This is a lovely hotel, prices are actually really reasonable when booked via a hotel exchange website such as expedia, lastminute or hotels.com.
The hotel is located on the outskirts of Ipswich in an area known as Belstead Brook it used to be tangled around trees and hard to find as it was the outskirts of Ipswich, but now a housing estate has been built close by which kills that quaint appeal slightly.
The estate is surrounded by trees to keep it enclosed and ensure views are of the wonderfully maintained grounds of the hotel, the garden is stunning and is used for weddings and private parties. It is home ot plenty of local wildlife including squirrels and peacocks.
When you enter the hotel, part of the Swallow chain it has an old style touch of class, this used to be one of only two very good hotels in Ipswich and it still has the ambience of being somewhere people want to stay.
The gym is great, with a decent sized pool, jacuzzi and sauna's, there are sunbeds to relax and read, or simply to relax in.
Hotel rooms are handsome, well maintained with an old-school decoration but modern bathrooms, satelite tv and a great room service menu.
The Restaurant is lovely, a fine menu of locally sourced food and drink, the waiting staff are knowledgable, the food looked and tasted great and was served quickly and stylishly.
Overally this is a good place to stay at very competitive prices, close to the A12 and easy for access to Ipswich and the Constable Country.
A couple of months ago I decided it was high time I had another treat (I am very good at this) and was in the mood for some sumptuous swankiness (when aren't I?). I decided to surprise my lovely fella with a weekend away in Suffolk. After a good google my search was narrowed to two nice looking country hotels on the outskirts of shopping centres. I am all for the whole countryside nature walks thing but a girl still needs to shop you know. One hotel had no room so it was the Belstead Brook hotel on the outskirts of Ipswich we were off to!
I booked over the phone and was very pleased with the politeness, efficiency and friendliness of the receptionist. She confirmed prices, times and directions. I booked a breakaway deal so the price was £69.50 per person per night; not cheap, but not excessive as it included dinner, bed and breakfast
On Fridays I am lucky enough to leave work at lunchtime so, with my bag securely packed and stowed in the boot, at half past twelve I was off! After driving through some nasty weather and a quick stop at a couple of superstores to try and find a new swimming costume I left the A14 at the A12 junction and was very pleased to immediately see a sign to the hotel. This was most handy because although I had a map I couldn't look at it while driving. All the way to the hotel there were nice clear signs at every junction and roundabout and on longer stretches without any turn offs they had thoughtfully put up signs to let you know you were still on the right track
I pulled carefully into the driveway - and I mean carefully, there are huge speed bumps at the entrance and exit, so do go slowly if you visit. From the photo on the website I recognised the front of the hotel - it was just as lovely as it had looked back home on my PC. The only slight difference was that what looked like a vast sweeping lawn in front of the lovely exterior was much, much shorter in real life - a good bit of wide angle photography there obviously. However this did not detract at all from the lovely feeling of sweeping down the driveway to the car park
The car park is to the right of the front of the hotel and had plenty of spaces and the way to reception was clearly marked (I really hate having to wander round new places in search of where I am going). Daintily pulling my little trolley-dolly suitcase down the steps I swanned into the reception area. I say swanned because I just had to... the entrance was as swanky as I could wish for... huge automatic mahogany framed doors swooshed open as I arrived. Inside there was acres of elegant marble, a discreet lounge area with mahogany tables, wingback chairs and plethora of shiny new magazines all invitingly arranged in front of a flickering fire. The reception desk lived up to all my dreams; it was long and sweeping with marble and polished mahogany. I was in my element
The receptionist was friendly and helpful offering all the usual things I expect from a good hotel; early morning call, newspaper, help with luggage etc. Having had a bit of a think on the way down I had decided to ask for an extra night because if you book a Friday and Saturday the Sunday is half price - I never was one to resist a bargain. No problem; in minutes I was all booked in and off to find our room. The friendliness was something I noticed throughout our stay; all the staff were very friendly without being over familiar. They clearly enjoyed their jobs as they were polite, smiled at us and were very helpful at all times
I easily found our room and did my usual rushing around unpacking and checking for biscuits and shampoos. The room was a nice size, it as large enough that with two people in we weren't cramped and there was enough room for all my clothes and room for my fella's too. I hadn't found a swimming costume during my shopping stops, but I did pick up a stunning skirt and top in a sale on the way, so I had more things things to hang than usual. It wasn't as vast as some places we have stayed, but the layout was very good with, as well as a bed of course; a dressing table, bedside cabinets, table and chairs. The wardrobe was in an entrance area opposite the bathroom
After a relaxing bath I titivated myself up and we toddled off to the bar for a quick pre dinner drinkie (actually I swanned again - I just couldn't help myself, all weekend I swanned and glided everywhere). The bar is situated at the very front of the hotel with a lounge area between it and the restaurant. In the lounge area an excellent pianist was playing at that perfect volume where you can hear the tunes but don't have your conversation drowned out by them
As soon as we settled down with our drinks an extremely pleasant older woman came with menus which we perused with eager anticipation. In our deal the house menu (table d'hôte) was included, but for a small charge we could upgrade to a la carte, or mix and match as we desired. Making choices from two menus was even harder than just one! But we did finally decide and after a short interlude we were escorted to our table. The restaurant was perfect - beautifully dressed tables and comfortable padded chairs in intimate surroundings. The crowning glory was the fact that the table flower decorations co-ordinated with the flowered pin in my hair!
