As I tore off the slip of paper from the pad on which we had written our food order, this message was revealed underneath: 'Help I'm stuck in a paper factory!'
Some wag having their meal at Kesgrave Hall on a previous occasion had written it on the pad hoping it would make someone laugh. It did. It was such a silly note but, oddly enough, it was very much in keeping with this hotel and its relaxed, informal but top quality restaurant.
We had chosen Kesgrave Hall, part of the Milsom group, mainly because it was a country house hotel which had the ever-elusive interconnecting rooms. We hadn't anticipated how superb the restaurant would be: a warm, friendly room with a show kitchen (the 'Engine Room' where you could watch the Head Chef manning the pass) and the novel idea of leaving diners with the menus, paper and a pencil, to write down their own order in their own time. What a great idea. No stress levels rising as you wait for someone to take your order; just appoint someone on the table 'chief scribbler' and have a race against the huge table of 12 who have just sat down: must get the slip in before they do.
I made sure Dougie didn't do the writing. All you have heard about doctors and their handwriting is completely true. Lord knows what we'd have ended up with if I'd left it to him. I took charge, made sure it was correct then handed the slip to son, Rory, who was the appointed runner. I was chastised by him one night for forgetting to write down our table number and neglecting to say how we wanted the steaks cooked, but otherwise it worked like a dream.
And the food? Heavenly. Using fresh local ingredients the chefs created dishes such as scallops with bok choi, mango salsa and sweet potato; cauliflower and cumin risotto with red onion bhaji; beer-battered haddock with chunky chips. We had booked an all-inclusive room rate which included a three-course dinner so had to make room for pudding. I think my favourite of the week was strawberry arctic roll, elderflower and hibiscus jelly with toasted oat crumb: tiny wagon wheels of ice-cream taking me back to my favourite pud from the 1970s.
Our connecting rooms were just outside the main building, in the courtyard, and were huge. With the door open in between the two rooms you could run from one end to the other and build up a sweat. Both rooms had large squashy sofas at the foot of the bed, decent TVs with inbuilt DVD players, free Wi-Fi, cafetiere coffee available and the warmest, toastiest bathrooms, complete with underfloor heating. Only one thing I could have happily done without: a clock radio which noisily woke us with a loud beeping at silly o'clock in the morning. Cue much leaping out of bed and jabbing of buttons until we could turn the blasted thing off. We pulled the plug on it for the rest of our stay.
Breakfast the next morning was again relaxed yet attentive. Continental fare to start and then cooked breakfast to order including Lane Farm sausages which I may have to source and buy in bulk as they were so delicious. Before heading out for the day there was a chance to sit in the bright, airy lounge and read the papers. It's a wonder we actually did any sightseeing at all on this trip.
This was one of the best hotels we have stayed in and I would happily recommend it to other families. Children are made very welcome in the restaurant: there's a children's menu and, rather than colouring pencils, a loan of an etch-a-sketch is provided. How cool is that! Come in the summer and kids can run about on the lawn in front of the hotel, while parents can keep an eye on them from the outside patio area.
This was an upmarket hotel with a down-to-earth style. We absolutely loved it.
|Kesgrave Hall, Ipswich, Suffolk|