No expense spared re-opening luxurious Suffolk hotel and restaurant
- Credit: Brittany Woodman
“We’re certainly going down the Michelin road,” says Ross Parrock, operations manager of Suffolk Country Inns.
The boutique hotel and restaurant group has just flung open the doors to The Angel Inn in Stoke By Nayland, following a £2m refurbishment that Ross says really does push the luxury envelope for the county.
It is the first time the premises have been open for business since the lockdowns began in 2020 – and everything (bar the 15th century coaching inn’s original features, from brick to beam) has been transformed.
The building next door was bought up and added, taking the bedroom count to 11, and the 60-cover restaurant has a new executive chef Ruben Aguilar Bel, who was tempted to Suffolk from Kent, bringing along his partner (talented pastry chef Gabbi) to start a new life in the east.
Ross says no expense has been spared in creating the very best version of The Angel – be that sourcing handmade, bespoke furniture and soft furnishings for the interiors, or scouring the British Isles for the most premium, niche suppliers for the kitchen.
“The restaurant still has a traditional feel to it,” he says. “It’s a beautiful building and, really, less was more. It was very important we kept that coaching inn feel. But all the furniture, like the oak tables, have been made for us. And our crockery is completely bespoke, made by potters in London. We spent six months finding someone to make exactly what we wanted. It’s the best quality. Totally unique. We’ve got stunning food, and the plates had to match!”
Like himself, Ross says chef Ruben has a Michelin background, having worked in two and three-star kitchens, adding that aiming for those prestigious accolades is something they’re “very passionate about”.
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“Our style of food is very different for the area. We’re creating a dining experience here so local people don’t have to travel to London, or Bury, or Cambridge for fine food.”
And very fine it sounds too. Ross reels off the crème de la crème of ingredients to be found on the current tasting and a la carte menus – from Scottish Highland Wagyu beef, to hand-dived Cornish scallops, lamb from the Lake District and Exmoor caviar.
A full a la carte and short tasting menu (£65 per head) run through lunch to dinner, with an expanded seven-course tasting menu (£80) in the evenings, and wine flights to match. “We’re very lucky to have our own private wine cellar with an extensive, interesting collection,” Ross adds, “including delicious vintage Port and sauternes.”
Each menu is hyper local, “dishes can change daily”, and linked to the seasons. “We’re always looking for what’s the very best and freshest, following the weather patterns. For example, the scallops weren’t great in one area...so we moved over to Cornwall. We’re not prepared to compromise.”
Diners visiting the hotel’s restaurant can expect the likes of Suffolk brown crab with confit octopus, Ardleigh strawberries, salmorejo and caviar to start. Or perhaps Lake District rabbit, charred over the kitchen’s Ox Grill, with aged carnaroli rice, ceps, Iberian ham, and a light veil created with gelatine and chicken stock – a delicate savoury blanket, if you will.
The best-selling main course, so far, is the Highland Wagyu, also char-grilled, with braised beef cheek, Shetland black potato, pied blue mushrooms and beet leaves.
“Our desserts are amazing. Gabbi, Ruben’s partner, came and met me when they moved, and really wanted to be part of what we do here because it’s such a great project. She is phenomenal. Some incredible dishes are coming out of the kitchen.”
These include Ardleigh strawberries with a white chocolate mousse and Champagne consomme...and a pud inspired by Ruben’s childhood, as Ross explains: “Ruben has Spanish heritage and when he got home from school his mum would give a snack of bread, chocolate and olive oil. So Gabbi’s made a dessert that’s a play on that – a dark chocolate cremeux with olive oil jelly and caramelised brioche.”
Absolutely everything is made in-house, from breads, to preserves, to the crackers served alongside the ever-changing cheese board, petit fours (think chocolate biscuits and bon bons) and palate cleansers (citrus sorbet with Essex gin foam).
In addition to fine wines, Ross says there’s a growing list of spirits, both local and from further afield. And diners can sip on cocktails crafted by the skilled bar manager, who’ll whip up anything from a classic French 75 to a Negroni – even a smoked Old Fashioned, delivered to the table, dramatically, under a cloche, with fresh orange smoke.
Want to make a night of it? Bookings for rooms open soon. “They’re all individually designed,” says Ross. “Most of the furnishings were locally sourced. The curtains and headboards were handmade. The vanity units were made right here in the village. We’ve done everything we can to make them comfortable. Some even have a bath in the room, with privacy glass that can be frosted at the touch of a button.”
Rooms are finished with handmade chocolates and biscuits for guests to enjoy on arrival.
Breakfast is only available to residents of the hotel, offering a full English, homemade muffins, jams, granolas and more.
Ross says so far feedback has been lovely. “I think customers are enjoying finding out about how we do things, why we use certain ingredients, how dishes have been produced, where our wine is from. These are definitely exciting times.”
The Angel Inn is open for lunch from Thursday to Saturday 12noon to 2pm, and from 12noon to 4.30pm on Sundays. In the evenings, bookings are available from 6pm to 8.30pm Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 6pm to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Find out more at angelinnsuffolk.co.uk