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The Swan at Lavenham

The Gallery Restaurant – The Swan at Lavenham

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- The Swan at Lavenham

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The Swan at Lavenham

The Gallery Restaurant – The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan at Lavenham

lavenham swan Lavenham is the kind of village that even we who live in Britain don’t expect to find anymore. It’s a chocolate-box beautiful spot – it’s an historic drama set-worthy location and it’s hard to imagine how it has remained in such original condition. This is the real thing! This is the genuine article. This is almost-lost England; and The Swan Hotel is just as perfect as Lavenham itself!

Lavenham is set in the gentle Suffolk countryside. There is evidence that the area was actually inhabited by the Romans with their farming settlements. However, it wasn’t until the mid-13th century that Lavenham gained official recognition as a settlement. Henry III granted the village ‘market status’, which heralded the most prosperous era for Lavenham. By 1524 the famous Lavenham Blue cloth and wool trade had made Lavenham one of the top 20 richest towns in the country. It is considered to be one of England’s finest medieval wool villages.

Lavenham has a wealth of historic charm, with three hundred listed buildings: characterful streets, thatched cottages and timber-framed houses, and its 15th century church. In the late 18th century, the village was home to poet Jane Taylor. One might not know the name but it is she who wrote the poem The Star, from which the lyrics for the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are taken.

Today, Lavenham enjoys its evident popularity and offers the visitor not only those historic façades but also art galleries, cafés and restaurants, and a high street with independent shops. One finds The Guildhall of Corpus Christi at the centre of the village and that is a must-visit building which tells the story of Lavenham through the ages. Lavenham’s five recorded guilds weren’t concerned with the management of trade but were social and religious organisations and were focused on their members’ moral and spiritual well-being. The Guildhall was originally built as a meeting place for wealthy Catholic merchants; it was used as a prison, an 18th-century workhouse, a pub, a chapel and a social club for US troops during WWII. There is a delightful courtyard garden planted with dye plants including woad, which was used to make that blue cloth. A fact that might have younger tourists enthusing over the village is that in 2010 Lavenham’s Market Square was a location used for filming scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

lavenham swan bed The Swan at Lavenham is a gem in every regard. You will likely be smiling before you even cross the threshold. It played an important part in the area’s medieval wool trade. It oozes history, and to say it offers many original features would be a considerable understatement. The Swan isn’t ‘themed’ – it actually is as old as it looks. There are wooden beams, carved chests and wall-hangings adding ancient accents to this well-appointed hotel. Dark wood and panels are a feature but this is a restful spot rather than being gloomy.

This must surely be one of the most striking hotels in the UK. The main ground floor is a large and rambling space but there are numerous cosy corners in which to enjoy a cup of tea and a good book. There are ample sofas and comfy armchairs and the open fires will be welcome when the weather isn’t so kind.

lavenham swan breakfast There is a casual brasserie and a more formal restaurant (review to follow) which offers dinner and breakfast. Kippers and a vegetarian Garden Breakfast make a delicious start to the day and, served in a beamed great hall, this is likely to be the most memorable breakfast you will ever have. There is a tranquil mature garden terrace which is ideal for al fresco dining and drinks on warm evenings. It’s also used for weddings as it’s surrounded by the hotel’s historic building, providing a marvellous outside private venue for small events and celebrations.

The Airmen’s bar was once the pub of choice of the local American servicemen who were stationed nearby in World War II. There are signatures on the walls to testify to those young men who were so far from home.

Our room looked out over a small courtyard. Its impressive four-poster was almost impossible to leave, with its pure linen sheets and feather pillows in which to sink. The bathroom was modern with bath and shower over. The fluffy bath robes and slippers are handy for in-room and for the spa. The separate dressing area was a bonus but this is a Grade II* listed building so all the rooms will be different in shape and ambiance. Wifi is available along with the usual modern conveniences such as tea and coffee facilities and flat-screen TV, but The Swan invites its guests to step away from Twitter and the 6 o’clock news and completely unwind.

lavenham swan fireplace Weavers’ House Spa is part of The Swan’s facilities and it’s just next door. It boasts half a dozen treatment rooms including one for couples, a brace of relaxation suites (although your room will do the same job, I suspect), hot stone sauna, steam room, manicure and pedicure, private outdoor terrace and a vitality pool. Hotel guests enjoy complimentary use of the sauna, relaxation suites and vitality pool.

