Week­end stay

Tucked away in a fairy­tale-like court­yard, Strat­tons Ho­tel of Swaffham is an en­chant­ing place to spend a night, writes ROWAN MAN­TELL

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

Dream time at Strat­tons Ho­tel in Swaffham

THERE IS some­thing dream­like about Strat­tons. Hid­den at the heart of bustling Swaffham, the ho­tel sits in a serene gar­den. Tall ta­per­ing trees and top­i­ary sur­round the mellow build­ing, a stag has paused on a sunken lawn, a dou­ble stair­case lead up to an arched en­trance.

Across the gar­den from the main ho­tel is a fairy­tale flint and brick cot­tage, more plants and top­i­ary sur­round its court­yard and the front door opens into a charming white­washed sit­ting room.

Our home for the night is called the Opium Suite and there is some­thing min­dal­ter­ing about its small but per­fectly-formed pro­por­tions. The sit­ting room has a soft rug laid over old pol­ished tiles, a wooden stair­case leads up to a mez­za­nine bed­room which has a lux­u­ri­ous dou­ble-ended bath, a win­dow framed with or­nate pan­els, huge dec­o­ra­tive pil­lars, a chan­de­lier and stepped bed­side ta­bles made up of many diminu­tive wooden draw­ers.

Who needs a ho­tel safe when you have tiny draw­ers, tucked away up­stairs in a quaint cot­tage, through a court­yard, off a gar­den, down an al­ley, be­side a his­toric mar­ket cross in a pretty Breck­land town?

Strat­tons is a ho­tel un­like any other. In­stead of beige dé­cor and generic in­of­fen­sive prints it has walls painted with cherubs, or glow­ing metallics or animal prints. The art is thrilling and vi­brant. In the res­tau­rant a clas­si­cal-shaped bust is made of glow­ing pink plas­tic, up­stairs in the lounge a huge postages­tamp por­trait of the Queen shim­mers along­side tra­di­tional Nor­folk land­scapes.

The chan­de­liers, or­nate mir­rors, four­poster beds and ex­otic fur­ni­ture make Strat­tons seem part gallery, part ho­tel and res­tau­rant. And the food is an­other as­pect of the art. This au­tumn the af­ter­noon tea at Strat­tons was voted the best in Nor­folk at the EDP Nor­folk Food and Drink Awards.

We were keen to see, and taste, this marvel. It did not dis­ap­point.

Served in three tiers, the glass plates were buried be­neath con­fec­tions of cream and choco­late, cakes, scones and sand­wiches.

Un­usu­ally, the bot­tom tier held not just sand­wiches (egg, on per­haps the best bread I’ve ever tasted) but also a bite of smoked salmon and horse­rad­ish on sour­dough and a mag­nif­i­cent sausage roll (renowned as Al Mur­ray’s favourite sausage roll in the world and I can con­firm the Pub Land­lord must know his sausage rolls).

The mid­dle tier is scones – one fruit and one plain per per­son, served with jam and cream. And then the cakes. Oh the cakes. There were four. The Mont Blancs were whisked peaks of chestnut puree and cream, then there were lay­ers of hazel­nut puree and del­i­cate melt-in-the-mouth short­bread, and a cake made of lemon mac­arons topped with a flame of meringue.

De­feated by the fi­nal pair, sump­tu­ous tof­fee and ap­ple sponges, we took them back to our room, where they joined the cat-shaped choco­late short­bread bis­cuits, left in a heart of rose-buds on our bed. Yes, Strat­tons is a ro­man­tic place too.

And de­spite all the lux­ury, the fam­ily-run ho­tel prides it­self on its green cre­den­tials. There are the usual no­tices about not wash­ing tow­els un­nec­es­sar­ily, but there are also as­sur­ances that the lovely laven­der toi­letries in the bed­room and glass-blocked wet room are easy on the en­vi­ron­ment. There are un­der­tak­ings to re­duce wa­ter use, car­bon emis­sions and land­fill, and a truly im­pres­sive com­mit­ment to sourc­ing food lo­cally.

The res­tau­rant at Strat­tons is a fine­din­ing desti­na­tion. Its menu dur­ing our stay in­cluded starters of baked cele­riac and chicken and cour­gette cakes, main cour­ses of meat raised on nearby farms, veg­eta­bles grown in the ho­tel’s own gar­dens.

Break­fast was served in the res­tau­rant too, and along­side splen­did plate­fuls of full English fab­u­lous­ness, and cor­nu­copia of ce­re­als and fruit, there were lo­cally pro­duced juices, fruit and seed break­fast muffins, fruit com­pote steeped in Earl Grey tea.

Strat­tons also has a café and del­i­catessen, self-cater­ing apart­ments and 14 glo­ri­ously quirky bed­rooms.

We slept ex­actly as well as we should have done in such an en­chanted dream­like land of lux­ury and love­li­ness, and woke ready to ex­plore the heart of Nor­folk.

The lounge area in the Opium Suite at Strat­tons

Hearts and flow­ers at Strat­tons

The bed­room in the Opium Suite

A sculp­ture at Strat­tons

Top tier cakes at af­ter­noon tea

Break­fast

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