Roger St. Pierre ventures into Gainsborough countryWooden floors, massive beams, traditional white-painted clapboard facings and a functioning watermill still turning a huge ancient grinding stone – these all combine to create an unrivalled atmospheric venue for corporate meetings at The Mill in Sudbury, Suffolk. It stands on the banks of the picture-postcard River Stour, where that languid waterway winds past the charming market town.
On the hotel’s first floor, the recently lavishly refurbished, bright and airy Gainsborough Room is The Mill’s largest meeting space – named after the master artist, who was born locally. It overlooks the river and water meadows and maintained in keeping with the Grade II listed property, it can seat up to 80 delegates theatre-style.
With natural light and full technical support, it is essentially a contemporary design-led space yet with some eye-catching period features to create a distinctive ambience.
The space can be divided into two smaller units. The Junior Gainsborough Room targets smaller seminars, boardroom events and team-building exercises, as does the popular Walnut Room.
An unusual feature is a discreetly hidden bar that is ideal for private dinners and small receptions.
All the catering for meetings at The Mill comes via the in-house kitchens, which make the most of fresh local ingredients. The cuisine is an eclectic mix of French Mediterranean, Oriental and modern British elements.
Creative dishes on offer when we visited included confit duck leg with fondant potato, spiced bacon lentils, green beans and red wine jus; duo of tenderloin and belly pork, pomme anna potatoes, braised red cabbage, butternut squash purée, kale and red wine jus; Thai style tiger prawn curry, served over basmati rice, and pan-fried sea bass with tartar crushed new potato, courgette ribbons, samphire and salsa verde.
The guestrooms are spacious and flooded with natural light but, be warned, because of the building’s listed status, it has been impossible to install a lift, so access is difficult for disabled delegates. Additionally, parking spaces may be hard to find at busy times. Sudbury no longer has a rail service of its own but mainline services to Colchester, Ipswich and Bury St. Edmund’s will put you within a half-hour taxi ride of The Mill.
Nearby attractions include the antique shops of Long Melford and the exquisitely preserved medieval village of Lavenham boasting an array of half-timbered buildings. Here an organiser can indulge a group with one of the famed afternoon tea spreads at the ancient The Swan or at one of the delectable little tea shops that line the main street.