The headwaiter was superb; attending to our every whim, yet never being obtrusive.
And now for a quick sample of two of the meals we enjoyed over the weekend:
Black pudding and duck terrine
Confit of duck leg
I know black pudding is not to a lot of people's taste, but the combination of it with the duck in a terrine was sublime. The duck was tender on the inside and meltingly crispy on the outside. The crème brulee was crisp on top and smooth and dreamy inside
Smoked salmon with dill buttered prawns
Roasted fillet of salmon on a leek and pea broth
Baked Alaska with cappuccino chocolate sauce
This second meal was taken entirely from the house menu and to be honest I have to say I have rarely had a better meal. Everything was cooked to perfection, the creamed potato melded perfectly with the salmon, the prawns were tender and juicy and the dessert? A perfect baked Alaska with a scrumptious nutty ice cream, the most sublime meringue and accompanied by an espresso cup of chocolate sauce that bubbled over with white chocolate froth. Oh I thought I was in heaven!
After dinner we indulged ourselves with liqueur coffees in the bar before retiring to a very comfortable bed. The next morning we made our way to breakfast served in a more contemporarily decorated part of the restaurant. Again the staff were very good; keeping me well supplied with plenty of white toast, but sadly the cooked food was somewhat of a letdown as it was served buffet style under hot lamps and had gone a little soggy when we arrived. We do prefer our breakfasts freshly cooked fussy beggars that we are. However, I am sure if we had asked; they would have been more than happy to cook us fresh food. So, fully stoked up we decided to take a trip into the nearby shopping Meccas of Woodbridge and Ipswich. If you visit Woodbridge, don't miss the handmade chocolate shop, it is just opposite the precinct to the car park, I indulged in an orgy of choosing individual fancies to my hearts content. Although the weather was very chilly we had a lovely morning. On our return to the hotel we decided to warm ourselves up with a dip in leisure pool
What a great decision! After signing in at reception we received tokens for lockers and were soon swimming lazily around a deliciously warm pool. Although not large it was plenty big enough for a good swim in tropical surroundings. The temperature was perfect - I got in without a single whimper! We were soon warmed through and ready for even more heat. The spa pool was so hot it was like gettin
g into a bath and we sat in blissful bubbly comfort dreamily watching families playing in the pool. Included in the leisure facilities were a sauna and steam room, both as clean and pleasant as everywhere else in the hotel. After some more swimming and dipping in and out of the spa pool I thought it was time for even more indulgence, so we ordered a pot of coffee for two at the poolside café area
I sat flicking elegantly through a magazine as a pleasant young lad brought a beautiful tray of piping hot fresh coffee with biscuits. I was extremely impressed by the young lad as he felt the tablecloth was grubby and so insisted on changing it before serving us. So we sat at a very well dressed table enjoying our coffee and nibbling on biscuits before retiring to our room for a short nap (and chocolates) before starting the whole process of titivating, drinking and dining began again!
This was the set up for the rest of our stay. We had a weekend of complete unadulterated luxury from Friday afternoon until we left on Monday morning and all for around five hundred pounds. It is expensive compared to some places but for the service and quality and the fact that we skimped on nothing; we had wine with our meal, drinks before and after and coffees whenever we liked, it was money well spent
If I have any criticism at all it is that the hotel was a little shabby in one or two areas: the valance on our bed had seen better days and in one hallway a carpet join had been neatly stuck down with tape. But the service and quality more than made up for these tiny failings and as I say they really were almost unnoticeable and all the other areas were perfect and the cleanliness was second to none
If you want a weekend of pampering and indulgence and appreciate fine food and superb service do go and visit - you really won't be disappointed