Hotel du Vin, Brighton, England

The Brighton Half Marathon, held every February, is one of our favourite races, and we’re looking forward to taking part in it again next time around. We figured that in the event that you want to join us, and we recommend that you do as it’s a nice race to be involved in, you might want to know about places to stay in the town. So, over the next few months we’ll be highlighting some hotels we think are worthy of your attention. This month it’s the turn of Hotel du Vin. Before we go into details, here’s a short film that I made on arriving at the hotel. It’s not meant to be a glossy film showing the accommodation at it’s best, just an honest first impression on what the average visitor might encounter on arrival.

Location - The Hotel du Vin is located on Ship Street, a few seconds walk from the seafront, and a 5 minute walk from The Lanes shopping area. The nearest car parks are in Russell Street, about a 10 minute walk away, and in the Lanes, but the car park we use in Brighton if we’re staying overnight is Regency Mews (just off Regency Square). There are not many spaces in this private carpark so booking is recommended; google them for their current phone number. Spaces cost £10 per night (much better value than the Russell Street car park which is about £20 per night). Brighton bus station is a 10 minute walk away from the hotel, and the train station much further; 30 minutes on foot or 5 by taxi. The hotel has a pull-in outside with space enough for 3 or 4 cars to offload or pickup luggage, so no need to carry it from the car parks. Take care, Ship Street is a one way street heading down towards the sea front, so you need to drive up Middle Street and follow it round back towards the seafront until you reach Hotel du Vin near the end of the street, on the right. The view here is looking up Ship Street at the hotel with the seafront at our back.

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Check In/Reception - Check in was very quick and easy. The reception staff were really friendly and polite. They kept hold of our bags as we had arrived early (check in is at 3.30pm), so we could go park the car and then wander along the seafront and around town for the afternoon. When we did arrive, our bags had been transferred to our room. The photograph below shows reception, those on the right show the corridors and stairwells of the hotel as we saw it; our room was reached from reception via 2 short flights of stairs and a corridor. There were 2 security doors en route which we had keys for, these prevented pub and bistro customers from straying into areas reserved for hotel guests alone (the bistro and pub are on the ground floor, and can be accessed either from seperate front doors that lead in from the street or by hotel guests only via the stairwells).

The Room – Our Room, named ‘Hammerpot’, was spacious, well appointed and quiet. Suprisingly quiet, since our front window opened out onto Ship Street, and we were above the hotel’s pub. During the first night we kept our windows closed as we thought that the morning noise, of a city going to work, might wake us, but this turned out to be a bad idea, as the room was stuffy that night, and it was also unessecary, as Ship Street isn’t that busy on a weekday (we stayed on a Monday and Tuesday), and the main seafront road is far enough away not to create any noise nuisance at all (we found this out on the second night, when we kept our windows open).

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The bed was large, and the linen soft. The pillows were actually like the lightest of bubbles (if you can imagine lying back and putting your head on one); they moulded themselves to your head and eased back into shape when you lifted yourself off them. Another nice touch was the curved wooden headboard, which supported me perfectly when I laid back to watch the TV.

The TV had channels 1 to 5, plus a few extras, and Sky Sports 1 to 3. There was a DVD player but no sign as to say where we might get DVD’s to watch on it. This lack of information occured a couple of times during our stay, either in the room (apart from the DVD issue there was no directory of general hotel info such as dining times, services offered, phone numbers, etc), or on the resturant menus (more about that later). I think that it must be intentional, as everything else at the hotel seems extremely well thought out. Perhaps they want guests to interact with staff, to ask questions? If so, bravo, as it’s always nice to chat to people. Incidentally, the fact we didn’t know how to use the DVD was no big deal, as we didn’t go to Brighton to watch TV, but to enjoy one of England’s finest seaside towns, which meant getting out and about as much as we could…

The room was very light, with the morning sun appearing at our front window from 7am until around midday, and the late afternoon sun flooding into our bathroom from about 4pm until 7pm (which meant we could have a bath whilst watching the sun setting – lovely). We were here in September; in other months the sun would obviously rise and set at different times.

There was a safe, a hairdryer, an iron with ironing board, a Nespresso Coffee maker, another kettle with a decent stock of teas (Earl Grey, Camomile, Peppermint, Mango, etc, all of them organic) and hot chocolate, a connection point for laptops to access the hotel’s free internet service, a well stocked mini-bar and that large flatscreen TV I’ve already mentioned.

The general decor was an intelligent mix of Art Deco and modern. Wood panelled walls, driftwood sculpture, Parisien 1930′s-era posters and comfortable seating; this was the case throughout the room and indeed the hotel.

