Angel with a heavenly promise
- Credit: Brittany Woodman/ Archant
The historic Angel at Stoke by Nayland has been reborn as a stylish, luxury country inn in the beautiful Stour Valley
Ross Parrock, operations manager of Suffolk Country Inns, has Michelin on his mind. The boutique hotel and restaurant group has just opened the doors to The Angel Inn in Stoke By Nayland, revealing a £2million refurbishment which Ross says really does push the luxury envelope for the county.
It's the first time the inn has been open for business since the pandemic lockdowns began and everything has been transformed - except the 15th century coaching inn’s original brick and beam features. The group bought and added the building next door, taking the bedroom count to 11, while the 60-seat restaurant has a new executive chef, Ruben Aguilar Bel, from Kent, accompanied by his partner, Gabbi, a talented pastry chef.
Ross says no expense has been spared in transforming The Angel, from sourcing handmade, bespoke furniture and soft furnishings for the interiors, to scouring the British Isles for premium, niche suppliers for the kitchen. “The restaurant still has a traditional feel to it,” he says. “It’s a beautiful building and, really, less was more. It was very important we kept that coaching inn feel. But all the furniture, like the oak tables, have been made for us. And our crockery is completely bespoke, made by potters in London. We spent six months finding someone to make exactly what we wanted. It’s the best quality, totally unique. We’ve got stunning food, and the plates had to match.”
Ross and chef Ruben both have Michelin experience, having worked in two- and three-star kitchens, so they're "very passionate" about aiming for those prestigious accolades. “Our style of food is very different for the area. We’re creating a dining experience here so local people don’t have to travel to London, or Bury, or Cambridge for fine food.” On the current tasting and a la carte menus are Scottish Highland Wagyu beef, hand-dived Cornish scallops, lamb from the Lake District and Exmoor caviar. Diners can expect the likes of Suffolk brown crab with confit octopus, Ardleigh strawberries, salmorejo and caviar to start. Or perhaps Lake District rabbit, charred over the kitchen’s Ox Grill, with aged carnaroli rice, ceps, Iberian ham, and a light veil created with gelatine and chicken stock.
The full a la carte and the short tasting menu (£65 per head) run through lunch and dinner, with an expanded seven-course tasting menu (£80) in the evenings, and wine flights to match. “We’re very lucky to have our own private wine cellar with an extensive, interesting collection,” Ross adds, “including delicious vintage Port and sauternes.”
Desserts are, says Ross, "amazing", thanks to Gabbi, who is keen to be part of the Angel's renaissance. "She is phenomenal. Some incredible dishes are coming out of the kitchen.” These include Ardleigh strawberries with a white chocolate mousse and Champagne consomme, and a pud inspired by Ruben’s childhood. “Ruben has Spanish heritage and when he got home from school his mum would give a snack of bread, chocolate and olive oil," says Ross. "So Gabbi’s made a dessert that’s a play on that – a dark chocolate cremeux with olive oil jelly and caramelised brioche.”
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Absolutely everything is made in-house, from breads, to preserves, to the crackers served alongside the ever-changing cheese board, petit fours, and palate cleansers such as citrus sorbet with Essex gin foam). In addition to fine wines, Ross offers an expanding list of spirits, both local and from further afield. Cocktails crafted by the skilled bar manage run from a classic French 75 to a Negroni. You can even indulge in a smoked Old Fashioned, delivered to your table, dramatically under a cloche, with fresh orange smoke.
The Angel has 11 individually designed rooms, with most of the furnishings locally sourced, curtains and headboards handmade and vanity units made in the village. "We’ve done everything we can to make them comfortable," says Ross. "Some even have a bath in the room, with privacy glass that can be frosted at the touch of a button.” Early feedback has been good, he says. “I think customers are enjoying finding out about how we do things, why we use certain ingredients, how dishes have been produced, where our wine is from. These are definitely exciting times.”