A Good (Friday) escape to Dedham

February and March tend to be pretty hectic times of year for us – our day-jobs revolve largely around corporate reporting which kicks into full steam around then – and this year has been no different. In fact, if anything, the last few months have been busier than usual, as we’ve added a dash of wedding planning. Nerve shredding it may all be, but it has made the year fairly skip by!

Without a day off since Christmas, we decided enough was enough – the impending Easter bank holiday seemed a good excuse to get a night away somewhere. And where better than Dedham? We’ve visited the village many times in the past, and on every occasion have returned home refreshed and revitalised by the experience.

Nestled against the Essex/Suffolk border, on the river Stour, Dedham is minutes from the A12. Filled with beautiful old buildings, a handful of small shops, and a couple of pubs, it’s pretty much the perfect picture-postcard village. Most famous for being in the heart of “Constable country“, the town is the centre of many lovely walks – the most trodden being the route to Flatford mill, tracing a path seen in many Constable painting, ending at the mill setting of the “Haywain”.

We’ve made that walk many many times, and it never gets any less wonderful. Should you want, you can hire a boat and row down the Stour to the mill – but it’s quite a long way, and the typical hour you get to hire the boat for is best used for a gentle meander down the river, then a sharpish row back to reach the jetty in time to reclaim your deposit.

(By the by – a question that has plagued me – how do you pronounce “Stour”? I tend toward “stower”, but sometimes slip into “sture” as well – and I’ve heard both from different people at different times!)

In fact, we love the village so much, it’s where we’re getting married. Take that as a big tick from us!

So with a forlorn hope of getting a room for a night in this oasis of calm, I contacted the Sun Inn – our favourite haunt. And what do you know – one room available on Good Friday, dinner bed and breakfast, and a promise of good food, good beer, and a roaring log fire.

We’ve stayed at the Sun several times in the past (we’re slowly collecting their rooms by staying in each one in turn – this time we got “Phaethon“) and have always had a fantastic stay. It’s really rather hard NOT to have a great time in the Sun in my opinion: wonderfully friendly staff, a really beautiful bar serving some great ale, a homely parlour room (with the aforementioned roaring log file, wood paneling, sofas, board games etc), lovely beamed restaurant area, and really rather ace bedrooms.

Needless to say, we were booked up in a flash, and three days later on our way up the A12 in a snowstorm.

It’s not a long journey for us now, so rather than turn up at the Sun during their lunchtime service, we decided to have a quick wander along the river. Rather than follow our usual route, this time we turned away from Flatford, and headed from the village car park back to the A12 along the Stour. It was a really rather quiet walk – not that many people want to walk along a muddy field, especially when it starts snowing. Our only company for the entire distance were some lovely cattle who didn’t seem to mind either the snow or our presence. Still, we had wellies and warm clothes, and it was just the tonic to wash away the weeks of work and stress.

And what better tonic to wash away a chilling muddy walk than a nice beer and a sit down by a roaring fire? Off we trotted to the Sun, took our room, and headed to the bar to see what treats awaited. The Sun usually has a couple of “guest” ales, so we gave those a go this time – and very nice they were too, although I can’t for the life of me remember what they were! I always head back to the lovely “Brewers Gold” or “Broadside” though, so an hour later I was sat by the fire with a pint of Broadside and a paper, letting the world slip by. If that’s not the most perfect place to be on a cold snowy day, I have no idea where is. The Sun – I tip my hat.

Hearth at The Sun Inn

Hearth at The Sun Inn

After a break and a rest, we headed for dinner. I’ve waxed lyrical about the Sun enough here, but here’s one last bit of glowing praise: they have a fantastic wine list, and their food is pretty damn near perfect (and has been every time we’ve visited). Their menu changes with the seasons, and shows a care and reverence for ingredients that is both impressive and creative. Given it was Good Friday, we settled on a fish-themed meal. I won’t talk much about it as I’m not a restaurant critic!

Starter
Steamed Perlourde Clams, Pancetta, Fennel, Cream, Dill
Spaghetti ‘Moorish Style Sauce’ – Dried Mullet Roe, Lemon, Orange, Pinenuts, Chilli

Both were excellent. The “spaghetti” was more like linguini, and the pep added by the citrus zest really complemented the nuts and mullet roe (a sardinian speciality I believe).

Main
Tranche of Halibut, Roast Violetta Artichokes & Roseval Potatoes, Tomato, Anchovy Sauce

We both had the halibut. Who wouldn’t? Beautifully cooked, generously portioned, and paired with a lovely sweet passata, roasted vegetables and a anchovy sauce that brought the whole thing together by cutting through the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Dessert
Chocolate & Thyme Cheesecake, Chocolate & Orange Sauce

Portuguese Custard Tart, Braised Rhubarb, Vanilla Ice Cream

Yum. That is all.

Anyway, I’ll just stop there now. We had a great meal, slept well in the excessively comfortable bed (whilst wondering if we could get the mattress onto the car roof rack), and headed home the next day after a rather excellent breakfast – just don’t decline the black pudding. It’s delicious.

If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: visit Dedham. And when there, go eat at the Sun Inn.

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