YOU expect certain things when you check into a classy hotel. But a pinball machine in your room probably isn’t one of them.
Egyptian cotton sheets — yep. Fancy mineral water — check. An indecipherable wine list — definitely. A vintage Gottlieb pinball machine from 1978? Nah.
The room featured the machine
But, with a sense of ease, Brighton’s Hotel du Vin takes those traditional, upmarket staples and sets guests at ease with quirks — like the pinball machine. Or the telescopes at the windows of some of the rooms.
This Hotel du Vin is a prime example that the best hotels don’t have to be pretentious, snotty or daunting.
It serves up some of the finest food and wines in a town with a booming tourism industry, chock full of well-heeled London commuter types and weekend thrill-seekers.
The hotel is tucked away down a side street, just off the seafront, near the town’s famous pier, with the landmark Brighton Pavilion a short stroll away.
Relax in the lap of luxury
It’s set within a higgledy-piggledy block of old buildings on the edge of the Lanes area — a bustling, trendy neighbourhood of boutiques, cobbled lanes, pubs and restaurants.
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We were lucky enough to stay in the hotel’s Cristal loft suite, which the manager later told us is often booked by celebrities or honeymooners — or indeed normal punters looking to treat themselves.
It comes with a balcony with views to the sea and over a jumble of rooftops and chimney pots.
Take in the sights of Brighton
There are two roll-top baths at the foot of the 8ft-wide bed, an L-shaped leather sofa, armchairs, a bathroom, desk, and a twin-shower room as big as a tenement close.
The February weather didn’t exactly do justice to the balcony.
But the wide-ranging bistro menu was good for all seasons, with everything from salads to Chateaubriand.
As the name suggests, Hotel du Vin specialises in wine and French food — snails included. While they may get more than their fair share of wine-buff customers, it’s by no means necessary to have even the slightest knowledge beyond maybe a preference for red or white.
DOUBLE rooms at Hotel du Vin Brighton cost from £99 a night during the low season and £125 a night during the high season.
See hotelduvin.com to book or for more information.
Any hotel that encourages you to play pinball for free, I thought, surely won’t judge you for getting your tongue in a twist over a complicated wine list.
And it didn’t. The sommelier who looked after us clearly spotted my puzzled expression as I stared at the wine list — more a book, actually.
He asked if I’d like some help, and fired two questions: “How’s your day been? And how do you like your coffee?”
I went for “exhausting” and “strong”. Now, I’m a cynical sort, and I’ve no idea if my answers had any bearing on the cabernet sauvignon he rooted out of a load of bottles on a giant dresser. But it was great. As was the food.
I had king scallops served with squid-ink risotto, an incredible fillet steak with pepper sauce, and a bowl of wilted spinach on the side, in some sort of bid to convince myself I was actually being healthy. I then shattered that illusion by scoffing a massive creme brulee.
My wife is vegan (if that sounded despairing, it wasn’t meant to — honest). But like many places nowadays, even the meaty Hotel du Vin is catering for plant-based diets.
From a small but well-thought-out vegan menu, she had fritto misto vegetables, an aubergine and chickpea curry, and an avocado and chocolate mousse.
It all tasted great. You see, there is joy in being married to a vegan — they can’t eat your food but you can eat theirs.
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The bistro was buzzing for a Sunday night — with not just guests, but locals too. A good sign.
It’s the kind of hotel where you can splash out and not have to worry about regretting it.
And if you have bust the budget by booking the Cristal suite? Well, at least the pinball machine is free.
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