Stay at the seafront Hythe Imperial
PUBLISHED: 15:53 21 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:24 24 May 2016
Built by the South Eastern Railway and opened in 1880 as the Seabrook Hotel, after many facelifts, refurbishments and additions, the Hythe Imperial is entering a new age of magnificence
Change is afoot at the Hythe Imperial, with exciting ongoing refurbishment of this elegant seafront hotel (including a move away from the Mercure brand to Classic British Hotels).
I was there to see the improvements for myself and couldn’t have had a better start, as my room was on the newly created third-floor mezzanine area above the Imperial Ballroom, which includes the magnificent Belcourt Suite, named after the late Cllr Keren Belcourt who died suddenly in 2014.
“Cllr Belcourt was a great supporter of what we have been trying to achieve here,” explains Darrell Healey, Chairman of GSE Group, owner of the hotel.“Naming the largest and best suite at the hotel after her is our way of saying thank you to her and her family for her support, and ensuring her name lives on in the town.”
My own Imperial Suite (there are two suites, an executive room and five standard rooms, as well as the Belcourt) certainly impressed, with its contemporary lounge, immaculate white bathroom – boasting White Company Noir toiletries – and welcoming bedroom dominated by a vast, beautifully dressed bed with fabrics that mirror tones of sand and sea.
Work started on the second floor in January, which has seen 20 rooms reduced to 18 standard and family rooms and junior suites. The first six opened before Easter, six more at the end of April and the final six followed at the end of May.
But that’s not the end of 2016’s ‘big reveals.’ An Indian spice café and wine bar (The Holy Pundit) has just opened in the basement spa area and the Imperial is thrilled to be working with Moet & Chandon, which is sponsoring a brand-new Champagne Bar for over-18s, opening on 4 July.
Work on refurbishing the third floor will start in January 2017 and the fourth floor in January 2018, with all work scheduled to be complete by May 2018 and hopefully Four Star Deluxe standard status achieved on the journey.
Meanwhile, it’s business very much as usual, with the added bonus of something new more or less every time you visit. There’s a genuine sense of excitement among the team (headed up by the unstoppable GM Denise Vas), as they watch this already glorious hotel with its unrivalled seafront position unfold into something really special.
You’ll notice the smart new navy and red staff uniforms immediately you enter, worn with particular aplomb by the top-hatted concierge, and the sheer sense of space: there’s been no temptation to cram more in by altering the wonderfully wide, gracious corridors.
Coast Restaurant is on a similarly grand scale, although sensibly the room is divided into two when not required for a large function.
Decorated in cool sea blue and cream and lit by modern chandeliers, there’s a mix of square and round tables (well spaced for conversations) and on a mid-week evening there was a nice buzz from a mix of couples and larger groups.
The menu is divided between six starters and nine mains that embrace the categories The Sea, The Land and The Garden, with six puddings to finish. Despite there being a slight issue with bread (there was only tomato) and service by the multi-national staff a tad on the slow side (half an hour between ordering and getting my starter), it was a very pleasant, prettily presented meal by new chef John Bingley.
I began with a small but perfectly formed beetroot carpaccio, wafer-thin slices of vegetable contrasting well with the creamy Rosary Ash goats cheese, organic honey roast pine nut, the dish complemented by a crisp Pinot Grigio.
To follow was my favourite sea bass (fish is landed daily from the beach by Griggs of Hythe), rather small fillets but full of flavour and paired well with samphire, caramelised baby carrot and salsa verdi. Sergio, my beaming Sardinian waiter, suggested a couple of side dishes and I was very glad he did – the piping hot cauliflower cheese and excellent seasalt and Rosemary new potatoes were a real highlight.
Other choices ranged from soup and scallops among starters to mains that included corn-fed poussin and wild mushroom ravioli with truffle cream for vegetarian diners.
My dessert was bigger than all my other courses combined, a tower of Imperial white chocolate and Amaretto posset that was extremely sweet but very more-ish and I seemed to clear my plate with the greatest ease.
So to bed – and one of the best night’s sleep away from home ever: no wonder, next morning over coffee with the GM I learn that I had enjoyed a £1K bed with layers of memory foam that proved so inviting I nearly missed breakfast …
Do go, and return often to see all the changes unfold; the Imperial is already splendid and on the brink of true greatness.
Meet the GM
Tell us a bit about you
I live in Ashford, where I moved when I took on the role of General Manager of the Hythe Imperial. I grew up in Hertfordshire and, being young and very ambitious, I was keen to start working as soon as possible.
While still at school I got a Saturday job at the local Mount Charlotte Thistle Hotel as a waitress and loved it, truly finding my passion for banqueting. This developed into team leader role, which encouraged me to go to catering school where I gained GMVQ Advanced Merit.
I then did a tour with the Cunard QE2 during the summer returning to commence a trainee management programme with Four Pillars Hotels.
Loving food and beverage management, I continued to work for a number of international brands such as Ramada Jarvis, Hanover International, Paramount Hotels and Mercure. And having a thirst for travel, too, I spent a couple of years as a food and beverage director in Pakistan and Abu Dhabi, returning to the UK to take on my first hotel manager role.
How long have you been GM?
My time at the Hythe Imperial started in May 2014, what a two years it has been! The hotel was not producing to its full quality and potential and I do love a challenge. The owner of the hotel was in phase one of the refurbishment programme with the public areas and the final stages of the Imperial Ballroom. With a three-phase programme to manage, together with the move away from a well-known brand to being an independent hotel, the challenges keep coming.
What are the hotel’s special qualities?
Its team members, the seafront location, our spa and golf facilities, the development of our food offer, the exciting new Champagne Bar and general regeneration of the hotel.
Top recommendations to visitors?
Staying at the Hythe Imperial (of course) and enjoying the wonderful food and taking in the amazing beach location.
Discover a great way to explore via the Kent Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, the best miniature railway with its one-third full-size steam and diesel locomotives that roll and rumble along the 13.5 mile track from Hythe to Dungeness.
What do you love most working in Hythe?
When I was approached for the position of General Manger I was drawn to a hotel that had been such an iconic property within Hythe, this provided me with the opportunity to be in a location I enjoy as well as developing a hotel that deserved to be bought back to its former glory.
What: Luxury seafront hotel with own spa and golf facilities
Where: Hythe Imperial, Princes Parade, Hythe CT21 6AE
How much: Dinner: beetroot carpaccio £7, sea bass fillet £19, desserts £6.50