There’s something incredibly decadent about staying in hotels when you’re only a very reasonable drive from home, and so much moreso – so indulgent yet so absolutely heavenly – when you’re an Eastbourne native and that hotel happens to be the sweeping Victorian work of art known as the White Palace: The Grand Hotel.
Eastbourne’s Grand suits its eponymous definition incredibly well. Whilst many seaside towns in the UK boast a ‘Grand’ hotel, they tend to be moreso by name than by nature: pretty architecture and plush furnishings they may well have, but I’d argue that none are as truly grand as Eastbourne’s. The sheer magnificence of this epitome of luxury-on-sea is evident from the moment the hotel comes into view and is unmissable until the moment you leave, wherever you may be on the hotel premises. There are elements to the Grand Hotel that you would probably expect: tasteful updated period decor; sprawling suites, dramatic staircases and ubiquitous sea views. There are also some pleasant surprises: a state of the art heath club and spa; not one but TWO sumptuous restaurants, and staff who unfailingly maintain the pinpoint balance of being searingly polite whilst never coming across as aloof or pretentious. This is a seaside retreat the way the upper class of centuries gone by enjoyed them, with added mod cons (the in-room Nespresso machine, for example, is much appreciated).
We dine in The Mirabelle restaurant, where the menu is extensive, the piano music is live and the wine is expertly chosen – not by us! Our dishes, from classics like smoked salmon and caviar blinis to the Mediterranean twist of the guinea fowl with chorizo-butterbeans, are perfectly executed, delicious and not inclined to leave room for dessert, though we soldier on whilst vowing to go for a vigorous swim before breakfast. The calorie-burning benefits of a couple of laps followed by an hour or so in the Jacuzzi and steam room are promptly rendered dubious by the vast cooked and continental breakfast buffet (with cooked to order options) but I maintain that the thought was there.
The Grand’s conferencing and business facilities are in keeping with the rest of the hotel – state of the art in facilities but with an elegant Victorian appearance where appropriate. The only 5 star hotel in Sussex to offer meeting facilities, it offers 17 fully equipped meeting rooms that are equipped to accommodate up to 350 people for talks, seminars, banqueting… you name it, The Grand’s beautiful facilities and attentive staff are at your disposal. All the ‘talking shop’ can be done tucked away within the hotel’s conference room and then its luxurious spa, guest rooms and lounges are there to reward them for a hard day’s work. Whilst a classic afternoon tea and a stroll along the promenade may not be what we associate with business gatherings these days, I can’t think of a better way to show delegates the timeless glamour of this Victorian seaside getaway.