Review by Fiona Duncan, published 29th November 2009.
An unlikely recipient, but this recently revamped old coaching inn in the centre of Woodbridge is the runaway winner of my Sexy Corridors prize, last awarded to the Halkin Hotel in Belgravia.
They are so important and so underrated, hotel corridors. When you arrive, they are often almost the first feature you properly take in, helping to form a subliminal impression of the whole hotel as you trudge along to your room.
After a tedious crawl out of London we arrived in the dark and entered The Crown from the car park via an imaginative wicker-fenced walkway. There was a brief stop at reception and we were ushered up to our room – found past a long, shimmering corridor that was so cleverly decorated that by the time we opened the bedroom door I knew we were in for a treat.
We weren't disappointed. London designer David Bentheim is responsible for the Crown's exceptional revamp. The result is a prime example of making the best of a middling hand. With its roots in the Tudor period, The Crown has played a significant part in the mercantile and seafaring history of Woodbridge, but in recent times it had been reduced to an ignominious existence of greasy food, swirly carpets and hideous Seventies- style bedrooms.
A brave move, then, for Suffolk hoteliers Tim Rowan-Robinson and Guy Heald to buy the place, and for local restaurateur Stephen David to agree to become "chef patron". And a bold move to invite Bentheim, responsible for, among other commissions, the Mineralogy Galleries at the Natural History Museum and Wagamama in Harvey Nichols, to redesign it.
Whether Woodbridge is ready for such sophistication is a moot point (the interior may be cutting edge, but the morning coffee drinkers in their anoraks certainly weren't) but we loved the imaginatively executed
"Nantucket meets Copenhagen" feel of what is now a restaurant with 10 rooms.
Etched glass by Caroline Reece, Italian sofas from Gervasoni, subtle paint colours, a long, cool bar dominated by an old skiff hanging above, fabulous beds, deep baths and monsoon showers, rustic touches such as pitchforks for coat hooks and the odd wall covered in wicker all added to the pleasure of staying here.
There were a couple of imperfections: the view from our room was of parked cars and indifferent shopfronts.
And a stroll outside revealed that our lovely bedroom and that scintillating corridor were housed in nothing more than a long concrete box, tacked on to the fine old inn and cleverly painted to resemble a row of colourful cottages.
Inherent imperfections, then, but the very best has been made of them.
Thoroughfare, Woodbridge (01394 384242; www.thecrownatwoodbridge.co.uk) Doubles from £140 per night, including breakfast. Not suitable for guests with disabilities. Read more reviews by Fiona Duncan at www.thehotelguru.com