFi, I read the hotel guide to find out what amenities there are. It turns out there’s no bar in the hotel although drinks are available from the (well-stocked) mini-bar or in the lounge; instead we decide to stroll around Swaffham and find a pub.

Bustling during the week and on market day, Saturday, today there’s hardly a soul to be seen in Swaffham. We head to The Greyhound (which appears in the TV series Kingdom) for a pint; it’s not exactly welcoming so we drink up quickly, grab a bottle of wine from the one open shop and head back to the haven of The Red Room.

Plush Bathtime Pleasures

With plenty of time before dinner we decide to take advantage of the 7’ roll-top bath in the bonkers tented bathroom (it looks like something out of Cleopatra) as it’s rare to find a tub long enough to comfortably accommodate both messieurs. We soak and soothe until our toes turn wrinkly, then dry ourselves off and dress for dinner.

It’s just a few steps from our room to The Rustic, Stratton’s restaurant. We’re greeted warmly by restaurant manager Charlie and given a table by the open fire. A fabulous meal follows; chef Sam uses only the best local produce and it shows. Monsieur 2’s leek and potato soup is creamy and seasoned just right while my duck pastrami and turnip sauerkraut is a clever riff on a Reuben sandwich. We then tuck into a Swannington beef burger - served with decadent ‘thrice cooked dripping chips’ and home-made ketchup - and sea trout with lovely, salty King’s Lynn cockles. To finish, I have ‘Millionaire’s shortbread’, a delicious deconstructed version of my favourite bakery treat, while Monsieur 2 polishes off a rhubarb trifle. To drink, how can we resist a bottle of The Rustic’s house wine - Domaine Gayda?

Oh Strattons

Fit for a ...

Thank goodness we don’t have far to stagger - we’re stuffed, not to mention a little tipsy. Back in The Red Room we draw the thick heavy curtains and climb into our luxurious four-poster.

Monday 09.07
We’ve slept like two particularly contented logs and after a cuppa to wake us up it’s back to The Rustic for breakfast. As well as self-service cereals and granola, some home-made, we’re given a choice of cooked breakfasts and go for the full English. Everything’s as good as dinner the night before, a perfect end to our stay and start to the day.

It’s always a good sign when you’re sad to check out of a hotel and that’s definitely the case as we return our room key. The staff at Stratton’s obviously care about every guest so much that I feel they’re even a little sorry to see us go. As we walk back down the drive to the coach stop that’s conveniently just outside, we look back at the beautiful place where we’ve spent a fabulous night and know that we’ll be back.

N: Strattons Hotel
T: 01760 723 845
A: Strattons, Ash Close, Swaffham, Norfolk, PE37 7NH
Our rating: *****

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