Imagine relaxing in a roll top bath in the middle of a hotel room, chilled Chablis in hand, gazing over a glistening harbour. Yatchs twinkle in the warm evening sunshine and the hum of nightlife on the promenade drifts through the open French windows. St Tropez, perhaps? Actually, I'm in Ipswich.

Yes, I'm as surprised as you are. Ipswich has a cool side and the Salthouse Harbour Hotel is most definetly where it's at. The Hotel takes prime position on the recently developed harbour front, which is all posh yachts, buzzing gastro bars and promenading tourists. OK, so the St Tropez comparison is stretching it - but you catch my drift.

First impressions don't disappoint. The hotel boasts a trendy, glass-fronted bar/lounge area where guests can sit and sip their drinks while admiring the views. Image is everything here - bold contemporary art and quirky artefacts abound: a huge gold lobster sculpture here, a tasteful cushion placed on a dark velvet Chesterfield there. One thing's for sure - this place is very comfortable with itself.

And so it should be. The decor enhances the beauty of this historic building, a former merchants' warehouse that dates back to the early 1800s. Many original Victorian features have been kept, including arched windows, iron columns and high beamed ceilings.

The dining room, designed in keeping with its former function as a sail loft, is all exposed brickwork and urban art, with dark comfy furnishings and cosy banquettes.

But back ot my room with a view. It's a Sail Loft Marina room, to be precise, decked out with a designer's eye and extravagant taste. There's heated flooring, art deco lampshades, a Bose sound system and, best of all, a US king-size bed, from where you can order of life's necessities: an in-room spa treatment, a bottle of champagne or a Suffolk bacon sandwich.

USP: Individuality rules at the Salthouse. If you love statement art, curious artefacts, lavish style, proper comfort and good food, this is for you.

Who goes there? The cool set from Suffolk and Essex, weekenders who like fine dinig and big beds, people who want to be seen, small wedding parties.

Venture out: Take a river cruise on the River Orwell, England's second most beautiful river, according to the Royal Yachting Association. The Orwell Lady sails regularly from the quay, running short trips and themed evening cruises, as well as cream tea afternoons. Talking of which, foodies shouldn't miss the Suffolk Food Hall in Wherstead, a ten-minute drive away. For culture vultures a night at the New Wolsey Theatre, with its programme of local and touring productions, comes highly recommended. The Salthouse is conveniently placed for exploring the fabulous Suffolk coast, including Aldeburgh, Walberswick and Southwold, all less than an hour's drive away.

Getting there: The Salthouse is a 20-minute walk from Ipswich railway station.



One card for use in either hotel!!! Presented in a beautiful ribbon enclosed card carrier. What wouldn't you give to have one???