Our food reviewer and columnist Mark Heath and his wife Liz went for a Friday night DBB stay in one of the newly-opened rooms at The Lion in East Bergholt. Here's what they made of it...

Question: What's better than an award-winning gastro pub in a beautiful Suffolk village?

Answer: An award-winning gastro pub in a beautiful Suffolk village with luxury rooms.

It was in the spirit of that thought process that we made our way to The Lion, having read of their newly-opened five luxury guest rooms.

Adding a nice room to your trip is a luxury in itself, of course, the comfortable knowledge that you only have to wobble upstairs after your last espresso martini being a huge added relaxation factor.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Lion at East BergholtThe Lion at East Bergholt (Image: Mark Heath)
Thus, we rocked up to The Lion at about 4pm on a Friday all ready to recline, dine and opine.

We parked on the road outside the pub, but there is also a large public car park to the rear of the building. 

First impressions, then. The Lion is one of those pubs in which you instantly feel at home. It's clearly historic - the building is 250-years old - so you're greeted with plenty of lovely old wooden beams and a huge brick fireplace, but it's also bright and warm and welcoming.

We were met by a trio of smiles from the team and swiftly escorted to our lodgings for the night, their Lion's Den suite (£355 for DBB on a Friday - including £30 each towards dinner).

East Anglian Daily Times: Our bathroom in the Lion's DenOur bathroom in the Lion's Den (Image: Mark Heath)
Lordy, what a room. A reception area in which to hang your coats and bags, a swish modern bathroom with a cracking rainfall-style shower, plus a separate lounge/TV area and what is easily one of the biggest bedrooms we've ever stayed in, with a view out onto the high street.

The rooms are advertised as 'luxury' and that's certainly fair - we had a huge, comfy super-king bed, two fancy smart TV's with Netflix etc, plus our own Nespresso coffee machine.

East Anglian Daily Times: The lounge area in our Lion's DenThe lounge area in our Lion's Den (Image: Mark Heath)We were also greeted with a little box of designer chocolates from those talented folks at Wood Row Chocolates - a really nice touch. Things like that give you the feeling that your hosts are going the extra mile to give you a special stay.

As in the rest of the pub, the rooms and the areas around them have been beautifully crafted, with the brickwork and wood blended sympathetically and seamlessly with the older parts of the building.

There are nice antique pieces dotted around too, adding to that feeling that, though you might be in a new part of the pub, you're still very much in an historic, old building.

East Anglian Daily Times: Our huge bedroom in the Lion's DenOur huge bedroom in the Lion's Den (Image: Mark Heath)
Now, at this point, friends, I'd like to be able to say that we ventured out into the very attractive village for a mooch about and a report back as to the other attractions.

But, given it rained solidly from the moment we pulled up outside The Lion to the moment we departed - and for a long time afterwards - what we actually did was retire to our quarters with a glass of something fizzy, whacked on the complimentary robes and readied ourselves for the evening eats.

East Anglian Daily Times: The welcome chocolates at The Lion - a lovely touchThe welcome chocolates at The Lion - a lovely touch (Image: Liz Heath)
We'd booked dinner for 7.30pm and by the time we wandered down to the bar/restaurant, it was busy and buzzing - always a good sign.

I knew two things as we were seated. One, the Lion won best pub in the 2022/23 East of England Tourism Awards. Two, they pride themselves on sourcing their produce locally.

Which for me, given the proximity to Mersea Island and all their fine fishy fare, meant I was going seafood all the way.

Starters range in price from £8 (soup) to £24 (five wild scallops - more on those shortly), while mains start at £18 (butternut squash risotto) to £30 (Suffolk redpoll fillet steak).

In addition, there's a daily specials menu offering things like catch and butchers' cuts of the day.

After the usual debate about matching wines to our meals, we ordered a bottle of Aotearoa Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (£40) - delicious - and awaited our starters.

East Anglian Daily Times: My mussels starter at The LionMy mussels starter at The Lion (Image: Mark Heath)
I'd opted for the 0.5kg of mussels, steamed with white wine, shallots, garlic, parsley and cream (£12), while Liz went for three of the aforementioned scallops, baked in their shells with bacon, leek, garlic butter and black pudding breadcrumb (£16).

