“We are Drakes for goodness sake; we don’t like to do things by halves.” So said the cheery waiter over breakfast one morning, as he eagerly dished up hot dishes while pointing to the cold buffet in the corner of the small, but cosy, on-site restaurant. He, like most staff at the 20-room hotel, could be the reason why so many people keep coming back to this Sussex hotel.
Even big names from Kylie Minogue to Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett have been known to frequent the hotel on Marine Parade, which is made up of two white-front Georgian townhouses overlooking the sea.
But despite its spectacular views, location and top service – Drakes does need a revamp. A fresh lick of paint and better storage facilities, for example, would go a long way towards giving the hotel the celebrity status it once bragged.
Its location by the seafront and proximity to all major attractions in the city makes Drakes the ideal place for all ages – from young families looking for adventure. Couples searching for a romantic weekend getaway do well here too – staff are willing to lay petals on beds or run a bubble-bath on request, for example. However, winding staircases both up to the bedrooms and down to the restaurant could be a struggle for those in need of disabled access.
This is a small boutique hotel whose facilities revolve around its service. Parking (which is a huge perk in Brighton) is available. They offer a laundry service too.
Spectacular seaside view aside, the rooms at Drakes are a disappointment. Space is ample, but storage is lacking – with hangers on the wall and a curtain to conceal them acting as a makeshift wardrobe.
The free-standing bath overlooking the sea with floor-to-ceiling windows makes for an enjoyable experience; but dare to peek beneath the tub and you will spot wood-panelled floors eroding – reminding you of the splash-happy guests who bathed before you.
Designers at Drakes seem to be having a crisis of conscious, torn between boutique traditionalism (which makes this hotel so unique) and the need to be ‘keep up with the kids’. For example, while the rooms offer guests red-cushioned chairs and printed throws on Egyptian cotton sheets – the cramped bathroom (which doubles up as an uncomfortable shower over the toilet) is laden with vulgar neon blue lights.
That said, beds are comfortable, complimentary products from The White Company are a welcome bonus and a decent-sized television with free access to Sky TV works well for quieter nights in.
Food and drink
Breakfast (not included in the price) is served in the hotel’s restaurant. The buffet table (priced at £8.50 per person) is modest, with a small selection of cheese, home-made muesli, jams and yogurts. For something more substantial, hot offerings are ample but costly, with £10 for soldiers and eggs and £15 for a full English. In testament to the chef, the vegetarian breakfast (£12.50) is fabulous, with the pseudo-sausage creatively composed of delicious potatoes and vegetables.
For dinner, guests can sample a range of modern British dishes, from guinea fowl to marinated wild boar steak. For something more atmospheric, a range of the best restaurants in the city are a short 15-minute walk away or a 5-minute cab ride away.
The hotel’s 24-hour Bar (which doubles up as a reception and welcome area) overlooking the sea offers guests a range of fine wines, spirits and bespoke cocktails. The ambiance is more ‘intimate’ and ‘homely’ than chic, enabling it to double-up as a morning place to relax with a hot coffee.
Everything worth visiting in Brighton, is within walking distance of Drakes. Across the road is the Sea Life centre, worth a visit for families with children. The hotel is a short walk away from the beach and buzzing Brighton Pier, full of arcades, rides and local cuisine (but make sure you hide your portion of ‘fish and chips’ from the seagulls as they regularly swoop down and snatch food from the hands of unsuspecting strollers). And the hotel is only 10-minutes away from the Royal Pavilion and the Lanes.
Gatwick Airport is less than half an hour away by car or train.
Is Wifi Available?
Yes, free throughout.
More than half of the 20 rooms in this hotel have sea-facing views. The rooms, which are non-smoking, range from £120-£360 per night. 15 car park spaces are available on a first-come, first- served basis.
Value for money?
If you are after comfort, convenience and ‘location, location, location’ – Drakes is the place that does balance all three. It is good value for money, if you after access to the city over fluffy dressing gowns and slippers – especially given that guests are able to venture nearby for a less costly dining experience.