‘Autumn is like the grand finale scene of a summer love story’. This I mused in the car, while drinking in the explosion of golden, amber and scarlet hues along the East Sussex coastline, quite smug that our wedding anniversary falls on just such a day.
We were headed for the ‘White Palace’, the nickname The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne is affectionately known by, the only seaside 5 star luxury hotel to be found on the British coastline.
This majestic Victorian seafront landmark is hard to miss and pulling into one of their front parking spaces, which proudly bore our surname, made me feel quite grand without even setting the foot out of the car yet.
The outside and the inside of the lobby was buzzing with helpful hotel porters with actually genuine smiles, and the reception was conveniently located two steps to the right, upon entering via the main entrance. After speedy check-in formalities, the hotel porter gently began guiding us further into the ground floor area, towards the lifts and our suite.
You cannot help but slow down your walk as you adjust your eyesight to the magnificence of the Great Hall’s interior unfolding in front of you. It is everything you’d imagine the word ‘grand’ represents.
Grand high ceilings, grand chandeliers, grand details, grand space and yet, reaching the fireplace area at the far end, incredibly cosy, due to a wonderful ambience set by the warm cream tones of the walls and the dimmed, yellow light of the scattered table lamps among the comfortable armchairs.
No wonder the Great Hall is a popular spot to enjoy Afternoon Tea and if you’re lucky, with the live String Orchestra music as the background ‘noise’.
When I had finally managed to peel my eyes away from this architectural splendour, we arrived at our sea-view suite with its outdoor terrace. To my delight, the extremely generous space of the suite was filled with plenty of natural light thanks to the floor to ceiling windows in both the lounge area and the double bedroom.
Kicking off my shoes, I’ve spotted a bonus item, the Nespresso machine. So with a steaming hot double espresso cup in my hand, I went to catch the last of the afternoon sun rays of an unusually warm October day on the terrace. Taking in the view, I almost spilled my coffee at the excitement of spotting the heated outdoor pool. I made a mental note to take a quick dip after our scheduled back massages at the basement Grand Spa and Wellness, which we discreetly shuffled over to, in our swimwear and the hotel’s bathrobes, via the lift.
The next hour was just pure bliss, along with the help of Kerstin Florian luxury skincare brand, but the extra points go to the beginning of the massage itself. My masseuse gently covered my feet with a heated towel, something that doesn’t seem to be the standard anywhere apart from the occasional Thai massages. My constantly cold feet were conquered by warmth and I felt immediately relaxed.
My husband and I met an hour later in the Spa lobby, both slightly wobbly in a post-massage bliss and agreed on a quick dip in the outdoor pool before taking the full advantage of the indoor spa facilities, which include a sauna, indoor pool and whirlpool spa, amongst others.
As fast as we had heroically ascended the stairs to make the grand dip in the outdoor pool, we descended hurriedly back inside again. Somewhere between the sunny afternoon and the massage hour, heavy rain had taken over. Two brave hotel guests swam in the outdoor pool unfazed but we wanted to preserve the warm tingle, post-massage . Which is simply the code for ‘we chickened out’.
The next hour prior to the dinner at the Mirabelle restaurant at the Grand Hotel was spent alternating between a leisurely swim, steam room, jacuzzi and the dry sauna. The latter is the only one situated in the separate changing rooms. I had it all to myself and made my husband wait an extra five minutes in the spa lobby, feeling zero guilt at all.
Back in our suite we took advantage of the Nespresso coffee machine for a second time that day and attired suitably for the grand dinner. We followed the helpful signs guiding us to one of the two finest restaurants in Eastbourne, the award-winning Mirabelle.
The dinner time would have to be the most favourite part of our anniversary stay. Not just for the exquisite cuisine experience and the soothing tones of the live piano music but also thanks to the waiters Jamie, Paul and Marcin. Along with each new artfully prepared and presented dish our eyes and tasting buds were blessed to see and taste, came heaps of extra information from either of our attentive waiters, every time we expressed our curiosity about the details of each course.
I learnt a new culinary term: Dukkah. It was an element of our Amouse Bouche, the miniature food art on the plate, also consisting of duck confit, coriander and fennel. I also noticed that the tiny pansy flowers make for a cute garnish, as well as lavender.
As the evening progressed, I wondered just what Jamie didn’t know. His endless knowledge of the Grand Hotel’s history, its varied quirky facts and passion for the culinary skills of the Head Chef Gerald Roser, could have had us sat there for hours, devouring each meal with gusto and knocking back Cabernet Sauvignons like there’s no tomorrow.
Each course arrived on the plate like an art installation and I forbade my husband from touching it, compelled to take pictures from every angle first. They all tasted as magnificent as they looked, with special mention to the truly mouthwatering Marinated Scallops with Avocado, Dukkah and Lime Dressing from the Seasonal Classics menu. Another unusual appetiser, Hare Ragout with fresh Pappardelle Pasta too raised my tasting curiosity.
Over to desserts. Ordering not two but three, because we were clearly under spell by then: Coconut & Rum Panna Cotta with Pineapple Sorbet, Quince Tart Tatin with Ginger & Whisky Ice Cream and Woodruff Brulee, Strawberry Tart and Milk Shake. If this isn’t the flavour and texture party, nothing is.
I think the only reason we finally left Mirabelle restaurant is because Jamie convinced us to try ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘The Iron Lady’. The latter is Grand’s Hotel Signature Cocktail invented by their past bartender Harry and inspired by the one and only Margaret Thatcher, of course. Expect a smooth British gin-based drink with a zesty kick. Moulin Rouge is their Grand Premium Cocktail, i.e. a martini glass filled with a wonderful balance of Belvedere Vodka, passion fruit, strawberry syrup, lemon and Champagne.
Although we both kind of felt we couldn’t move after eating more than we should have, we made the best of changing the area of our cocktail sipping with each new cocktail presented to us. It was late in the evening by then and the intimate ambience of the ground floor areas were tempting not to settle in. Bloody Mary by the fireplace in the Great Hall, Whisky Sour in the Lounge bar to the tunes of the live band and the above mentioned Iron Lady on the terrace of our suite, to conclude our overindulgent day.
In a true lazy fashion the next morning, we made use of the room service breakfast because the sunny sea views from our lounge room that morning would be crazy not to take an advantage of, before our check out.
We happened to be staying over during the Grand Hotel’s Wedding Showcase weekend and managed to squeeze out a little extra of snooping as we navigated the hotel’s labyrinth of lavish interiors. The grandiose Compton Room, also known as The Ballroom can host a stylish wedding on the grandest of scales, with its theatrical stage and Juliette balconies.
The light and airy looking Princess Room is also makes for stunning wedding ceremony venue. The harpist lady showcasing her wonderful musical skills in the room at the time made me want to renew my vows, just for the sake of it. Whilst perusing amongst the finest wedding suppliers, including florists or wedding cake makers, all selected by the hotel, I was told they only host one wedding at the time. Considering the Grand Hotel vast spaces I am impressed by this unique commitment.
They day was simply too beautiful and sunny to leave behind and drive back to London. After coffee and tea on the lounge bar terrace, we took a slow Sunday stroll on the seaside promenade, directly across the street from the hotel.
Before we hopped in our own car, I could not resist the opportunity to get snapped in one of the parked vintage Bentleys out the front, showcased for the wedding weekend, and I even got to wear a driver’s hat. Pinching myself on the way back to London was the only way to snap out of my vintage glamour dream of a weekend.
- The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne is located on King Edwards Parade, Eastbourne in East Sussex. The 5 star hotel is part of an independent UK based hotel group, Elite Hotels. Visit http://www.grandeastbourne.com/ to find out more.