Hotel Review: The Sun Inn, Dedham in Essex
Driving away from London on a gloriously sunny day, towards the Essex countryside, I felt nothing but excitement. My reviewing partner, Darren, and I were headed to The Sun Inn at Dedham and were very much looking forward to a break away from the city, and as we pulled into the picturesque village, we were not disappointed. Brightly painted houses, ducks and swans swimming on the river, nostalgically attractive shops and pubs and an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquillity greeted us.
The Sun Inn is situated on the high street, opposite a beautiful church and is painted a bright sunny yellow, which entices you in with its warm glow. We were shown to our lovely boutique room with eclectic décor, wooden beams and original features and I immediately fell in love with the teal sofa at the end of the bed! The room was light, spacious with a gorgeous antique wardrobe, a queen size bed and a bathroom stocked with local, organic, cruelty free toiletries with a huge shower but no bath. The hotel has 7 boutique rooms on offer, and all are stunning.
We headed downstairs to look around and treated ourselves to a cool glass of cider, had some banter with the locals then headed out to the garden. Sitting in stripy deckchairs, with a cider in hand, we marvelled at how good the world felt. The garden was quietly buzzing with lunchtime customers and families taking advantage of the complimentary boules.
We decided to explore the village and found a marvellous craft centre stocked with locally made produce, ceramics, jewellery and a tea-room and we made a mental note to return the next day to buy a souvenir of the trip. The landlord of the Inn had recommended we hired a rowing boat, so we set off to the boat house. Unfortunately, it was cash only, which neither of us had, so we headed back to the Inn, vowing to return the next morning.
After a well-deserved siesta in the comfortable bed and a shower, we felt refreshed and headed to the restaurant for dinner. The restaurant is situated through the bar and was very rustic with wooden tables and fresh flowers. Vintage baking equipment adorned the shelves and wooden beams and original features complemented the decor. Our waitress was friendly and attentive and was happy to answer any questions we had.
We both had an expresso martini to start whilst deciding on what delicious food to choose. The Inn has a small vegan menu, which I was pleased to see and for my starter I chose courgette and lovage soup. This was absolutely delicious, so full of flavour, a lovely texture and the most vibrant green colour I have ever seen (I love green food!). Darren chose baby beetroot terrine, feta, walnut and sherry vinegar (this was also the other vegan starter minus the feta). A sharp beetroot topped with walnuts with a light, whipped, creamy feta mousse and sherry vinegar jelly and Darren remarked on how light and tasty it was.
For main I chose ‘Caponata’ – sweet and sour aubergines, pine nuts, basil, rocket and Datterini tomatoes served with carta di muscia (Italian crispbread). This dish, unfortunately, was disappointing and not to my taste at all, some of the bread was burnt and it lacked something for me. There was a paucity of diverse textures and an overwhelming taste of liquorice I feel would have been better served with pasta (but maybe that’s because I’m a carb addict!!) I had a side of fries which helped but the price tag of £12.75 seems very steep for a dish of veg. Darren chose rare breed 42-55 day aged sirloin steak served with cubetti potatoes, sweet and sour aubergines, pine nuts and chilli ketchup. He really enjoyed this dish; the steak was well seasoned and cooked to perfection. Crisp potatoes dipped in spicy ketchup and the meat was complemented by the aubergine and nuts (which interestingly was my main dish).
For dessert I had 2 options and chose raspberry sorbet with praline. The praline on this dish was gorgeous, crumbly, more like a biscuit texture but really delicious and the sweetness complemented the sharp sorbet and raspberries well- my only criticism is that I would have liked a lot more of it!!! Darren chose strawberry, meringue and vanilla cream. These ingredients are a marriage made in heaven and the dish was wonderful. Marinated English strawberries on top of light vanilla cream and perfectly cooked meringue, he remarked that it was a great end to a great meal.
After a great night’s sleep, we headed back down to the restaurant for breakfast. Darren went for the full English, Dingley Dell sausages and bacon (Wiltshire cure), Morris black pudding, chestnut mushrooms, baked beans Highfield Farm, Norfolk Eggs fried and toast. He said it hit the spot and was just what he needed to fuel him for the rowing we were planning on doing! The chef had kindly prepared me a vegan breakfast, veggie sausages, mushrooms, baked tomatoes and spinach, which was really tasty and filling. There was also a selection of pastries, cheeses and cereals on the buffet with a large selection of fresh juice, tea and coffee and I was delighted to find that they had oat milk.
They pride themselves on their ingredients, only choosing the best in season and their website boasts that they make our own jam, marmalade and bread. The restaurant’s milk and yoghurt comes from the Strachan family near Saxmundham, butter is from Trewithen Dairy in Cornwall and their Loch Duart Salmon is smoked at Anchor Smokery in Lowestoft. Their seasonal local fruit comes from Williamson’s in Bradfield (berries), Olroyd’s in Yorkshire and Eric in Dedham (rhubarb), Jane and Jack in Ardleigh/Lawford for apples and pears. Dingley Dell farm is in Campsea Ashe near Woodbridge, Suffolk.
After breakfast we checked out and headed off into the village, stopping at the craft centre to buy an obligatory fridge magnet and some delightful espresso cups. The church in the village is stunning and there were people all along the pavements painting on easels; it was a scene you would find on a chocolate box and epitomised the character of the area.
Our next stop was the boathouse, where we hired a beautiful wooden rowing boat for an hour and I can safely say this was one of the best hours I have ever spent. The scenery was picturesque with cows grazing near and in the water, so close you could touch them, little fish swimming in the river and ducks paddling along with babies in tow. We took it in turns to row and found the whole experience wonderful, I highly recommend it.
Dedham is picture-perfect. John Constable famously painted Dedham Mill and you can see why he fell in love with the area. It is outstandingly beautiful, peaceful and quaint and you cannot quite believe you are in Essex – the Sugar Hut feels a million miles away and, thankfully, was. The staff at the Sun Inn were warm and welcoming and the inn itself was homely, authentic and a little slice of heaven. I cannot recommend this area highly enough and will be booking another trip there soon.
Rooms rates: Bed and Breakfast £150 (double occupancy), dinner, bed and breakfast £200 (double occupancy. There is also a four night deal throughout the year.
Food: £6.00-£7.75 for starters, Mains- £12.75 to £25.00, Desserts- £6.00. There is also a large selection of cheeses with biscuits for £3.75 each.
Wines: £16.00-£120 per bottle.
Address: High St, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DF
Phone: 01206 323351