“Morecambe's 'Great White Hope' brought back to life. Iconic building, amazing views, but the food disappoints,”
Review by Fiona Duncan, published 18th October 2009.
Kiss me quick, I'm in Morecambe. The old-fashioned, deeply touching comical-yet-sad resort with its peeling Winter Gardens and adored statue of Eric Morecambe doing his dance, is behind me; in front, a view to astonish: what English resort offers such a magnificent panorama? The tide is out in vast Morecambe Bay, revealing a shining expanse of grey-blue mud with the high fells of the Lake District a brooding backdrop. The sun, hovering somewhere over Barrow-in-Furness, is about to drop beneath the horizon in swathes of fiery pink.
My vantage point from the Midland Hotel could not be bettered. I'm in the hotel's restaurant, a stylish arc of window-walls and lime-green ceiling supported by slim, white columns that feels more Berlin than Morecambe. It would be nice if the food in front of me was more appealing. Even my Morecambe Bay shrimps are disappointing, clobbered by a weird, glutinous topping that claims to be avocado. As for the "Earl Grey tea cream, condensed milk foam", amusingly served in a breakfast cup and saucer, one teaspoonful is enough.
I'm not alone in my opinion. "Well, we've had the meal," I overhear an elderly lady tell the waitress in broad Lancashire tones, "and it were disgusting."
OK, the food isn't great but it's not bad enough to put you off a visit to this remarkable art-deco building. The Modernist masterpiece of architect Oliver Hill, with a central circular tower punctuating its three-storey white curve, rose in 1933 in place of an old Victorian railway hotel. Decorated by Eric Ravilious and the controversial Eric Gill, it was known as Morecambe's Great White Hope.
By the start of this century it was derelict, home only to pigeons and vagrants, until Urban Splash, which specialises in regenerating decaying buildings, stepped in. Eleven million pounds later, it is reborn. Gill's bas-relief, Odysseus Welcomed from the Sea by Nausicaa, stolen in an insurance heist and eventually recovered from the back of a lorry, is back in place, as are his Map of the North-West, sea-horse sculptures and ceiling medallion of Neptune and Triton. The Grade I listed circular staircase has been restored and Marion Dorn's carpets reproduced. The Ravilious murals could not be saved.
Go for a sea view: the town views are too depressing, despite the backdrop of hills. My third-floor suite, in clean "modern retro" style, has huge windows with button-operated curtains that open to reveal the bay, plus a long balcony. Surprisingly, there are only 44 bedrooms (the building feels vast), and as a result the atmosphere in the public rooms is more boutique than grand hotel. English Lakes Hotels now manages the Midland. Bringing the Great White Hope back to life in such a place, loved by Lancastrians but forgotten by most, was a brave move, and we should support it.
Marine Road West (01524 424000; www.midlandmorecambe.co.uk) Doubles from £99 (town view), £169 (sea view) per night, including breakfast. Adapted rooms for guests with disabilities. Further information on Morecambe at www.visitmorecambe.co.uk
The Hotel Guru verdict
Effective; some feel bland, others striking; third-floor suites are worth the extra.
Well meaning but minimal
Art-deco history brought back
|Food and drink|
Less good than it sounds; poor wines
|Value for money|
Worth it for the experience