The last time I visited The Suffolk in Aldeburgh, I had to clamber over rubble with the hotel’s visionary, George Pell. 

It was hard to imagine, through the dust and debris, what would become of 152 High Street. But George is unendingly enthusiastic and buoyant. I left with little doubt he’d create something quite special. 

Thankfully, I’ve been proven right.  

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Offering six bedrooms, a street-facing lounge/bar, the Sur-Mer restaurant (a pop-up success during lockdown) and a soon-to-come roof terrace, The Suffolk is SO Aldeburgh. 

What do I mean by that? With its notoriety for second homes and being a haunt for the well-at-heel, there’s a misconception that Aldeburgh folk are showy and flash. Those that I know who live and work in the seaside town, though, are rather more down-to-earth. They choose quality over glamour. And tradition over the new and glitzy. 

The Suffolk kind of embodies this spirit. George has created a destination hotel that is elegant, subtle and genteel. A palette of neutrals and seaside blue accents, framed by furniture and design nodding to the heydays of British seaside holidays in the 20s and 50s. 

We spent a night in the sea-facing Havergate. The layout upstairs is rather higgledy-piggledy but that’s part of the charm of the building. There’s a lift to the first floor for those who need it. 

Music piped from a vintage-style Roberts radio drew us into the space, with its Mid-Century detailing – from screens and rattan cane furniture, to frilly plants. 

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The room has one of the largest window seats I’ve come across in a hotel, with enough space for comfortably lounging, basking in the sun. 

And the bed was crisply made, with a firm mattress, chunky pillows and robes for the shower room.  

I liked the touch of having relaxing pillow/room spray on the bedside table.  

I also adored the eco-friendly Haeckles toiletries in the bathroom – though my butterfingers dropped one, shattering glass everywhere. My only criticism here is that these goodies should be wall-mounted. 

Downstairs offers something otherwise notably absent in Aldeburgh. A dedicated cocktail bar. Softly lit, with a gorgeously curved serving area, and oodles of soft banquette seating, this is the kind of place I can see myself knocking back a few G&Ts with my friends of a summer’s night.  

Wines, beers and a long list of fizz are available, but I suggest working your way through the unique mixed drinks – hello Sur-Martini with your dash of oyster liquor! 

We partook in the Sassy Suffolk. A complex marrying up of Calvados, brown sugar, applewood smoke and bitters. And Rob’s Sour. Any cocktail arriving with an amaretti biscuit on top is a winner in my book. This one, blending Disaronno with yuzu, was a perky little livener to excite the tastebuds pre-dinner. 

And what a dinner it was. One where there are possibly not enough superlatives to do some of the dishes justice. 

I was very jealous of my husband, who chose Sur-Mer's signature dressed crab. It’s what I’d ordered last time, and I had my heart set on it (though he did save me a little). Head chef James Jay’s take on this classic fashions the sweet white meat into a delicate, lightly dressed rectangle, paired with a deeply savoury emulsion of brown meat, sweet pickled cucumbers, and a zippy avocado puree. It is wonderful.  

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But I wasn’t disappointed with my own choice. Two big, fat, butter-gilded scallops on top of a sharp, almost agrodolce-tasting butternut puree. To drink? A glass of Chateau Lestrille’s Capmartin Blanc, with hints of candied fruit on the nose, and floods of juicy mandarin on the palate. 

Mr J’s main course of halibut in a bold lobster sauce was faultless. However, it couldn’t hold a candle to what sat before me. A whole lobster, anointed with lashings of garlic butter. James’ team steam their native lobsters, finishing with a glaze under the grill. 

The result is so exquisite I can scarcely find the words (and that really is saying something). I’ve eaten lots of lobster across the years, but this is the finest to have found its way onto my fork. 

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Not only was the crustacean meltingly, quiveringly soft, but it had been cut into bite-sized pieces. No work here for the diner. Just pure, unadulterated pleasure. I was, readers, in raptures. 

Christ! I haven’t even mentioned the chips yet. Those chips. Well...again. I’m speechless. Imagine the almost amber-deep shell of the crispiest roast potato, with a creamy interior. That is what you’ll get, my friends. Don’t forget to ask for a pot of garlic aioli for dunking. 

Both dishes were partnered by a magnificent pouilly fuisse – a flirty bottle dosing out honeysuckle, lime flower, ripe melon and flinty minerality. 

We finished with a very respectable, dark Pump Street chocolate tart partnered with a pool of crème fraiche, and a chewy-meringued coffee baked Alaska over coffee caramel. This was tasty, but, I felt, needed a pinch of salt or jolt of acidity to bring it to life. 

Back upstairs, and this lifetime journo couldn’t resist a snoop...along the way finding the last word in hotel decadence – a pantry! 

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While The Suffolk’s bedrooms don’t have in-room entertainment (TV) or coffee machines, all is forgiven when you realise you can sneak along the hallway to rustle up a hot drink, choose from a melee of pre-mixed cocktails poured from lovely cut glass decanters, and reach into the fridge to slice off pieces of oozy Baron Bigod or Binham Blue with crackers as a midnight feast. Result! 

We both slept well (comfy bed, room just the right temperature) and, after packing, plodded downstairs for brekkie in the restaurant. I must admit, I’ve had some quite average hotel breakfasts over the past few months. They’ve been...OK...but haven’t really blown me away. I was expecting more of the same.  

The Suffolk eschews the buffet table (after all, there are only a few rooms to cater for), instead offering its take on a full English, alongside dishes such as Pinneys smoked salmon over rye bread with pickles, Feb Farm skyr with compote and granola, and omelette Arnold Bennett. 

Coffee ordered, toast delivered, we waited unenthusiastically (we are NOT morning people) for our food. Which was actually bloody brilliant. By far one of the best I’ve been served in a hotel restaurant anywhere. 

The line-up includes a superb, peppery Aldeburgh sausage and crisp bacon (no doubt sourced from Salter & King across the road), beans, potato rosti, eggs (not for me), and the three things that, in my opinion, always let a good breakfast down. 

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Instead of rubbery, slimy button mushrooms, there was a dainty, herbal, soft field mushroom. 

In place of a solid, sour, sad-looking tom, two halves of silky, yielding, perfectly seasoned tomato. 

And, hallelujah – no shot put-style black pudding here. If you’re going to serve rounds of pudding with breakfast in East Anglia, it HAS to be from Fruitpig (as The Suffolk has chosen) or at the very least made by a local butcher. It is the best. Hands down. 

This really was the breakfast of kings.  

We skipped out the door, ready to take on the world. Being well fed and well rested is a tonic for the soul. And The Suffolk can help you achieve both in (bucket and) spadesful.  

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