Review: The Crown, Woodbridge

Exterior of The Crown at Woodbridge

Exterior of The Crown at Woodbridge - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis spends a cool February evening at The Crown at Woodbridge.

Setting

The Crown at Woodbridge is a boutique hotel and restaurant found at the southern end of the town’s busy Thoroughfare.

The townhouse inn is ideally situated for a bite to eat after exploring the nearby antiques, fashion and homeware shops, and is minutes from the river with its watery pursuits.

Interior

Chef/patron Stephen David had a clear vision for the design of the hotel and worked closely with David Bentheim to create a smart but relaxed environment.

The result is a soothing but nonetheless buzzy space that combines warm neutrals with vibrant heritage-derived paints and furnishings chosen for comfort and style.

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We loved the entrance from the car park where there are beautifully tapered willow screens, cocooning the terrace away from the hubbub of the outside world.

We also liked the quirky touches, from the hull of a Windermere skiff suspended above the bar, to the seagulls and specially commissioned glass etchings.

The bar area is uber-cool with its oversized sofas, while the restaurant space at the back boasts padded leather booth seats and ambient lighting that sets the tone for a serene supper.

Food

It’s not many places these days that will automatically leave water on the table, but this is a nice touch at The Crown.

The water is triple-filtered on site, says Stephen, to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint.

While we flicked through the extensive and interesting menu we were served fresh warm bread and butter too – always a welcome addition to get those tastebuds going.

A lot of thought has gone into producing a menu here that conjures-up interesting new ways of dealing with seasonal ingredients.

Beetroot is roasted and served with whipped goat’s cheese, toasted walnuts and caramelised shallot dressing, for example.

And venison shoulder is potted and accompanied by pickled walnuts, sloe jelly and charred anchovy bread.

I was intrigued by the ‘on toast’ selection and so began with a starter of spiced brown shrimps with fennel and wilted spinach on toasted crumpet.

These tiny crustaceans are so hard to get right and often err on the side of rubbery, but the chefs at The Crown managed to cook them to perfection.

Soft, mildly spiced and oozing with butter, the shrimps tasted delicious and were paired well with the mild crunch of slivers of fennel. Of course, the crumpet was the perfect foil for all those delicious juices too.

Our star of the evening had to be the starter of king scallops. Seared until just-cooked the seafood was plated up with crispy, unctuous pork cheek fritters, a spiced gribiche and a sticky, sweet chorizo jam that pulled the dish together with its smoky, caramel notes.

Moving on, and we plumped for Stephen’s recommendations of the confit duck and smoked haddock tart.

The confit (so often dry in restaurants) was crisp on the outside and moist within and as good, if not better, than the version I ate recently on the terrace of a Parisian bistro overlooking Pont Neuf.

The meat simply melted from the bone and the chefs had taken great care to trim and present the cut properly.

Served with a slick of jus, bright green kale and honey-roasted parsnips it was a great dish.

Comforting is the only way to describe the haddock tart, which was the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket, and the perfect thing to take the chill off an icy winter’s eve.

Delicately smoked pieces of haddock were presented in a puff pastry shell, oozing with mature cheddar and mustard sauce, tenderstem broccoli and a poached egg that pierced instantly under the knife and flowed like molten lava across the plate. Delicious.

Full, but keen to continue our culinary journey (especially after spying the puds on a nearby table) we ploughed on and ordered dessert.

The coffee and Amaretto delice was smooth and delicate in flavour, working well with a deeply dark espresso sauce and crunchy almond thin.

And the sticky ginger and rum cake was a joy. Lebkuchen-like in texture and taste the cake was topped with a delicately perfumed pear parfait that had just a hint of pear drops about it.

Topped with a dollop of milk chocolate ganache and with slices of mildly-spiced pear on the side, this was a well-balanced and surprisingly refreshing dessert that cleansed the palate.

Now, I’m a fudge aficionado (really, I’ve eaten dozens of types across the country) so I just had to be greedy and try the fudge and truffles with tea at the end of our meal.

Soft and yielding with a hint of caramel and salt the fudge was tremendous, but was outshined by the dark chocolate truffles which burst with liquid caramel. A real must for confectionary lovers!

Drink

They take wine seriously at The Crown at Woodbridge and the list is very impressive –well worth seeking out.

But we accompanied our meal with pints of Adnams, which always feels right when served in a watery setting.

As well as Adnams there are beers from the Meantime Brewery in London which, although not local, boasts three of the top-ranked beers in the world.

Accommodation

The rooms at The Crown at Woodbridge echo the design in the restaurant and bar, being muted and warming.

Some of the furniture was designed by David Bentheim and there are pieces from Snape Maltings, as well as beautiful Italian chairs and tactile fabrics.

Room nine is particularly attractive, with its unusual chaise.

Touches include proper coffee from Paddy and Scott and fresh milk for each room.

In summary

A truly relaxing experience. Whether you’re a couple looking for a winter treat, a family with a celebration, or friends catching up over lunch, The Crown will suit your needs effortlessly.

Fabulous food, presented well and an understated setting that makes you feel mellow.

Price

£60.50 for two (three courses plus fudge and truffles, excluding drinks).

Until the end of March you can enjoy two courses from the prix fixe menu from Monday to Thursday if you call and quote ‘2 for 13’ at the time of booking. Restrictions apply to certain dates.

Contact

The Crown at Woodbridge, Thoroughfare, Woodbridge, IP12 1AD. Tel: 01394 384242. www.thecrownatwoodbridge.co.uk

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There are nature-themed activity packs to keep youngsters occupied, and their own special menu includes ‘newt in the pond’ – a smaller version of toad in the hole.

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