Review by Fiona Duncan, published 11th November 2007.
Some of my earliest memories are of Seaview, on the Isle of Wight's north coast. Very English memories. The pungent smell of wet Labrador after a downpour; the mystery of how snails, stuck to our rented pebbledash house, managed to stay in place; my catastrophic run to the pillar box and the fall, letter in hand (I still bear the scar).
Though the building dates from the island's Victorian heyday, the hotel is marching with the times
Nothing much has changed in the village, I'm glad to say, though the same can't be said for Seaview's eponymous hotel. The resort still attracts happy families for bucket and spade holidays as well as salty sea dogs in rust red trousers and the smart set in the Yacht Club. Sailing is the main pastime, as well as the beach, birdwatching and playing tennis, badminton and squash at the nearby Isle of Wight Sports Club, which also has an indoor pool.
If you stay at one of the two long-established hotels, the Seaview (which doesn't have much of a sea view) and the Northbank (which spectacularly does), you can enjoy specially reduced rates at the Sports Club. Both buildings date from the island's Victorian heyday, but while the Northbank remains an astonishing anachronism, the Seaview marches with the times.
Too fast, some would say. While the hotel may now appeal directly to yuppies in search of a weekend break, the recent revamp of its bedrooms has made many of its core clientèle - those happy families and red-trousered yachties - reel in shock. "Feels more like Knightsbridge now," one regular wrote to me. "Fine if you like that sort of thing, but we want a room where we can dump wet sailing gear without feeling guilt."
What's the problem? At vast cost seven "Seaview Modern" rooms have recently been unveiled in a new annexe. Designed by Keech Green Interiors, they are immaculately furnished, with state-of-the-art equipment - but also anonymous, unrelated to their surroundings and with views...of the car park.
Plasma TV in the bathroom? Of course. Water that pours into the bath from the ceiling? Yes. Walls the colour of sludge? Naturally. More in keeping are the sweet, neat rooms in the main house, in similar muted livery but not without character. Best are the Gold Rooms, front-facing, each with a rare sea view.
Other, subtler changes have taken place since the hotel was sold two years ago to local entrepreneur Robert Gardener. The whole place has been freshened, there's a brand new kitchen (accomplished cooking from up-and-coming chef Graham Walker) and a committed manager, Andrew Morgan.
The ground floor of the distinctive ivy-covered building is given over to food and drink. Meals are served in the original dining room and the bright blue, brasserie-style Sunshine Restaurant, while bar food is available in the Pump Room. Walls throughout remain plastered with jolly photographs and naval memorabilia that help to preserve the Seaview's endearing original character alongside its newer "Knightsbridge" face.
High Street, Seaview, Isle of Wight (01983 61372; www.seaviewhotel.co.uk). Doubles from £120 per night, including breakfast). Wightlink (0870 5827744; www.wightlink.co.uk) operate car ferries and passenger FastCats to the Isle of Wight.