My mussels were both plentiful and tasty. Good-sized molluscs, resting in a creamy, garlic-laced bath with a couple of hunks of crusty bread for dipping. Lovely stuff.

Liz was impressed with her scallops too - that bacon worked really well with the main attractions, which were cooked nicely, while the black pudding brought the dish together with an added texture and kick of salty umami. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Liz's scallops starter at The LionLiz's scallops starter at The Lion (Image: Liz Heath)
In fact, it's a compliment in itself that Liz even ate black pudding, let alone enjoyed it - it's not usually for her. Bravo, Lion team!

Mains next. Continuing my seafood selections, I went for the West Mersea grilled seabass fillet (£21) from the specials, while Liz opted for an autumn classic, chargrilled local venison (£22).

My fish arrived with a generous bowl of chips, plus some minted mushy peas and tartare sauce.

East Anglian Daily Times: My seabass fillet main at The LionMy seabass fillet main at The Lion (Image: Mark Heath)
This, too, was excellent eating. The fish was seasoned well and cooked superbly, flaking apart to the fork, while the chips were excellent. I normally like my mushy peas a little less solid, but they tasted good.

Liz's venison, meanwhile, was pretty as a picture, cooked to that oh so sexy perfect pink and served with wholegrain mustard creamed potato, cavolo nero and blackberry jus.

East Anglian Daily Times: Liz's venison main at The LionLiz's venison main at The Lion (Image: Liz Heath)
The dish as a whole worked really well, the freshness and crunch of the cavolo nero and the richness of the mash offset by the tasty, tangy jus.

And so to desserts. I opted for the apple and plum crumble with custard (£9), while Liz went for the warm chocolate fondant, with mixed berries and Panache hazelnut ice cream (£11).

My crumble was exactly what it should be - big chunks of fruit under a crunchy crumble topping, served with plenty of creamy custard.

East Anglian Daily Times: My crumble dessert at The LionMy crumble dessert at The Lion (Image: Mark Heath)
I'd usually like my crumble a little sweeter, but that's personal preference. It was warming, hearty and good.      

Across the table, Liz was happy to report her fondant passed the all-important ooze test, a goodly river of chocolate flowing out after she spooned it.

The nutty ice-cream really made the dish for us, a wonderful partner to the indulgent chocolate and sweet, slightly sharp fruit.

East Anglian Daily Times: Liz's chocolate fondant dessert at The Lion - it duly passed the ooze test!Liz's chocolate fondant dessert at The Lion - it duly passed the ooze test! (Image: Liz Heath)
Dinner done, and having noticed a fair few cocktail glasses on the tables around us, we decided it was our duty to you, dear readers, to sample at least one.

We duly asked for a pair of espresso martinis (£10 each) - shaken, not stirred - and sat sipping them as the pub buzzed around us, a lively yet cosy atmosphere full of folks enjoying their evenings.

And then we wobbled up the stairs to our Lion's Den.

Next morning, after a cracking night's sleep in that giant bed, we reported for breakfast at 9.30am.

Breakfast is always a key indicator of quality for me, and The Lion's morning menu looked superb - from a full English to pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, to a vegetarian feast or flatiron steak with fries and a fried egg.

East Anglian Daily Times: Our breakfast sandwich - what a way to start the day!Our breakfast sandwich - what a way to start the day! (Image: Liz Heath)
We both went for the Suffolk sausage, bacon and fried egg sandwich on sourdough bread, as well as a couple of enlivening cappuccinos.

Our coffees arrived complete with a lion's face on the foam - another nice touch - and the sandwich was fit for a king - or queen - of the jungle.

Lashings of pork, a spot-on fried egg and two generous slices of fresh bread. A great way to start the day.

And thus, our stay was over. We retreated upstairs one last time to bid farewell to our den before venturing back out into the sodden Suffolk Serengeti.

Final thoughts, then. The service at the Lion was top notch - always friendly, smiling and knowledgeable - while the food was definitely deserving of that gastro pub tag.

East Anglian Daily Times: Our morning cappuccinos came with a lion's face - another nice touchOur morning cappuccinos came with a lion's face - another nice touch (Image: Liz Heath)
The little extra touches were thoughtful and our room exceptional. There's a very smart courtyard and garden too, which would be lovely when it's not pelting it down.

All in all, a cracking destination. One could say, in fact, that The Lion is worth roaring about.