Review by Fiona Duncan, published 7th September 2008.
Writing about British hotels, I have become more or less inured to their devilish cost. There’s no point in constantly throwing up one’s hands in horror at the rates: it’s wincingly expensive to rent a bedroom in this country, and that’s a fact with which we have to live.
Sometimes though, I do stop in my tracks. How do the young couples sipping cocktails in their jeans and strappy tops in the more-of-the-same, ground-floor bar (grey leather tub chairs, mushroom walls, abstract paintings) of four-year-old “luxury boutique town house” Drakes (sorry, that’s drakes) justify this kind of hit on their bank accounts, and do they feel they get their money’s worth?
A two-night weekend in a “circular sea-facing room” (there are cheaper ones, but these are easily the most desirable) costs £520, plus £12.50 each for breakfast in the basement Gingerman restaurant, and £12.50 per night for the privilege of parking in the forecourt. That’s £595 for two, excluding the cost of cocktails at £7, dinner at around £45 per head, and perhaps one of drakes’ popular extra services: rose petals in the bath; personalised balloons; an in-room massage or – I quail – a Love Hamper, “featuring a variety of cheeky adventurous love products to share with your partner”. Oh well, this is Brighton…
So, for a weekend in a mildly interesting hotel with a great view over the sea and Brighton Pier: not far south of £1,000 for two. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pro-drakes – not blown away, but definitely pro. There’s a plethora of poor quality so-called hip hotels in Brighton, and drakes isn’t one of them; in fact it’s easily one of the best. But it’s not that special, either. And breakfast should be included in the price.
Generally, though, it works. The contemporary design is sufficiently well thought-out and professionally executed not to feel flimsy and ephemeral, although there are a few signs of wear and tear, especially on the stairs.
My bed was very comfortable, the lighting intelligent and the teaming of rippled Deco-style coving (hiding the air-conditioning) with original plasterwork frieze worked a treat.
A minimalist wet room was cleverly tucked behind frosted glass doors, while the room’s main feature, a free-standing bath in the bay, allowed one of two options: either that of letting the unfortunate passengers on the upper decks of passing buses see me starkers, or moving two large armchairs and closing six pairs of shutters at the three floor-length windows, thereby negating the point of the bath’s position – namely to enjoy the view it offers. At least they kept out most of the traffic noise.
No quibbles about service, though: the staff could not have been more helpful or prompt – in fact, that’s what really impressed. The bar stays open all night for residents and, I’m told, if you feel like fish and chips at four in the morning, someone will fetch it. In short, a new-wave Brighton hotel that nearly lives up to its hype.
HOW IT RATES
Drakes of Brighton: 3-44 Marine Parade (01273 696934; www.drakesofbrighton.com). Doubles from £100 to £325 per night, excluding breakfast. Not suitable for guests with disabilities.