Review by Fiona Duncan, published 20th August 2006.
I like the quirky houses looking out to the gritty North Sea; the boats drawn up on the shingle; the music of Benjamin Britten, particularly Peter Grimes and Billy Budd, that plays in my head; the patient queues outside the fish and chip shops; even Maggie Hambling's controversial scallop shell, which must be the most crawled-over sculpture in Britain.
But, as I say, I don't like lying on the beach. And so it's a great pleasure to be reading my book in a comfortable wicker chair at the open window of my second-floor room in the Brudenell Hotel, with the beach at my feet, and the raucous cry of seagulls as they float past. The best of both worlds.
Later, after dinner, I am lulled to sleep by the rhythmic lap of the waves and when I wake, my "superior" double room, with small sofa, two armchairs, expansive desk and flat-screen TV, looks lovely in the morning light filtering through the curtains. Only the wall-mounted trouser press, a once proud, now forlorn emblem of a bygone age, gives the game away: this isn't a chic, metropolitan seaside hotel, and nor does it aspire to be. It's a solid, middle-of-the-road seaside hotel (with excellent disabled access), but it's been given such a breezy, contemporary makeover that it almost feels like a chic, metropolitan seaside hotel.
In my small but fresh bathroom there's a generous crop of Gilchrist and Soames toiletries, and though in daylight the room looks more predictable (all 40 rooms are similarly decorated) than stylish, by the time I arrive in the sunny restaurant for breakfast I'm in a buoyant mood.
The staff help: a friendly, well-trained bunch. Will breakfast pass muster? Will I get a decent cup of coffee (my particular bugbear)? The answer is a resounding yes; my coffee, served in a cafetiere, with hot milk promptly provided when asked, is very good.
That's a relief, because our dinner the night before struggled to pass muster. One look at the long-winded menu and I suspected, rightly, that we were in for the long haul. For "salt and pepper chilli prawns with cucumber and coriander salad and sweet soy sauce" read "chewy and soggy"; for "grilled fillet of sea bass with warm salad of fennel, French beans, red onions, new potatoes and red peppers with Sauce Verde" read "messy". Not that I minded: it's the company that counts, and that was delightful. And the wine was good.
It's a shame about the food, though, because the hotel's restaurant and bar, successfully designed to resemble the deck of a cruise ship, have the airy feel of a place where light, delicious meals might well be served. The locals don't eat there at present, but they surely would if the cooking had a better reputation.
I get tired of cool seaside hotels. I like the straightforward, friendly approach of the Brudenell, and I adore Aldeburgh. Improve the food, be more forgiving with the room rates, tart up the terrace and I'll be back.
The Parade, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (01728 452071; www.brudenellhotel.co.uk). Doubles from £106 to £218 per night, including breakfast.
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