If you were to launch a chain of chic seaside hotels in the South East, where would you start? Perhaps Margate, Deal, Hastings... Brighton for a really safe bet. Instead, the inaugural Port Hotel has landed in Eastbourne.
‘It’s a beautiful Victorian town,’ says co-founder Peter Cadwallader of the seaside resort, which once had a decidedly sleepy reputation. Occupying a smart row of black townhouses on the seafront, this 19-room boutique hotel and restaurant has been shaped by London-based interior designer Imraan Ismail with a quiet modernity.
Perhaps the formula is by now a familiar one – cork floors, poured concrete sinks and terrazzo tiles – but it’s minimalism at its most cocooning, evoking calm rather than coolness. That’s partly thanks to a well-judged selection of Scandinavian furniture and lighting, with pieces by Gubi, &Tradition and Muuto.
Sharp eyes will spot Ferm Living ‘Rico’ chairs in the snug lounge area, which forms part of an airy do-it-all ground floor space that also encompasses restaurant, bar and reception. It’s a clever use of a compact footprint, and guests are likely to be surprised at the size (and the views) of five spacious sea view rooms and a ‘studio apartment’ after a shimmy up narrow stairs.
All bedrooms, including the smaller town view rooms, include generous beds with Hypnos mattresses and walk-in showers. Smartly, Port has done away with the in-room paraphernalia of ironing boards et al (available on request, of course) in favour of simple pleasures for design lovers – why does that morning cup of tea taste better with George Sowden’s kettle for Hay?
If it all seems rather far removed from the quintessential British seaside experience, let Ismail explain his influences. The round brass bedside tables are a nod to the Eastbourne Pier dome, while the pastel colour palette, he says, reflects ‘the soft pinkish hue that bounces off the sea at sunset’.
Downstairs, the fluted wood bar (crafted by local artisans, who also had a hand in the bedrooms’ headboards) is stocked with tipples by Sussex makers such as Rathfinny Wine and Ditchling Gin, while the putty-toned restaurant sources almost all ingredients within 30 miles.
The menu of small plates is easy to navigate and caters well to vegans and gluten free guests (order the grilled nectarine panzanella if you spot it, through the offering changes regularly). Port does brunch, not breakfast, although you can still get up early to beat the locals who pile in later in the morning. It’s best taken on the terrace.
This is a retreat that’s subtly rooted in place – and we do like to be beside the seaside. From £140 per night, porthotel.co.uk