“ King's Road, Brighton, BN1 2FW. Tel: (01273) 224300. „
* Prices may differ from that shown
We have just got back from a weekend wedding at this hotel, so time for a review!
*Exterior and Location*
The Grand is situated on Brighton seafront, across the road from the beach and five minutes walk from the Brighton Wheel and Brighton Pier. A large and striking building it is probably most well known for the terrorist attack in the 1980's which destroyed parts of the facade. It sells itself as a premier Victorian hotel with superb service and they say about themselves:
'More than a hotel; this is an institution, an iconic piece of British history, perched contentedly at the centre of one of the most famous seafronts in the world. Grand by nature, welcome to old world luxury. There is nothing boutique here; this is opulent splendour, style and service from another age. From the smiling (and hatted) MIA award winning concierge Colin, who opens the door on arrival to every one of the intricate 123 steps on the sweeping spiral staircase, the Grand is a lesson in extravagance.'
The Grand is 12 minutes walk from the train station (according to their website) but we drove. There is a loading bay at the front of the hotel where you can drop off your bags and then you can ask the very nice and polite doorman what to do with the car. The Grand has forty car parking spaces which are unable to be booked or reserved and are pricey at £26-£30 per night. The other option is an NCP car park which is £25 for 24 hours. This was quite inconvenient as it meant we had to leave the hotel earlier than we wanted to (at 9.30am) in order to not get charged another £25. Once the car was out we struggled to find any other parking so had to put it back into the carpark (£5 for two hours) so the kids could play on the beach for a bit.
*Check-in and first impressions*
The lobby of the Grand is impressive, fitted out with marble and wood and with an amazingly impressive staircase which is lit from above with light from a massive dome on the roof. On the left is the bar area and on the right is the restaurant/breakfast room. There are bell boys everywhere waiting to assist with the old fashioned tall gold trolleys and never less than three smartly dressed reception staff waiting to check guests in, no matter what time we were passing. Check in is at 3pm, but we asked nicely if we could have our room sooner (wedding was at 2pm) and they managed to get the room turned over in two hours for us. The staff were friendly and chatty and very professional and were very attentive to my small toddler son. The doorman automatically got us a trolley and showed us where the lift was. The lifts are slow to arrive and quick to close; we struggled to get four of us and a trolley in as the lift tried to close on us twice even though we were rushing. Once we had dumped luggage we used the stairs from then on as they are shallow and luxuriously carpeted. Hampers of dirty laundry were also regularly taken down in the guest lifts so I was also pleased I didn't have to share with one of those!
Overall the lobby area is very Victorian and plush and on first impressions is amazing, but after a few trips up and down the stairs we noticed signs of heavy wear and lots of small niggles that surprised us- dents, flaking paint, poorly patched up areas (with duct tape in some places). The hotel has toilets in the lobby and with a potty training toddler we used them a lot. They were even more worn and were not checked and cleaned regularly. Four 'tissue boxes' of hand towels were used up and not replenished, neither were the toilet rolls. One of the taps was so wobbly it almost twisted off in my hand and all the wood was marked and twisted by water. The powder room area was nice, but I didn't get a chance to examine it in detail, it was somewhere I was dragged through on the way to the toilet!
We had a Traditional room, which was offered as a family room. On the third floor and down a dark corridor it was easy to find and just a short walk from the lifts. Inside was a large room with heavy wood furniture-wardrobe, desk, armchair, side table, TV cabinet, mirror and unit for luggage to go on. Two twin beds had been put together to make a king sized bed (with a very firm mattress and a lump in the middle) and there were two camping beds for the children. Everything was clean but very dated. Tea and coffee making facilities were hidden away under the TV cabinet next to the broken mini-fridge. The windows were large and tilted out from the top which was great for making sure the kids couldn't fall out but did mean I kept them both away from the windows anyway in case they leaned against them and got their fingers trapped. The view was not great, white wall and windows about six feet away. The kids slept OK in their camp beds but I found the lump in the mattress hard to get used to and did not sleep well on the bed at all.
The bathroom was not great however. It wasn't cramped like other hotel bathrooms but two hot lights above the unit made the whole room incredibly hot and the only window was screwed down and covered with a panel. The bath was not nice, grubby grouting and a ring of rust around the plug hole. The bath didn't hold water very well-it needed topping up regularly as the plug was such a bad fit. The shower came with COLD, TEPID and HOT options and I was almost scalded by the TEPID so I am very glad I didn't go for the hot and just leap in. The worst bit was the floor which was lino tiles. It had a square pattern with little black diamonds in the corner of each square but had been badly laid and was coming up slightly at the edges and corners. The grooves between the tiles were brown and the black diamonds had lifted in several places and were missing in several others; which left an unhygienic surface which I wasn't happy walking on.
