BACKGROUND Open since 1890, the Victorian four-star hotel is the largest residential conference and events hotel in the South of England, with 28 meeting rooms. A £4 million investment in the property means that ongoing refurbishments are taking place.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the architect behind London’s Natural History Museum, the red terracotta façade paired with elegant white iron balconies makes the property one of the more attractive hotels along the seafront. Despite its extensive meetings and events facilities, there is an even mix of leisure and business travellers due to its location.
The grand lobby has a double staircase and polished marble surfaces. Members of staff are friendly and efficient – when there was a large queue during check-in, one of them opened up a new check-in point and apologised for the wait.
WHERE IS IT? On Brighton seafront, a ten-minute walk from Brighton train station and a 30-minute drive from Gatwick airport.
ROOM FACILITIES I stayed in a Deluxe Double Sea View room on the third floor. It was a spacious room with pale yellow walls and dark red furnishings – while the décor was not particularly luxurious or exciting, it was well kept, with a slightly corporate feel. The floor-to-ceiling windows gave the room good light, and a cast iron balcony ran the length of the room, offering great views of the activity along the seafront.
At the centre of the room was a firm double bed with plug sockets either side; facing it was a Philips HD screen TV. There was a good-sized desk with plug sockets above it, accompanied by a rather dated swivel chair, and nearby was a mahogany coffee table and two decent red armchairs. Amenities included tea- and coffee-making facilities, free water (still and sparkling), a laptop safe, and iron and ironing-board, a hairdryer, an empty fridge (which can be stocked with minibar treats for a charge) a cupboard with hangers, a full-length mirror and a luggage rack. Wifi costs £15 for 24 hours (free in public areas and meeting rooms).
The white-tiled bathroom had a walk-in shower as well as a bath (Single and Standard Double rooms have a shower over the bath). The mirror had light panels and Peter Roth toiletries were supplied, along with a sewing kit, a comb and a shower cap.
It’s definitely worth requesting a room at the front of the hotel – the views at the back are nowhere near as appealing, as they face out onto the tower blocks and the hotel’s air-conditioning system. Also, the front of the hotel is where you’ll find the 53 per cent of the hotel’s rooms which were refurbished in March. The hotel is hoping to refurbish its remaining rooms next year, but this has not yet been confirmed. The rooms at the back of the hotel are still spacious and offer the same facilities, except the bathrooms and the general décor are rather dated.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The property has recently spent £350,000 on creating its new bar, the Waterhouse Bar and Terrace. A homage to the hotel’s original architect, the bar has a gentleman’s club theme with art deco touches. Stylish leather booths and armchairs paired with dark wood paneled walls and bookshelves evoke a library feel, and the colour palette of plum and grey creates warmth. English cuisine is on offers, such as the Waterhouse Gourmet Burger and an “Afternoon Tea by the Sea” menu. Priding itself on its gin collection, the bar’s signature cocktail menu includes “Pavilion Blush” – a frozen martini with Tanqueray gin blended with mixed berries and mint. The bar has its own entrance onto the seafront and is open to members of the public until 1am. I enjoyed a glass of the wine in the bar during the early evening in one of the comfortable armchairs, and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere.
I also had dinner in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, the Windsor, where breakfast is also served. It’s an elegant space, with a high plastered ceiling, large arched windows with views of the sea and a central raised area where a male singer was crooning romantic ballads – fortunately he was good, and the volume was of an appropriate level. The Windsor serves international cuisine including curries, pastas and fish and chips. I tried the “linguini pasta bound in a sauce of sun-blushed tomato, mascarpone, basil, peppers and pecorino cheese, with garlic ciabatta bread and rocket and parmesan salad” (£13) which was tasty, and my companion enjoyed a ham and cheese omelette with hand-cut chips (£13.50).
Bar 106, the hotel’s summer bar, has a lovely terrace beside the seafront, which had faux grass and hanging chairs, and was very inviting on a sunny day – it can be hired for private functions.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The largest of the hotel’s 28 meeting spaces is the Oxford Hall, which can hold 2,100 delegates for a reception – it has a gallery and a rather vivid carpet. The smallest are Surrey 3 and Surrey 4, which both hold eight people boardroom-style. Three sides of the Chartwell room at the top of the hotel comprise floor-to ceiling windows – the space can hold 60 people for dinner.
Many of the spaces have daylight, but not all of them do, and their style of décor is rather traditional. Wifi is free, and a team of on-site AV technicians are on hand to help with events.
LEISURE FACILITIES While the beach on the hotel’s doorstep will be an attraction in the summer, the hotel also has a fitness room, a 14-metre indoor pool, and a spa with seven treatment rooms and Thalgo products.
VERDICT A pleasant stay at a traditional hotel that continues to refresh its furnishings. The Waterhouse Bar and Terrace is adds sophistication to the seafront.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 340 rooms and suites – 66 of which have sea views.
- ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The long balcony facing the sea and the amount of light.
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible mid-week stay in October started from £105 for an entry-level Single Hilton Guest Room.
- CONTACT hilton.com