The Brudenell Hotel is for those who love the sea. Indeed, it is difficult, unless you are in your bathing costume, to get much closer to our watery friend – for there it is: right outside. Between the hotel building and Aldeburgh’s shingle beach there is but a quiet, narrow road. The seagulls call, the waves roll and the guests of the Brudenell gaze out at the vast expanse of the North Sea stretching to the horizon. I did exactly that from my first floor room, and found the experience remarkably restful. Of course, this Suffolk town is famous not only for its seaside location and unspoilt atmosphere, but also for a person: Benjamin Britten. Let me confess at once that I am not a devotee of his music, which my ear finds a half-step too far along the path to dissonance. But I can certainly understand why the Great Man liked Aldeburgh and the Suffolk Coast, for both attract powerfully with a strange, melancholy sweetness.
Still, I toasted Mr Britten with a cheering cup of tea at the Brudenell’s sister hotel, the White Lion. The walk from one hostelry to the other is a bracing stroll along the sea front. You will not miss your destination, for it is, appropriately, very white. My own promenade certainly gave me the appetite to tackle the full afternoon tea, and I tucked manfully into the comestibles on the dumb waiter, enjoying the jolly French fancies and the meringues with cream.
Back at the Brudenell, I had to admit that the hotel does not inhabit a pretty building. Nevertheless, inside there are lots of signs that a real effort is being made to ensure that it is a good hotel. And the Brudenell is a good hotel. This has much to do with the friendly eagerness of those who work there. I was particularly impressed by Oliver, the bright young chap on the front desk. Clearly, the General Manager, Peter Osborne, must be doing a good job. And the attitude of going the extra mile to please the guests was evident also in my smart accommodation.
Although you will need to check the rates for specific dates and for special offers on the hotel website, the cheapest of the hotel’s 44 rooms start at around £150/£170 a night, bed and breakfast for two. But I would urge you to spend more and go, as I did, for one of the ‘Deluxe Seaview’ rooms. Mine was number 101. This was bright and spacious, with blue and beige décor, furniture in light wood, a high ceiling and a large bay window looking straight out to sea. The room measured, I think, about 16 feet by 15 feet, and so easily accommodated a large and very comfortable bed, a substantial sofa, two leather armchairs, a writing desk and a fitted wardrobe. The lighting – from 3 table lamps, 2 wall lights, overhead spotlights and 2 standard lamps – was effective. And, of course, I approved of the signs of attention to detail – like the electric fan, the iron and the ironing board, the kettle with tea and coffee, and the biscuits. (I like biscuits.)
The apartment had a proper entrance hall from the corridor. And here I can make a suggestion, for the unoccupied wall of this hallway cried out for some clothes hooks. I would have loved one for my hat.
Everything in the bathroom was sparkling white: the tiles, the wash basin, the good-sized tub, the separate shower, the loo and the thick, fluffy towels. In this ablutionary chamber, despite its modest size, I was able to indulge in my pre-prandial bathing in comfort.
Then it was down for dinner in the long, bustling restaurant, a room on two levels, full of shades of nautical blue. Of course, there were large plate glass windows to enable the diners to keep enjoying the view. But there were also two significant signs of a good restaurant: proper white napery and high quality glassware (by Riedel – the Restaurant range). The staff uniforms were dark, but they did not dim the friendliness of their wearers.
Chef Tyler Torrance uses first glass ingredients, and cooks them simply and with confidence. He therefore sends from his kitchen dishes full of robust, unambiguous flavour. This was just what I wanted in an hotel dining room overlooking the sea. I began with chargrilled asparagus with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Tastes, textures and presentation were all in order. Then I attacked with considerable enthusiasm grilled fillet of beef. Golly, this was good. The meat came from the local butchers, Salter & King, who clearly know their trade. When I encounter meat this good, I really do feel sorry for our vegetarian friends. After this treat, I finished my meal with some English strawberries and white chocolate cremeux. (You should allow £35-£50 for a three course meal.)
The wine list has 79 offerings, and trips around the world to decent effect. Prices run from £20 for a white 2013 vin de pays d’Oc to £52 for a Lebanese red (Chateau Marsynas from the Bekka Valley) and £85 for Bollinger rosé champagne.
I returned to my corner table in the morning for a hearty seaside breakfast (good value at only £13.95). The waitress brought to me a plate of fine smoked haddock with poached eggs, along with my pots of coffee. From the buffet I secured croissants and bowls of Corn Flakes and fruit salad. Thus did my day start in a most satisfactory manner.
The quiet decencies of the Suffolk coast and the discreet, genteel pleasures of Aldeburgh can be enjoyed to the full when you are staying here. If you love the sea, the Brudenell is the hotel for you.
The Parade, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BU, England.
Telephone +44 (0)1728 452071
Double rooms from around £150/£170, including breakfast
Check on the hotel website for prices for specific dates and for special offers
THE WHITE LION
Market Cross Place, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BJ, England.
Telephone +44 (0)1728 452720