Now to the bathroom. The shower is probably the second best I’ve ever experienced, anywhere in the world, which is high praise indeed (for those interested, the best is to be had in the Riad Noga, in Marrakech, where the cubicles are huge, circular, stone enclosures the colour of ochre and the sort of comforting, welcoming spaces you want to spend hours in). The showerhead itself is about 12 inches across and the water is instantly hot and in good supply.

The bath is free standing with the taps positioned in the middle, so no need to fight about who gets the uncomfortable end. Bath robes were hung on the door and plenty of deep pile towels were folded over the towel rail. I loved this bathroom, everything was as it should be, the toiletries were of a high standard and I could see the sun almost set from the bath whilst I had a glass of wine. Perfect.

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The room’s only bad point, in my opinion, was that the windows did not have a catch to keep them open, so I had to wedge a cardboard tube of potato chips between the sill and the window in order to let air into the room. The room was actually climate controlled via a dial on the wall but I do prefer fresh air whilst I relax or sleep if it’s possible. They probably don’t have catches on the windows to prevent guests from leaving them open and falling out; our room was 3 storeys up and the sills were quite low, about knee height.

The Bar & Resturant - Hotel du Vin is renowned for the fine range of wines it offers. A shame then, that I am far from being a wine expert, and know little apart from that I enjoy drinking mostly anything that is put in front of me, and cannot pass any worthwhile comment on the wines on offer in the hotel bar or pub. I can, however, talk about the look and feel of the pub, and firstly, of the hotel breakfast.

The resturant setting is absolutely wonderful, as you can see in the photographs to the right. The walls look old, yellowing, full of character, and are decorated with paintings in differing styles, as if some were brought at a gallery and others from artists in return for a meal. Magnums of champagne glitter with reflected sun and candlelight, and the seats are comfortable. This is a place in which you can truly enjoy your food.

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And now to the food. Cereal, fresh fruit, croissant and yoghurts were offered buffet style; you helped yourself. There was also a menu to order from. What wasn’t clear was that whilst there were 6 or 7 items on the menu there was just one price – £14.50. Was the price for 1 item, or as many as you liked, plus coffee and toast, or was coffee extra, and did it include the cereal/fresh fruit buffet, etc? It seemed a little cheap to ask, and distasteful (the less I need to talk about money the better; of course you have to earn and spend it, but there’s no joy in going on about it) so we didn’t. I’m sure other guests would feel similar to us, so perhaps clearer menus might be something the hotel would like to think about.

Between us, over the 2 days, we had the Full English, French Toast with Maple Syrup, Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs, and Homemade Waffles with Salmon and Cream Cheese. All of it was fine, and served less than 10 minutes after ordering, but the Waffles were more than fine, they were excellent. As for the buffet, the yoghurt on offer, in a variety of flavours, was superb, as was the berry mix, which I had over flapjack.

The waiting staff were friendly and quick with the coffee and toast. The coffee was of a high standard (it’s amazing how many places get the basics wrong, like coffee; thankfully this is not the case in Hotel du Vin) and the toast was hot, and served with unsalted butter.

We didn’t eat at the hotel in the evening; one night we fancied fish and chips on the seafront, the other we dined with friends, but upon returning to the hotel the resturant was more than half full both nights, which is a good sign, especially so early in the week.

The pub had a large screen TV beaming live sports (a photograph of the TV room is to the right, in the middle. It’s got a large dining table in it so you can eat a bar snack comfortably whilst watching the game, as a few businessmen were doing one night when I passed by), but don’t think that means this is a yobbie, football crazy pub that reels the punters in by offering silly money 2 for 1 shot deals.

It’s more about real ale, a wide range of decent beers and wines, champagne cocktails and candlelit/elegantly lit corners from what I saw. We had a drink there and enjoyed the atmosphere; it seemed to be a place for couples, families or groups of friends out for a civilised, rather than a rowdy, evening.

In Summary – My opinion is that the Hotel du Vin in Brighton is an excellent mid-range choice if you’re looking for a quiet, comfortable and very centrally located room.

If you’re in town for the Half Marathon which is held every February (and which we heartily recommend you run; it’s a great route, almost flat, and crowds come out en masse to offer runners their support), then you’ll find the race start line just a 15 minute walk from the hotel. You’ll probably also find the hotel as peaceful to be in as we did if you stay after you take part in the race, as the event is on a Sunday.

The staff are well trained and friendly, the food of a high standard, there are some lovely touches in the room and the decor throughout is a joy to look at, and relax into.

By the looks of their website room rates can be high on weekends, but there are deals to be had, and rates from Sundays to Thursdays are very reasonable.

We heartily recommend the Hotel du Vin. For more information, please check their website. www.hotelduvin.com

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