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A venerable old coaching inn with a busy bar and excellent restaurant, and comfy en-suite rooms upstairs.

The small Suffolk town of Saxmundham often gets rather overlooked in favour of the more obvious tourist honeypots of the nearby coast, which is a shame because it has a terrific place to stay (and to eat) in the funkily named Bell at Sax' –  a 'restaurant with rooms' that is the latest reinvention of the town's venerable old coaching inn, The Bell. Owned by popular local chef Jonny Nicholson, the Bell at Sax' is our kind of place, striving to be a consummate inn with everything that implies – good food and company, a set of comfy rooms upstairs and an atmosphere that is welcoming and unpretentious. The hotel's lobby certainly fits the bill, with lovely original flagstones and a comfy old-fashioned reception that is not remotely posh yet exudes a quirky, contemporary vibe that is a good complement to the excellent but understated service. The ten double rooms upstairs are spacious and comfortable without having been prissied up like every other boutique hotel you've ever seen; and the bar is without doubt the best place to drink in town, with a night-time buzz created by locals as much as by the hotel's guests. Finally the restaurant is relaxed and cosy, with an emphasis on good cooking and seasonal and local ingredients on a straightforward and very well-priced menu that offers everything from fish and chips and a very good burger to locally sourced crab and sea bass. The Bell is basically the beating heart of the town once again, like a proper inn should be, and if there is a more inviting place to stay and eat in this part of Suffolk, then we have yet to find it. Highly recommended, and the good news is Jonny has a funky new place, The Sail Loft, right by the beach in nearby Southwold.

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