Hotel review: The Sands, Margate
PUBLISHED: 11:26 13 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:26 13 October 2013
This fabulous new boutique hotel is a welcome addition to Margate's seafront and for views, service, style and quality of food is a real winner
As we sipped tea on our private balcony overlooking the ever-fascinating Margate seafront, there was honestly nowhere else I would rather have been.
It helped that the sun was shining and that as part of our mini East Kent staycation, My Reasonably Senior Mother and I were staying at the brand-new Sands Hotel, just six weeks old at the time of our visit. And what an addition it is.
Right opposite the new steps leading down to those golden, award-winning, blue-flag beaches, this boutique hotel with 20 en-suite bedrooms brings a style and grace to the town that sits very well with the regeneration kickstarted by the Turner Contemporary and vibrant Old Town.
Entrance is from the High Street rather than Marine Drive (which makes the hotel feel a bit back to front, but it works with parking), straight into a spacious, airy reception decorated in white and aqua.
Here restaurant and bar manager (and everything else in between) Lisa Arnold greeted us warmly and we had a good look around. The attractive, open-plan area includes the bar and the west-facing Bay Restaurant, with seating on the terrace for lunch clearly going to be very popular.
Owner Nick Covington joined us and showed us up to our lovely sea-view room, modern and elegantly minimalist in design – shimmering wallpaper, natural materials, hand-made furnishings – but with nods to its Victorian heritage in the cornicing and large, ornate mirror opposite the gleaming bathroom (which has one of the best walk-in showers I’ve ever got wet in).
There’s great attention to detail, from the padded cream headboards and discreet diamanté around light switches and the mini-bar and safe tucked behind white-painted cupboard doors to the fluffy white bathrobes and complimentary toiletries.
Our afternoon was spent exploring Margate, after an essential visit to the Visitor Information Centre – worth it not just for the excellent advice but also for the fab views, as it’s situated at Droit House, right on The Pier (01843 598750).
You can read some of our suggestions (right), but I’d thoroughly recommend first stopping in at the Sands’ very own ice cream parlour, Melt, right next door, where I fell in love with the salted caramel.
Appetites sharpened by our walk, we were later happy to accept Nick’s invitation to meet him for drinks on the rooftop terrace (note that there are lifts to all floors but it’s steps up to the final bit for the roof terrace, which is just for residents’ use).
The sun still dazzling and a glass of Prosecco in hand, we heard how Nick, a physicist who previously worked in the City, snapped up the Victorian building at auction in 2011. Most recently a sweet shop, it had been empty for eight years by then and was in a sorry state.
Nick had initially planned to turn the building into luxury flats. However, upon learning that it had originally been a hotel and restaurant and discovering the shattered remains of the original stained-glass windows, he changed course – and the result is what you see today (plus a lot of hard work, faith and vision).
Dinner beckoned and as we were in the safe hands of former Wallett’s Court chef Ryan Tasker, we had high expectations – provided we could concentrate on our food, that is, as a proper Turner sunset was busily transforming the view.
Equally dramatic modern seascape artwork on the white walls and restored glasswork are the only splashes of colour, otherwise it’s all calming and tranquil, with a huge, swirly rug on wooden floorboards, comfortable dining chairs in aqua and stone and large cream floor vases filled with yellow flower and twig arrangements.
From six starters I selected a warm salad of Kentish asparagus with Parma ham and poached quail eggs (£7.50), the crispiness of the ham offsetting the milder flavours of egg and baby asparagus, the whole thing topped by an impeccable Hollandaise.
MRSM’s parcels of crab cannelloni in shellfish bisque came with samphire, which she found a tad salty, but she loved the freshness of the lemon-tinged crab (£7).
To follow, my line-caught sea bass looked (and tasted) gorgeous on its vibrant bed of wilted spinach and roasted red peppers, and I loved the addition of parsley pesto, a first for me (£18.25).
Pinkly tender duck breast with subtle baked fennel, very tasty, crisp shredded greens and delicious mash (£16.50) also went down a storm and both mains were beautifully accompanied by a nicely crisp Chilean Peregrino Sauvignon Blanc.
Other mains (there’s a choice of seven) included aged rib-eye of Sussex beef, roast lamb and an open lasagne of asparagus, plum tomato, spinach and red onions.
Do leave room for pudding – my dark chocolate mousse with black cherry sorbet was one of the most decadently indulgent I’ve ever demolished (£6.50), whole MRSM’s imaginative elderflower brûlée with strawberry compote and vanilla shortbread was altogether more refined and restrained. Sort of sums us up really.
Good local cheeses (Ashmore, Canterbury Cobble, Kent Bluebell) reflect chef’s support of local suppliers and service throughout was excellent: friendly but also professional and dedicated.
In the morning, thoroughly refreshed but not terrifically hungry, we opted for fruit, lemon yoghurt, wholemeal toast, good coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Naturally you can have everything from Eggs Benedict to grilled kippers or porridge.
One final note: hands-on owner Nick carried out the breakfast service, we’d spotted him last night behind the bar and later on he was doing a stint on reception. It’s a real family place and comes with my unreserved support and admiration. n