The Swan at Lavenham is a hotel but it’s also an experience. It is totally unique, and steeped in history but it has the advantage of being so well located for village walks, as well as being a base from which to discover the rest of Suffolk. But the element which will assure a return is the warm hospitality. Staff are attentive and friendly and the food here is outstanding. Superlatives abound, as does the joy of finding such a lovely hotel which is so quintessentially English!

The Swan at Lavenham - Hotel and Spa
High Street
Suffolk CO10 9QA


Phone: 01787 247477

Visit The Swan at Lavenham here

food and travel reviews

The Gallery Restaurant – The Swan at Lavenham

swan lavenham The Swan is a striking hotel in an equally striking location. Lavenham is a town the likes of which is often thought extinct. It’s the stuff of historic dramas, with unspoilt houses and shops; a slice of Harry Potter was filmed here. It surrounds the visitor with quaint buildings and photo opportunities by the shed-load.

This hotel (my review here) sports cosy, four-poster-bedded rooms, cottage-like public spaces, quiet corners, a bar and a brasserie, but perhaps the jewel in The Swan’s hospitality crown is the celebrated Gallery Restaurant, which is said to be one of the finest restaurants in Suffolk, and I can believe it!

The Gallery offers British fare but with a very Continental standard of fine dining. Tables are linen-set and well-spaced. There is a high timbered ceiling and a minstrel’s gallery, exposed brickwork and fireplace. This restaurant fits so well with the rest of the 15th century hotel.

Suffolk is blessed with coast and pastures offering the freshest bounty of the county. The menu at The Gallery changes with the seasons so there is always an excuse to visit. It’s great value here, too, and it’s not often I can say that about restaurants in London! One could consider a dinner and overnight stay at the Swan and spend only a little more than just a meal in the capital.

swan lavenham Lots of choice and a chance to enjoy British food at its best at The Gallery. We have a cuisine of which to be proud and it’s good to find great chefs who appreciate our culinary heritage. Head Chef Justin Kett showcases this Suffolk fare with skill. Each plate is a picture, and the menu is constructed in such a way as to entice with, perhaps, 5 courses.

We ordered Pumpkin Pappardelle Pasta with seeds, honey and parmesan, along with Brown Crab, as our first courses. The pasta was simple and delicious, but the crab was a dish over which to linger and to savour. Great use of the most flavourful brown meat from the local crab.

We were tempted by meat, and the lamb and beef were both first class. Cooked to pink perfection and beautifully garnished with seasonal veggies, these plates were tapestries of taste and with perfectly balanced flavour and texture. The lamb was outstanding. Any meal here would seem like a celebration.

swan lavenham Desserts were both delicious and imaginative and served with flair. OK, bananas are not local (although with climate change…), but banana cake with candied walnuts and whipped custard was deconstructed old-fashioned comfort food. What a winner! Lemon tart, yoghurt, pistachio and meringue was a tangy and refreshing take on a favourite classic.

The Gallery does indeed have the advantage of memorable architecture but it doesn’t depend upon woodwork for its success. It’s the food and presentation here which will assure many happy returns. To know it is to love it.

Opening Hours
Residents’ Breakfast: 7.00am to 10.00am (Monday to Friday),
8.00am – 10.00am (Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays)

Afternoon Tea: 12.00noon to 5.00pm (Monday to Saturday)
Lunch: 12.00noon to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday from 4th July)
Dinner: 7.00pm to 9.30pm
Sunday Lunch: 12.00noon to 2.30pm

Reservations: 01787 247477 or email

The Gallery Restaurant – The Swan at Lavenham
High Street
Suffolk CO10 9QA


Visit The Swan at Lavenham here

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