‘More Le Touquet than Thanet’: review of No 42 hotel, Margate, Kent | Margate holidays

When I first started visiting Margate, about 20 years ago, there were only two real options when it came to choosing a hotel: the Walpole Bay, an eccentric Edwardian time capsule in Cliftonville, with floral carpets, an original 1927 trellis gated lift and a collection of unsettling “antiques” in the corridors (dolls’ heads, vintage typewriters, prams); or the Premier Inn, which had none of those things but was handy for the station.

The first inkling that the long-hyped regeneration of Margate was more than just wishful thinking was when the Reading Rooms opened on Hawley Square in 2009 – two years before the arrival of the Turner Contemporary put the neglected seaside town back on the map. The motto of this boutique B&B with just three decadently beautiful bedrooms might as well have been “If you build it [they] will come.” The gamble paid off. They did come. And the trailblazing B&B has since been joined by a flurry of new guesthouses and hotels, from the stylish Fort Road hotel to the arty Margate House in Cliftonville.

No.42 by GuestHouse, Margate. Photograph: PR

The latest addition to this eclectic scene is No 42, the first seaside outpost of boutique chain GuestHouse Hotels, which opened in an elegant Victorian townhouse on the seafront last summer. I stayed there once in its previous incarnation as the Sands hotel, and it is barely recognisable. Gone are the pearlescent wallpaper, padded doors and huge chandeliers. They have been replaced with a light-filled, open-plan lounge, bar and dining area in soft, sandy colours and natural fabrics, with subtle nods to Margate’s seaside heritage, from the oyster-shell lamp on the front desk to the miniature replica of the Dreamland ferris wheel on the wall. What hasn’t changed though, is the view.

The artist JMW Turner once declared the skies over this corner of east Kent “the loveliest in all Europe”, and No 42 gives guests a ringside seat, especially if you’re lucky enough to bag a sea-facing room. Our room on the second floor has exposed brick floors, sisal mats, walls the colour of vanilla ice-cream (the posh sort) and a small balcony giving a gull’s-eye view over Margate’s Main Sands.

On the walls are colourful prints from local artist Margo in Margate and the bed base is upholstered in Fermoie’s Shell Grotto fabric – a hat tip to the town’s most enigmatic attraction, a 10-minute walk away. There’s a Crosley record player with a selection of vinyl and, on the landing, a communal pantry where guests can help themselves to tea, coffee, cake and jelly babies, complete with stripy paper bags. Other thoughtful touches include bedroom slippers, robes and beach towels.

The Pearly Cow restaurant opens onto a terrace with sea views. Photograph: Toby Mitchell

As the sun starts to dip into the sea, we head up to the rooftop terrace where a mix of guests and locals are sipping on sundowners and soaking up the panoramic views. Then it’s back down for dinner in the Pearly Cow, the elegant dining room which opens on to a sea view terrace. With its bistro curtains, banquettes, open kitchen and art deco-style lighting, it all feels more Le Touquet than Thanet, as does the menu, which includes seafood platters and salt-aged steaks.

skip past newsletter promotion

We opt for starters of whipped ricotta with fermented blood orange, and smoked cod roe, served with grilled sourdough, followed by mains of whole lemon sole with mussels and samphire, and a hake fillet with chicory and beetroot. The food is all spot on, though it faces stiff competition from the dazzling sunset, worthy of a Turner painting, artfully framed by the huge stained glass windows. On the night we visited, the hotel was launching its Pearly Cow Oyster Bar on the ground floor, serving Whitstable oysters, champagne and tacos, all accompanied by those same views of sea and sky.

GuestHouse Hotels will open another seaside hotel – in a Regency-era building in Brighton – in the autumn. It will feature decor inspired by the resort’s Palace Pier, a spa and a terrace serving wood-fired pizzas. If they manage to replicate the same breezy, welcoming ambience that No 42 has pulled off, this group could be on to another winning formula.
Doubles from £136 room-only (breakfast £20pp), guesthousehotels.co.uk

Check Also

Disney’s Splash Mountain Set to Reopen With Princess Tiana Theme

In the summer of 2020, as a reckoning on racial justice swept the country, Disney …