Drakes is arguably the stand out hotel of the sea front, although it is in a very different mould to many of the established big boys further towards the centre. This is a top end boutique hotel excelling in every area with fresh, funky, functional rooms, a professional staff and a superb restaurant. It's no wonder that all this, together with its ideal location and warm welcome, have made it the choice of some big celebrity names. No need to be famous though to stay at Drakes. Everyone is welcome, including children, and Easyvoyage would encourage all those thinking of a break in Brighton to consider this gem.
Drakes enjoys a prime position on Madeira Drive, right on the seafront in Kemptown. Slightly further away from the town centre than some other of Brighton's hotels, it is nonetheless within walking distance of Brighton Pier, the North Laines and South Lanes, the Pavillion and all the other attractions the town has to offer. Trains from the station, a 20 minute walk or ten minute taxi ride away, serve Gatwick airport (30 mins) and London (50 mins on fast train). If you are arriving by car then you may be able to take one of ten spaces right in front of the hotel at a cost of £12.50 per evening. Alternatively, there are several public car parks in the area, but these are further away and can be more costly.
Drakes was established back in 2005 and replaced the Amalfi, a very old-fashioned B&B. Never resting on its laurels, the hotel has put aside £3million for a rolling refurbishment to make sure that the highest of standards, which guests have come to expect, are met and exceeded. Owner Andy Shearer wanted to create a hotel where he could get "the best of everything" and we think he's pretty much got there (with the help of architect Michael Phillips and designer Tim Shepherd. The property was given a celebrity endorsement when Kylie Minogue chose to stay at Drakes for an extended period to recover after her illness, although many a well known personality has chosen the hotel for their Brighton base. The hotel can be hired in its entirety for weddings and other celebrations with catering being done in-house.
Watch out for the small rock water feature in the driveway of the hotel if you are arriving by car or foot as you are likely to miss Drakes at the first attempt, its two Georgian townhouses discreetly sandwiched between a row of just five. You'll be checked in with a smile at the cosy reception come bar and then have your bags whisked away to be sent up to your room in a special baggage elevator. No such luxury for the guests unfortunately who will have to climb up to four floors to get to their room which is easy to find and there are various antique objects to gaze at on the way up. If you have a laptop with you then simply ask at reception for a code with which you can access to the complimentary wifi throughout the hotel. Likewise, just to the left of reception are some shelves from which you are free to borrow books or DVDs on condition that you replace them as soon as you have finished with them so that others can make use of them too. The public areas of the hotel are all kept spotless and don't betray the age of the hotel either in terms of style or wear and tear.
The 20 rooms at Drakes are all decorated in a similar fashion with cream walls, European Elm paneling, recycled bamboo floors and hints of red throughout. The lines are clean, the design modern yet timeless and the amenities top draw. The two standard rooms, which are on the ground floor (one city view, one sea view), are of a generous size compared to many others of the same category in Brighton and feature queen vi-spring beds dressed in quality cotton linens upon which you'll find bathrobes and slippers, bedside tables with telephone and iPod docking station, two leather armchairs around a table with complimentary water and tea and coffee facilities, a desk with Brighton rock sweets, flatscreen with satellite television and air conditioning. The bathroom is actually a wetroom and boasts a monsoon shower head, hairdryer and The White Company toiletries. The bijou rooms, on the first, second and third floors are larger and have free standing baths on red podiums within the bedroom, as well as a separate wetroom; although they don't have a sea view. The two sea view attic rooms, one of which has an en suite bathroom, the other a free standing bath and separate wetroom, each has a balcony looking onto the seafront, although there is not quite enough space to place furniture out there. The ying yang rooms are interconnecting double and single rooms which are perfect for a family, while the king size doubles, which have city views, have staircases leading down to traditional bathrooms. The circular sea facing king room, of which there are three, has a moulded wedding cake-like ceiling, Nobilis armchairs and furniture and the free standing bathtub in the window. The feature room boasts a super king size bed, double vanity and a shower big enough for two.
The Restaurant at Drakes was given the highest rating of any eatery in Brighton by The Good Food Guide 2010 and it would hard to find arguments to counter their stance. Set in the basement of the hotel (perhaps the only down side as it would have been nice to stare at the sea during meals), the restaurant's décor is formal without being stuffy and has meticulously laid tables hugged by a banquette which stretches round most of the room. There is ample light, just, coming in from the windows whose sills are adorned with chunky glass vases and mini fish bowls filled with yellow flower heads. The exposed brick arches to one side of the room are a nice feature as are the huge prints by Matt Wilson of a Chilean vineyard. The meal starts with a little surprise - an amuse-bouche (which changes every day) served on a slate. We were presented with foie gras on mustard mash with a porto reduction accompanied by olive and wholemeal bread. Our steak tartare starter with quail egg yolk was as tasty as it was well-presented while the Poulet Noir was equally impressive. After a triumphant dessert which left us feeling neither under-fed nor too full, another surprise. This time a selection of petits four including a macaroon, a truffle and square fruit jelly. From start to finish, including the wine, you'll be hard pressed to have a better eating experience in Brighton, whether at a hotel or otherwise. And this, without the head chef, Alan MacKenzie, who was on holiday during our stay. We cannot praise the young talented South African Marilee enough for her culinary creations, however we can only imagine what would have awaited us had the Devonian been in the kitchen that day!
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