Strange as it may seem, that phrase comes into my mind during my stay at the impeccable Drakes, in Brighton, a hotel that has much in common with its most famous guests.
The way I see it, Drakes is as elegant as Cate Blanchett, as sophisticated as Vanessa Redgrave, as smart as Benedict Cumberbatch, as welcoming as Victoria Wood and as striking as Joan Baez. It has as refined an eye for detail as Frank Gehry and, with just 20 rooms, is as perfectly petite as Kylie Minogue.
Like all of them, it’s also private, discreet and among the best of the best, which means you’ll be treated as if you were a VIP, even when you’re not. This starts before you cross the threshold with a call a couple of days before your arrival to check on any last-minute or forgotten-to-mention requirements – though were you to become vegan, gluten or lactose intolerant, or even all three the minute you arrive, the staff would cope beautifully.
Solicitous and courteous, professional and genuinely hospitable, these are the hotel’s key assets. Nothing is too much trouble, and they take pride in ensuring your stay is perfect, even arranging a rose petal and bubble bath for your arrival. What a welcome.
Drakes, in two, listed, late-Georgian, adjoining town houses facing the sea, is minutes away in physical distance from Kemptown, the Lanes and King George IV’s outrageously camp Royal Pavilion, but light years away from them in temperament. While they scream for your attention, it soothes and seduces – so much so that, rather than head straight for my room after checking in, I decide to linger in the bar, enjoying an expertly mixed martini while taking in the seascape.
In any case, though I’ve come with a friend, I do often travel alone so I am curious to see how comfortable a single woman would feel here on her own. Drakes passes with flying colours. Though it is the perfect romantic getaway, it’s also ideal for solo guests, whether here for business or pleasure. The staff are attentive but not overbearing, happy to chat yet quick to read my body language when I want to lose myself in the view. This is what exemplary service is all about, in my book.
When I do finally make my way upstairs, via the beautiful cantilevered staircase, I find that architect Michael Philips and designer Tim Shepherd have applied the same flawless touch as they have to the downstairs.
Each of the rooms – from those in the city-view category, which gaze over rooftops, to the feature suites overlooking the sea – is well-proportioned and gracefully furnished with handmade beds and deep, deep mattresses, blond-wood panelling, monsoon wet rooms and White Company toiletries, presented in a gift bag for each guest to take away with them. Many of the rooms also have sexy, ocean-liner inspired curved walls, and 11 have a freestanding bath, sometimes sitting in the massive floor-to-ceiling bay windows – well hello, Brighton!
If luxury lovers find their senses nicely aroused, then so will gourmands because the food that comes out of head chef Andy Vitez’s kitchen is a delight for the eyes and nose as well as the mouth. We order scallops on jet black purée, pea vouleté and scallop roe sabayon - one with, one without mangalitza lardo. What arrives is gorgeous – four fat caramelised scallops glistening amid the black and green that surrounds them. There is such harmony in texture, in taste, in appearance; it is the same story with our other courses, each one a skilled collation of the season’s best ingredients.
Beef fillet is served with bone marrow cappuccino, wasabi pomme purée, spinach, radish and shitake mushrooms – and a warning: apparently some people find the bone marrow too strong. But my companion doesn’t hold back – immediately pouring the cup over the thick fillets of tender, still-bloody meat, the whole pronounced delicious.
The award-winning breakfast is also a lavish affair, with homemade bread, pastries and granola, yoghurts and cereals, and a wonderful choice of cooked options. Seeing me hesitate over the eggs florentine and royale, our waiter recommends I have one of each. Again, that impeccable service.
As we’re about to leave, I catch sight of the brochure for the Brighton Festival. This is all the excuse I need to book another stay at Drakes. I’m sure there will be something I can see at the Festival – and if there isn’t? Well that just means more time in the hotel. Heads I win, Tails I win.
43–44 Marine Parade, Brighton & Hove, BN2 1PE
economia reader offer: Drakes is offering economia readers a very special offer. Simply quote ‘Economia’ when making your booking to take advantage of their Corporate Bed & Breakfast Package – even if your stay is for leisure rather than business. (Terms & Conditions apply – please check with the hotel. Also available until the end of June 2017: three courses for the price of two in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.)