WHAT’S IT LIKE? Built in 1890 the elegant Victorian Hilton Metropole is also the largest residential Conference and Exhibition Centre in the South of England, and the mix of leisure and business works really well with the layout of the hotel. When you enter the building there is the happy bustle of the lobby and the bar and restaurant, and it is only as you move deeper into the hotel that you see the full extent of the meeting space.
It has a great history – Churchill stayed here and it’s frequented by party political conferences – and modern touches too – the terrace bar for Champagne and the large comfortable rooms. The Metropole has recently had an £8 million refurbishment programme which included ground floor conference rooms and a new Hilton Meetings Centre with sea-facing meeting rooms.
WHERE IS IT? On the seafront, next to the Brighton Centre, in prime position and close to the iconic and now derelict West Pier. A few minutes drive from the station.
ROOM FACILITIES There are 340 rooms and all sea-facing rooms (27 Deluxe Plus and four Suites) were refurbished at the beginning of the year. All rooms have air-conditioning, tea and coffee-making facilities, hair dryers, mini bars, safes, iron and ironing board and desk and large flatscreen TVs and 24-hour room service. My room was a Double Deluxe Plus, a beautifully spacious room with a small balcony overlooking the sea. Décor was simple, clean and modern but the room felt grand. There was also a sofa and table and internet access (charged at £16 for 24 hours).
The bathroom was a good size with a shower in the bath and Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries and heavy white towels. I asked the concierge for a dental and shaving kit and this was delivered to my room ten minutes later – although instead of a shaving kit I got a sewing kit. This was easily rectified moments later. I slept very well and the room felt discreet and quiet – there was no noise from the corridor or other rooms.
MEETING AND BUSINESS FACILITIES In total there are 28 meeting rooms, (six with sea views) and a staggering nine exhibition halls totalling 8,000sqm. When I was there the events team was setting up for a funfair themed event with Brighton Rock on the tables of the Clarence suite, which was originally a Victorian chapel, and an entire dodgems track in the Lancaster room just off the Clarence.
The Regency Suite is the second largest space and can be divided into four different parts and has a capacity for 450 people theatre-style or 300 banqueting-style. The largest space is the Oxford suite, which can hold 2,000 people for reception, 1,300 theatre style and 800 for a banquet – there is also a balcony level. For more intimate occasions there is the Library – a private dining room on the ground floor with a picture of Winston Churchill and a signed copy of the menu, which he was served.
There is no executive floor at the hotel although Hhonours members can upgrade rooms or ask for free wifi in the room depending on their status. There’s a business centre with three computers and staff can help with any other business needs. There’s a member of staff on hand between 9am and 5pm. Wifi internet cards can be bought at reception (£16 for 24 hours). The hotel has a private car park charged at £15 for 24 hours.
RESTAURANT AND BARS Bar 106 is a Spanish-style tapas terrace bar on the corner of the hotel and serves local Sussex produce and has a capacity for 150 people. It is available for private hire. The Metropole Lounge bar inside the hotel was busy when I was there early evening, with people having tea and drinks. There’s a large terrace bar, perfect for a sunset glass of Champagne overlooking the sea. The Windsor Restaurant can seat 170 people and is a beautiful white and cream room with Chandeliers and ruffled curtains around the large curved windows. Corporate events can also be held here.
There’s a new a la carte menu at the Windsor and the restaurant offers contemporary European fare with an emphasis on locally sourced products where possible. For starter I had terrine of ham hock and foie gras with pickled oyster mushrooms and cox apple compote (£7.50) followed by loin of lamb in apricot, pine nuts, prosciutto ham and pastry layered with cream potatoes (£16.95) – my companion enjoyed the pan seared salmon supreme with crushed potatoes, green beans and herb cream. For dessert the assiette of lemon was perfect after a large meal.
There’s an elegance to this restaurant and you feel part of Brighton’s family – make sure you book in advance. This is also where breakfast is served – the restaurant has recently been refurbished and the buffet area has been moved from the centre to a slightly raised level at the back of the room. There were fresh breads and meat and cheese and hot breakfast options and a chef on hand to cook eggs as you wished. Orange juice and tea and coffee are served at the table. The Windsor is open from 7am until 10pm (closed for lunch).
LEISURE FACILITIES There’s a 14m square pool, which can get busy with children and other gym users so best to try off peak hours (not directly after work). There’s a sauna and steam room and the gym was refurbished last year with the latest equipment. There are also six spa treatment rooms offering massages, facials and a nail bar – there are ‘pampering’ packages also available. Open 6.30am until 10pm.
VERDICT This is a superb hotel for both business and leisure travellers. It has great character and does not feel like any other Hilton I have stayed in. The meeting and events space is comprehensive and the location is spot on for anyone visiting Brighton.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 340 rooms including 137 standard doubles, 24 family rooms, 33 double deluxe rooms, 43 king deluxe, 27 double deluxe plus and four suites.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The Double Deluxe Plus room with the balcony overlooking the sea and the large airy space. Lovely big bed.
PRICE Online prices for an unrestricted midweek stay in mid July were £220 for a standard double or £270 for a double deluxe with sea views. There are also dinner bed and breakfast packages available from £250.
CONTACT Hilton Brighton Metropole, Kings Road, East Sussex, Brighton, BN1 2FU; tel: 44-1273-775-432; hilton.co.uk
For information on more Brighton hotels and holding meetings and events in Brighton see Meet in Brighton in Business Traveller’s July/August issue.