BACKGROUND Brighton’s only five-star hotel is an embodiment of 19th-century elegance– it opened in 1864. The 201-room property has hosted many famous faces over the years and witnessed its first share of history – in 1984, an IRA bomb tore through its façade and exploded in the bathroom of the suite that Margaret Thatcher was staying in at the time – she had been called away to sign a letter, but five people died.
The Grand has been part of the De Vere hotel group’s portfolio for more than 20 years and has just completed a lengthy £5 million refurbishment, during which it remained open. Its guestrooms, food and beverage areas and meeting rooms have been transformed, and a spa has been added.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? After passing through revolving doors, you are greeted by tuxedoed concierge before you feel the need to stop and stare. The lobby is breathtaking - coloured marble columns flourish with Corinthian patterned plaster at the top and, at the far end, the dark green cast iron staircase winds up in square sets to reach the glass-roofed atrium at the top. Check-in is at the centre of the space – a friendly, down-to-earth member of staff gave me a warm welcome and provided me with detailed directions to my room.
WHERE IS IT? On Brighton’s seafront (King’s Road), within fifteen minutes’ walk downhill from Brighton train station.
ROOM FACILITIES I stayed in a Feature Deluxe Sea View room, a corner room on the sixth (top) floor. I had expected to see traditional Regency-style features and cream red and blue colours you associate with seaside properties, but I entered my room to find something quite different.
Pea green walls and white distressed wood furniture gave the space a modern, airy feel and the calming colours and beach themed décor – such as the silver starfish on the bedside lamps – reflected the hotel’s locality in a environmental rather than a historical way. Black and white framed photography of Brighton hung upon the freshly painted walls.
Other rooms in the hotel have more traditional décor – floral curtains, Regency stripes – but they are incorporated into an overall contemporary look, rather than leading the design concept.
I’d thoroughly recommend going for a corner room – mine was number 627. It was shaped like an octagon, with windows on five of its walls – some facing out to the beach, some looking back into town, and a pair of French windows on one side (no balcony, but a step with a cast iron fresco).
The view was rather obscured on my visit, as there was scaffolding around the windows – but it was nice to find a letter of apology from the general manager for this. And, anyway, it was still nice to wake in the morning to the sound of seagulls and have the light pour in from so many directions once I’d opened the blinds – the space had a luxury lighthouse feel. It was a very spacious room at 30-38 sqm.
The plush bathroom had twin sinks, a walk-in shower, a bathtub and a shower Pecksniff’s “mood therapy” toiletries were lovely. Other amenities in the room included tea-and coffee-making facilities, an iron and an ironing board and free wifi. My only qualm was the lack of strategically placed plug sockets – there weren’t any beside the huge white bed, nor near the long workdesk – but this is always a difficulty with such old properties. Room service is available from 10am to 10pm.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS GB1 is the property’s sleek fish bar restaurant – it opened in February. Four of the same coloured marble columns as the lobby (which it’s on the same level as) stand within the central hoop of the champagne and oyster bar – surrounded by 20 art deco-style high chairs.
Chef Alan White’s signature seafood dishes include tikka marinated monkfish and native and rock oysters – there are meat and vegetarian options too. Light floods in from the GB1 Terrace, a conservatory that runs the length of the restaurant, filled with comfortable contemporary seating, and a great spot for a chilled-out drink.
The Victoria Lounge Bar (across the lobby) has a similar conservatory-style terrace. The ornate plaster ceilings and library-feel of the bar gives a more traditional atmosphere than GB1, but it’s also full of smart, modern furnishings, and was a popular spot for afternoon tea during my visit.
MEETING FACILTIES There are 13 meeting and event spaces in total. The ground-floor Empress Suite is the largest – it can hold 900 delegates, has a sea view and terrace at one end and is divisible by four.
The walls of the characterful Regent room are lined with dark wood paneling – it can host 80 for dinner. I attended an event at the hotel where the white walled, high ceilinged Albert Suite (the hotel’s original ballroom), was being used along with the adjoining GB1 – it can hold 200 delegates for a reception. The space worked well as a dance area, with a bar set up at one end, working in conjunction with GB1’s bar. The two spaces are also both used together every morning to host breakfast for hotel guests.
LEISURE FACILITES The brand new spa opened in May – it’s located on the basement level of the hotel, and can be reached by a staircase from the lobby. I was among the first to try it out, and everything appeared to be running smoothly.
The brand new space has warm-toned decor and friendly staff – I enjoyed an express facial, where I was also offered an analysis of my skin. There are eight treatment rooms (including one VIP double treatment room) and over 30 treatments to choose from, with bespoke treatments including Brighton Rock – an exfoliation treatment with a salt and oil scrub followed by a massage (£82 for one hour and 30 minutes) and Marine Ritual – skin brushing followed by an Algae body wrap (£89 for one hour and 30 minutes).
I then spent some time in the inviting relaxation area, which had an assortment of furniture –chaise longues, hanging chairs, corner sofas – and managed to incorporate a bit of the local area with a wall adorned with white pebbles (a homage to Brighton’s stony beach) and touches of pale blue colours reminiscent of the sea.
VERDICT A successful, tasteful refurbishment that has injected interest and plush style into the property whilst respecting its past.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 201 – eight Single rooms, 79 Double De Vere rooms, 18 Double De Vere Chambre Unique rooms [complete with extra amenities], 18 Twin De Vere rooms, 24 Standard Sea View rooms, eight Chambre Unique Standard Sea View Rooms, 24 Deluxe Sea View rooms, 17 Chambre Unique Deluxe Sea View rooms, three Feature Sea View rooms and two King Suites.
PRICE Internet rates for a flexible two-night weekend stay in August (Friday-Sunday) started from £458.
HIGHLIGHTS The pleasing new décor and the kind staff, who couldn’t do enough for you.