Beside the Sea in Southwold
We have stayed at The Crown Hotel in Southwold a couple of times before, but this was our first visit as vegans and our first visit for more than one night. We based our trip around a birthday gift I got for Bear to ‘Make your Own Gin’ with local Brewery Adnams. We liked the idea of doing it over two days so he could really enjoy the making and tasting offered, and then we would both have time to relax and explore Southwold together.
Southwold is a very pretty town with a great selection of shops, cafes, pubs, bakeries and galleries, set against the most beautiful stretch of beach, lined with colourful, quintessentially ‘Southwold’ beach huts. We stayed at one of the Adnams hotels- The Crown situated in the middle of the High Street. A few feet down the road is the newly renovated The Swan Hotel, which does look gorgeous too and may well suit a future visit.
Despite Southwold’s small size, independent shops are abundant, thanks to a council initiative to discourage chain brands, which makes it the perfect place for a little window shopping. Following the artisanal theme are Two Magpies Bakery and Black Olive Deli… both amazing! Black Olive Deli particularly smashed the vegan choices and we even took two vegan Pieminister pies home for dinner.
Kevin… A mushroom, tomato & red wine pie with baby onions & thyme
Chooks Away!… A creamy vegan chicken pie with celeriac, smoked garlic and sherry
Of course, Southwold is very much an Adnams town… and we visit two Adnams pubs during our stay. The new Tap Room adjoined to The Swan Hotel and The Sole Inn Bay, sitting underneath the iconic lighthouse. Both provide a huge choice of Adnams drinks in a friendly atmosphere. Another favourite with great staff is The Red Lion overlooking the famous Gun Hill and town green. We also always made sure to visit The Lord Nelson, a stones throw from The Crown Hotel and perfect for an after-dinner drink.
No trip to Southwold would be complete without the beach. We walked along the broad sandy shore to gaze out across the North Sea… lined with hundreds and hundreds of pastel-painted beach huts. We went down to the sea front every chance we got. We are so lucky to live in Norfolk and have so many beautiful beaches on our door step.
The Crown Hotel
Eat, Sleep Repeat
We checked in for our two night stay about 2pm on Sunday, we were shown to our generously sized room with a big ensuite with bath and overhead shower. The rooms have all been recently refurbished, so the general décor feels modern and bright. A lovely little touch I always appreciate when staying in an Adnams hotel, are the complimentary goodies in your room … we got two bottles of Ghost Ship and a big bag of Fairfields Farm lightly sea salted crisps. The usual tea and coffee making facilities are also provided. However, despite the hotel being aware that we were both vegan, no soya milk or milk alternative was in the room- a little thing but would have been really appreciated.
I also loved the Tyneham products in the hotel room: Body Wash, Shampoo and Lotion. Made with essential oils, patchouli, lemon and rosemary- they were so beautiful and had a real decadent feeling. Their products are all made in the UK and are all parabens, SLS, SLES and Cruelty Free.
Included in our deal were both our evening meals during our stay. The restaurant had gone to the trouble of creating a specialised vegan menu with two choices for each of their starters, mains and desserts. I love it when restaurants do this, it makes life easier for everyone and makes you feel less of an inconvenience. As I have said before in my blogs, we have visited restaurants in the past who have just written a vegan option on their menu in biro, or told us the ‘chef could cook whatever we fancy’ … which is the worst thing for someone like me, how do you choose!? People love menus and dining out, so they can choose from pre-planned dishes made by talented chefs – food they may not have tried or thought up otherwise. So, a big tick to The Crown for the prepared vegan menu- it was varied and inventive, a really unique menu with some brilliant flavour combinations.
The crispy chilli tofu was absolutely cracking! We both loved it and had it both nights. The Asian Salad was also delicious and was the ideal pairing bringing a tangy, heat to the tofu. For my main dish, I had the spiced roasted cauliflower, with a lentil and spinach dhal and the crispiest samphire pakoras. Both evenings, Bear had the braised pearl barley with beetroot and Pathways Care Farm chard- with a hefty hit of olive oil, mint and lemon. Oddly, the same dish both nights was presented completely differently… I wondered if it was two different chefs and maybe their different approaches to the ingredients? Either way- it was very strange but both dishes were so yummy- in the end we felt it didn’t matter too much.
The dessert didn’t disappoint either- as I am never a huge sweet fan, sometimes I do relish a three-course dinner, when it is all included so you MUST try one! The first night we tried baked apricots, Suffolk raspberries with toasted almonds and berry sorbet. And then their beautiful tofu vanilla and maple cream with marinated Suffolk strawberries and toasted pistachios. We favoured the cream, but again, it was quite different on the second night; the strawberries were fresh rather than marinated and the pistachio had turned into sunflower seeds, also the inclusion of almond flakes on the first night, had turned into mint leaves on the second. Again, equally tasty so can’t complain… but odd nonetheless.
The first morning we strolled down to Café Fifty One, a lovely small café with extremely welcoming staff. They didn’t have any vegan choices on their menu but were more than happy to tweak and amend their dishes to suit. I had smashed avocado on sourdough toast with beautiful juicy cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. It was perfection, the avocado had the zest of lime singing all the way through it and the tomatoes were amazing! Bear had a vegan full English; sourdough toast, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes with bubble and squeak. We were so impressed, and really hope they consider adding a vegan option to their permanent menu.
The second morning, we had breakfast at The Crown… which sadly for me wasn’t nearly as impressive. A nearly identical meal… minus the mushrooms, but it just couldn’t stand up to the flavour offered at Café Fifty One. The tomatoes were quite bland, and the avocado wasn’t comparable at all, which only goes to show what difference added seasoning and zest can bring. The sourdough bread was so tough and hard that I couldn’t cut through it to eat it. The wilted spinach was a nice addition and I did appreciate the effort, again as they went off menu. Bear sampled their take on a vegan full English; sourdough toast topped with mushrooms, tomatoes and wilted spinach. Bear really enjoyed his, as the juices from the mushrooms and tomatoes softened his bread, so it was easier to eat. I think there is a fair amount of room for improvement when it comes to their vegan breakfast- and I’d bet even non-vegans would enjoy the increase in choice. Even some vegan butter, would be a small, somewhat easy change, and would make a lot of difference.
Beside the Sea
I do love to be beside the sea, and we had a tranquil two night stay in Southwold. We are more than impressed with Adnams in every respect, as always. The ‘Make Your Own Gin’ experience was a huge success for Bear- coming home with his very own recipe in his 70cl bottle ‘Bear’s Fruity 40th Gin’!
Sampling so many of Adnams finest drinks in their own backyard is always a pleasure. Veganism has slowly started to infiltrate Southwold and many of the small cafes and bars are really improving their selections. Even Suzie’s Beach Side Café had three vegan lunch choices! The Crown Hotel made a valiant effort, which we more than appreciated. The crispy chilli tofu starter was the stand out for us, and while dinner impressed even with the slight differences between evening services- the breakfast did let them down a little.
Needless to say- we will be back, and I am sure veganism will have spread that little bit more through this beautiful Suffolk sea side town.