There are many reasons to spend time in Orford – its rich history, its beautiful setting and the excellent Crown and Castle restaurant with rooms. Rose soaks up the atmosphere and settles in for an evening of delicious food

1914. It was growing cold, the days shortening noticeably. In the small village of Upavon, nestled among the soft rolling downs of Wiltshire, the men of the Armament Experimental Flight Unit at the Central Flying School packed up their belongings with apprehension and made their way east to ‘The Ness’. A scene of complete desolation with its flat, lonely marshland met them and their task was no less harsh, to develop the most effective ways of using aircraft as weapons. The officers bundled into their rooms at the Crown & Castle hotel and lit the fire downstairs. This became their mess.

1935. Watson Watt still worked at Slough, but every weekend travelled across the country to the desolate wild flats of Suffolk. He had stumbled on something big – using radar technology to detect enemy aircraft at long range and was desperate to iron out the not insignificant problems they faced. It was a perfect spring day when the equipment first arrived at Orford Ness, the perfect location for experimentation. Watt dropped his bags in his room at the Crown & Castle and settled in the lounge, fire burning bright, waiting for his team. The brainstorming began.

2024. Mr P and I shrugged off our coats, reluctantly, as we arrived at the Crown & Castle on a bitingly cold January night and sighed with relief at the fire roaring in the lounge. Where officers and inventors had once made plans, their history echoing in the flames, we made somewhat easier plans for what delights we might choose to eat.

Great British Life: The Crown & Castle, Orford, dates from the 16th century. The Crown & Castle, Orford, dates from the 16th century. (Image: Matt Finch)

We sank into the armchairs, drinks being dispensed behind the bar and took in the colourful furnishings, mouthwatering smells and gentle ambiance of other diners murmuring to each other. The inviting lounge has a rather magical way of immediately making you feel relaxed and well looked after, as if you were visiting old friends.

The Crown & Castle, now a fine restaurant with 21 ensuite rooms, dates back to the 16th century, but it seems was rebuilt in the late 1800s. It is nestled next to the 12th century castle built for Henry II in the peaceful village of Orford. To the back of this friendly and inviting building, a large terrace surrounded with gardens faces south, overlooking big skies, marshland, and fields with the river Ore to the east, snaking out towards the sea. There are 21 ensuite rooms located in the gardens and the main hotel, all with their own charm and offer of pure relaxation for the visitor. There are wild and rugged walks, starting and finishing at the Crown & Castle, for intrepid explorers looking for a top notch meal after a long adventure.

The restaurant itself is the proud winner of many accolades, including two AA rosettes, and is all about celebrating the wonderful array of local produce that can be found here. With an abundance of locally caught and smoked fish, lobster, and oysters as well as wild venison, pork and game, the talented chef, also locally caught, creates menus full of delights, even including the occasional goodie from his allotment.

Great British Life: A selection of dishes at the Crown & Castle prepared with local ingredients. A selection of dishes at the Crown & Castle prepared with local ingredients. (Image: Matt Finch)

After much discussion and changing of minds, Mr P and I finally settled on some rather wonderful choices. For our starters, we enjoyed fresh and tangy Fishers gin cured salmon with lemon gel, and a delightfully flavourful smoked haddock with a crispy hen's egg, sour cream and grain mustard; the crispy hen's egg perfectly cooked, golden yolk mingling with the crunchy crumb casing. We spread homemade beetroot butter on our (local) sourdough bread and munched happily.

Our main dishes were beautiful, with an unexpected highlight for me of a truffle infused creamy wild mushroom tagliatelle with juicy, tender Suffolk chicken, perfectly seasoned and expertly balanced, all the flavours shining through without being clobbered by the truffle. The ultimate comfort food on a cold January evening.

We finished with some perfectly sized puddings, just enough to satisfy and not overwhelmingly large. I managed to steal a bite of Mr P’s dark chocolate mousse with exotic fruit sorbet, which was both rich and light, a real treat.

Great British Life: The comfortable dining room at the Crown & Castle. The comfortable dining room at the Crown & Castle. (Image: Matt Finch)

I couldn’t resist the crème fraiche pannacotta with a beautiful slightly tart berry compote and sweet crunchy granola, perfect in flavour, texture, size and an ideal way to round off a really wonderful meal.

As diners gradually pottered off to their rooms and the evening came to an end, we finished our teas by the glow of candle and fire light. The Crown & Castle is a wonderful example of somewhere special to escape, either for a meal or a stay, where you are surrounded by peace and quiet, treated to delightful food, in a beautiful village steeped in history.

The Crown & Castle was awarded East of England Tourism Awards' Small Hotel of the Year 2022-2023

2 AA Rosette Restaurant and AA 5 Star Restaurant with Rooms.

The Crown and Castle, Market Hill, Orford, Suffolk IP12 2LJ

Great British Life: Venison is on the menu at the Crown & Castle, Orford. Venison is on the menu at the Crown & Castle, Orford. (Image: Matt Finch)