Port, Eastbourne hotel review: set to make Brighton’s genteel sister cool

·4-min read
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You can’t go anywhere on the south coast without someone shouting “it’s the new Margate!” at you.

Eastbourne, though, has long had plenty to offer: a respectable arts scene, proximity to the stunning South Downs, and the enviable title of being the sunniest place in Britain. It doesn’t need regeneration so much as rebranding - it has a rep (unfair, actually) for being the go-to place for blue rinses. That could all be set to change, though, thanks to the modern, fresh-feeling boutique hotel Port, which opened earlier this year.

Where is it?

 (Emma Croman)
(Emma Croman)

The more genteel sister to Brighton, Eastbourne is a great option for a chilled weekend away from the city - it’s just an hour and a half’s train ride from London Victoria. Don’t let the easy journey fool you: this is a total change of scene. The seafront is only about a 15-minute walk away from the town centre, and the town itself is surrounded by the pretty green countryside of the South Downs.

Port itself is a pleasant twenty-minute stroll from the station, a walk that will take you through the town’s epicentre of shops and along the lovely seafront. From the hotel you can walk straight onto the beach - keep going for 10 minutes and you’ll get to the famous pier and the rest of the town’s amenities.

Style

You’ll have no trouble finding this place: the Regency-style terrace building is painted a striking gothic black. Some locals were reportedly miffed by this, but it certainly makes a statement. Rather than standing out like a sore thumb in contrast to its neighbours, I think it makes Port look sexy and intriguing.

The interior, in total contrast, is all calming, contemporary Scandi design - minimalist while still feeling cosy. The entrance takes guests straight into the restaurant and bar, which also doubles as the hotel’s reception, offering a much more informal atmosphere to the usual hotel experience, and the sense that you’re straight into the action. The instinct to do things differently feeds into the thinking of the whole place: if you need any assistance, you can contact the team through WhatsApp.

Food & drink

There’s a buzzy feeling to Port’s restaurant and bar: the menu, small plates made with locally sourced ingredients, is adventurous and the work of local artists adorn the walls. I devoured the Jerusalem artichoke hummus and the popcorn mussels, but must admit the bold, rich cocktail menu left me hankering for a few simple classics. The breakfast menu does offer old fashioned staples like a full English, but also has clever and luxurious-feeling options like the smoked trout royale (trout roe for breakfast? Yes please.)

If you’re venturing out of the hotel, Eastbourne has a great emerging food scene. Cream of the crop is Skylark, a wonderful restaurant offering friendly service in a relaxed environment, on buzzy Grove Road - it’s popular, so make sure you book in advance. Also worth a visit is Levels Wine Shop, which serves utterly delectable cheese and charcuterie boards, and Company, a modern cafe serving a simple, delicious menu using local Sussex food.

Extracurricular

Towner Eastbourne (Emma Croman)
Towner Eastbourne (Emma Croman)

It’s easy to sit and watch the world go by here - there’s a relaxed pace to the town. But you won’t be bored either. The excellent Towner Eastbourne, which won Museum of the Year in 2020, has a highly Instagrammable painted exterior and even greater treasures inside, including the world’s biggest collection of artworks by Eric Ravilious. There are three theatres, and the humongous Beacon shopping centre offers major retail therapy. Unmissable is Camilla’s, a secondhand bookshop on Grove Road, which is full of towering piles of books and a resident parrot.

The big draw is Eastbourne’s proximity to the South Downs. The walk to Beachy Head, offering beautiful, I-can’t-believe-I’m-in-the-UK views, takes about an hour from Eastbourne beach. Get your walking shoes on and then reward yourself with a roast afterwards.

Which room?

The ‘studio apartment’ spacious room, which has, among other treats, a record-player, a free-standing bath and a giant comfy bed that will give you the best night’s sleep ever. The room also has a massive bay window with direct views on to the seafront. Sit back and feel soothed by the sound of the waves.

Best for

Couples who fancy a breather from the city, and anyone looking to explore the great outdoors with a cosy bolthole as a base. Oh, and there’s a dog-friendly room - so you can bring your pooch for a pampering too.

Details

Rooms from £100, £230 a night for the Studio Apartment; porthotel.co.uk

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