“ Address: 26 New Steine / Brighton / BN2 1PD „
Last December, we drove along the seafront on a typically dark winter afternoon, marvelling at Brighton's lights; the glittering letters of the pier, the outline of the giant wheel and the cosy fish and chip shops dotted along the promenade. M&M had finally woken from a long snooze in the car seat and I was calling out directions using the google map on my iphone.
We parked in a side street and once The Boyfriend had sorted out the parking permit (£10 for 24 hours from reception) we bundled the luggage out, stretched our legs and headed into our hotel. From the outside, it was two beautiful Georgian terraces with a view over a central green square and the dark sea. Three tiled steps led up to a door where we rang the bell and received a warm welcome from the staff.
The communal areas, a sitting room to the front of reception and a spacious adjoining breakfast room, were modern and cosy, carpeted in deep pile stripes. After being shown these, we were escorted up to our room on the top floor. The stairs were narrow and slightly uneven and the chunky carpet didn't make for secure footing. Fair enough, a lift would probably not fit with the period features, but I would have preferred constant lighting rather than the timer switch. However, I wasn't about to complain as we'd been upgraded from a luxury double to a suite.
I should have sensed something was amiss when I phoned to make our booking and the only difference between a standard and luxury double was 'more space' rather than fresh flowers or a Jacuzzi. Why was space so precious? Well... our suite was around the size of a normal hotel room, so the other rooms must be miniscule. It was also roasting hot. Initially it looked okay, three walls were painted a patchy gold colour and the fourth, behind the bed, was covered in black 'feature' flock wallpaper.
As I sat down however, I noticed that the original bay window had a good coating of mould above the peeling paint and the bathroom, with a narrow toilet, sink and shower, was arranged in a line inside what must have once been a cupboard.
Don't get me wrong, there were nice points about our room too. There was a good size flat screen telly to watch from bed and a dvd player, (though these were let down by the wires looping down the wall and a lopsided piece of paper with the instructions stuck to the shelf with blu-tac). The hospitality tray with tea bags and a kettle was lovely, the mini bar adequately stocked. It was strange as it seemed everything had been thought about, yet attention to detail was lacking. None of it lived up to the expectations created by the very slick website.
My two biggest concerns were the lack of fire exits (the fire evacuation instructions were missing from the usual spot on the back of the door) and the hotel policy of closing down at 9pm every night. My first point most probably doesn't need any elaboration; it's always a concern on the top floor of anywhere with multiple occupancy, let alone somewhere with narrow steep stairs and no more than one door to get out.
The closing down at 9pm made me feel like this wasn't a hotel; apparently if there are any problems, you can phone a mobile number to summon someone living nearby. What if you don't write that down and then you get locked out? What if there's a break in? Or you fall down the stairs and break your leg? Are you going to rely on other guests to hear you and help you? But what if there are no other guests? Or the other guests are the problem? You may well say that these are unlikely, but there's a good reason most hotels man the desk overnight. Also, if you arrive late to check in, you can forget it.
Despite my worrying, we managed to sleep in our sauna style room and enjoy a shower in the morning before breakfast. And coming downstairs, the big round table in the gorgeous breakfast room had been reserved for us and the sun shone over the sea view. We ordered a full English, a Vegetarian version, Rice Crispies, yoghurts and fruit. This was pretty much everything on the menu (no pancakes or porridge which was a shame), but it suited us fine and it was really, really nice. The waitress was lovely and the lady on reception was exceptionally helpful in planning our day.
The location of the hotel is good, but the detail lets it down. For the money we paid, even at a reduced internet rate and with a free upgrade, I had hoped for more.