For one night this was £180 (bed and breakfast).
My Mum was staying in a Feature Deluxe Sea View room at around £450 a night. Unlike our room hers had a doorbell, trouserpress and a built in wardrobe, although it was also smaller. Her bathroom was clean and neat and was well adapted for wheelchair users with alarms, space in the bathroom for wheelchairs and handles. Her room also had big double doors which opened out onto an amazing view from its balcony taking in a huge proportion of the sea front and the sea itself. I was suitably awestruck when I spotted it. However when I turned to go back into the room I noticed a huge threadbare patch in the carpet which was obviously where hundreds of people had stepped out of bed and also used the mirror which was squished awkwardly into a corner. There were also marks on the wall, dents and chips on the door and the bathroom door handle was an ancient push and twist to lock type (same on our bathroom door) which was very hard to work. I told my two children to leave the door unlocked as I was worried they wouldn't be able to get out again without staff help. I assumed as it was an old hotel that there would be no air conditioning but a fellow wedding guest told me her room did have it, but she was told that it was broken that weekend. There was no sign of it in our room at all.
The wedding took place in a small room off the main lobby which seated about forty people. It had no windows which made for quite a romantic atmosphere (which was somewhat at odds with the warship pictures on the walls) but it was sweltering in the heat. After the ceremony we went off to a small room at the front of the hotel for champagne and canapés before moving through to the conservatory where a pay bar had been set up. There were amazing views of the sea and beach but it was quite tight even with the small number of people there. Part of the room had been partitioned off and there was another reception room there with six large tables laid out with a small dance floor. The staff were friendly and welcoming, the food came in small portions but was well cooked and everything happened as it should.
Half way through the wedding we made an escape to the bar area to have a sit down and have some more drinks. Its nicely laid out with plenty of sofas and comfortable chairs, a pianist (a good one), views of the beach and exterior seating and table service. We opted for Pimms which came in glasses stuffed with fresh fruit and was delicious. They had a nice range of drinks, including some delicious cocktails (which started at £6) and mocktails (which were all around £4). Our bar bill came to £26 for 2x Pimms, one Peroni beer, two bowls of chips (£2.75 a bowl), a mocktail (£4) and some water plus a 10% addition to the bill. The portion of chunky chips wasn't huge but it came with little jam jars of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup; plus it was obviously freshly cooked and was very tasty. They were a little short on staff and it did take a while to get things brought out to us. Also even though it looked plush on first sight there were lots of nicks and dings out of things, badly painted repairs, some of the wood at the bottom of the amazing columns was warped and even the picture frames had dents and knocks.
The Grand does have a restaurant which I could see was very busy and looked popular but we unfortunately did not get a chance to try.
Breakfast was awesome however and I was delighted when we walked in. It was very popular and there was a queue so it is definitely worth getting there early to avoid a wait. There was a carousel of eight or so different fruit juices, jugs of water and smoothies, four different types of toast, a range of cured meat/cheeses with eight different types of crusty bread and comb honey, cereal, yoghurt, a range of different fresh and tasty pastries, domes of freshly cooked black pudding, bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans. There was even a chef in the corner who was whipping up fresh waffles, kippers and eggs benedict for those who fancied it. All of it was lovely.
My mother is a coeliac and they managed to cater for her very well both at the wedding and at breakfast the next day, making sure she had gluten free bread and a gluten free pudding at the wedding (poached pear).
The Grand is very smart and plush, but it is also quite tired and worn which took a lot of the gloss off the experience. The staff were lovely and the service was everything you would expect from a luxury place like this. The rooms however were a slight disappointment and the bathroom in ours verged on a health hazard. Facilities are excellent and the breakfast is to die for, however if I had paid for a deluxe sea view room at that price I would be left a little disappointed at the size and condition of the room. The rooms and the hotel in general were very hot and the beds were not particularly comfortable. Overall I would be happy to give the Grand a firm three stars, but there were some areas I was not impressed with. I can see on the website that the rooms pictured were very different to those we actually experienced so hopefully there is a major refurbishment under way.