Nicknamed "Shoreditch-on-Sea" and the "British Ibiza", Margate is a mad, art-filled, party town which thrums and hums with creativity and hedonistic good-time vibes. Mention Margate and the likes of Tracey Emin and The Libertines are likely to spring to mind. The Kent hotspot is home to the futuristic Turner Contemporary art gallery, while the kooky vintage shops and cafes in the Old Town bring the East London vibe and the neon Dreamland funfair and stunning sunsets over the North Sea supply the colour.
Sitting right at the heart of the action – and yet pleasingly rising above it (quite literally in the case of the rooftop bar) – is the new beachfront boutique hotel, No.42 by GuestHouse, serenely contemplating the madness below.
Why come here?
This charmingly suave hotel is the third property from the GuestHouse group, dreamt up by brothers Tristan, Tom and James Guest who sold the family plumbing business in order to pursue their dream of opening a series of boutique hotels. No.42 shares similarly trendy siblings in Bath and York with a new opening in Brighton hot on Margate’s heels, due to open next year.
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The hotel feels snug and intimate, while also offering 21 spacious, sumptuous rooms, a lounge bar, a rooftop bar, a downstairs café and spa, and the pièce de résistance – the Pearly Cow restaurant, which is really quite hard not to rave about. The overall vibe of the hotel is a modern update on a traditional, Victorian seaside stay, with original Victorian columns in the central Pearly Cow restaurant, leafy pot plants, stained glass windows and black and white checkerboard floor tiles.
The rooms have been gorgeously designed, all dreamy neutrals and creams and proudly boasting beautiful local art. Records curated by a local record store play softly in the background on a Crosley record player. There are handy beach bags, espadrille flip flops and sumptuous beach towels to take to the seaside, and coffee and tea-making facilities hidden in a miniature beach hut, but the overall feel of the décor is classy rather than seaside cliché. The bathroom is also gorgeously luxurious, with a roll top bath, spacious shower and Frette robes to snuggle into.
Eating and drinking
At the gorgeous Pearly Cow restaurant, which sits at the heart of the hotel, the chefs are whipping up exceptionally good food. The website boasts that it is "bringing the best of the land and the sea together over ice or flame", and it's a fairly accurate description of what's going on at the open robata kitchen grill. The restaurant is proud of its local suppliers, which are all listed on the website, and the food is exquisitely presented. There's also excellent wine by the glass. Nothing here has been overlooked; even the small bites – the salt cod taco and garlic baked oysters in particular – are fabulous.
For mains, we feasted on the côte de boeuf served with Roscoff onion and bone marrow, accompanied by the most fantastic beef fat chips – a sort of crossover between a hasselback potato with a Dauphinoise texture. For dessert, a winning chocolate tart with milk sorbet and smoked caramel. It seems to have been a minor crime to have missed the locally-caught lobster served in a homemade brioche roll, but a good excuse to go back. The menu is certainly not cheap, but definitely worth it. The staff, though very friendly, are a little inexperienced, but hopefully this is an early teething problem. A cocktail (with a good range of non-alcoholic ones too) before or after dinner on the beautiful terrace overlooking the North Sea and magical vast sunsets is certainly special. The terrace is still a much more civilised option than the madness of the beach below, which on a high summer day looked, and sounded, a bit apocalyptic.
Breakfast is a slightly more retro affair which sadly didn’t blow us away – with mini boxes of cereal and fruit salads in plastic tubs, and a few hot options which were perfectly adequate but after the dizzying heights of Pearly Cow’s dinner offering failed to dazzle. Other features worth mentioning are the hotel’s generous pantry, featuring complimentary home-baked treats, tea and coffee and jars of Roald Dahl-esque sweets and crisps. Centrally located outside our room, we were concerned it would attract lots of noise but thankfully the hotel is well sound-proofed.
Things to do
No.42 by GuestHouse's central location is certainly handy for getting around the town. Although on a hot summer's day the central location may be either exactly what you want – or don’t want. We slept very well despite the noise from the beach below and enjoyed a wonderful sunset stroll just after dinner along the beach. But I'd also be intrigued to see the hotel off-season, when it may be a little quieter.
The Field Trip spa, on the ground floor of No.42, is well worth a visit, with friendly and professional therapists offering tailor-made treatments in a wonderfully relaxing setting. The hotel also offers private parking or the option of having luggage picked up from the station, and is children and dog-friendly.
Felicity Capon was a guest of No.42 by GuestHouse, Margate. Low season prices start from £130 room only or £170 b&b. High season prices start from £165 room only or £205 b&b. 42 High St, Margate CT9 1DS; guesthousehotels.co.uk
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