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Port Hotel review: an artistic retreat with impeccably designed rooms overlooking Eastbourne’s seafront

• Rating: 7/10
Rooms at Port Hotel start from $98 (£80) a night
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As a lover of balmy and tropical travel destinations, British seaside towns in winter juxtapose deeply with my truest passion, but there is just something about these faded beachside enclaves that fill me with comfort. Walking along a promenade in the biting wind can be a bleak experience, but the sound of waves crashing onto smooth pebbles evokes a feeling of nostalgia that’s only made more intense by the unmistakable sight of a ragged pier and its neon-lit arcades.

the pier at eastbourne dappled in afternoon sunlight
Eastbourne's Pier

Known for its Grade II listed Victorian pier, Eastbourne had been creeping into my consciousness for a while and now the humble town is having something of a renaissance. With a pebbled beachfront similar to that of Lyme Regis and coastal walks that span entire cliff tops it’s easy to see why. And while harks of ‘up-and-coming Eastbourne’ are bandied about, Bill Bryson has been extolling the delights of the place for decades noting “the charm of Eastbourne is that it’s so comfortably old-fashioned.” At Port Hotel, however, the only old-fashioned elements are the wonderful retro-style record players in the carefully designed bedrooms…

What’s the vibe at Port Hotel?

Every aspect of the hotel is extremely pleasing to the eye and will delight lovers of good design immediately. Its dark facade stands out amongst the pastel-colored buildings of Royal Parade, while its interiors are a blend of minimalist Scandi style and modern detailing. The hotel opens out from an airy reception, bar and lounge area where guests can have meals, drinks and cocktails, but there’s also a snug seating area with a projector—ideal for watching movies on rainy days. 

wooden slatted bedhead and bedside table details at port hotel in eastbourne
My bedroom at Port Hotel

Dreamed to life by interior architect Imraan Ismail, all communal spaces and bedrooms have been carefully constructed with ergonomics and style in mind. During my stay, a few other guests were milling around, but the overall vibe was serene and pretty relaxed, it was a Sunday night however, and I can imagine, come high season the mood changes once again.

How are the rooms at Port Hotel?

I stayed in room number five, also known as the studio apartment—the largest bedroom in the hotel with a huge super-king-sized bed. The first thing I noticed when I entered were the epic floor-to-ceiling windows giving the perfect views out over the English Channel, with honey-beige coloured drapes creating subtle shadows. I was impressed with the size of the space as it comfortably fits not only the large bed but a sofa, desk area, bedside tables and circular round table, ideal for writing while catching a glimpse of the lulling waves. 

studio apartment at port hotel in eastbourne with views out across the beach
My room—the studio apartment

The theme of the room mirrored the interiors of the rest of the hotel, with a color palette of stone, taupe and terracotta and interesting wooden details like the slatted headboard. In some ways, the concise attention to detail reminded me slightly of Dorothée Meilichzon’s style and the interiors she created for both the Henrietta Hotel and one of my favorite places in the world, Menorca Experimental. Neat touches in the room included binoculars for sea-gazing, a record player with some very awesome records, beautiful sculptural seashells and other intriguing ornaments as well as classic books with a seaside theme, think Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach and Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Exposed low-hung light bulbs, circular marble detailing and cork-effect flooring only added to the pleasurable harmony of the place. The bathroom was just as impressive, containing not only a large shower cubicle but a central freestanding bathtub too. Double concrete sinks topped with circular mirrors finished off the space to perfection and the terrazzo-flecked tiles give it a sophisticated edge. 

bathroom details at port hotel including circular mirrors and beautiful concrete sinks
Pleasing details and concrete sinks

Bath products from Haeckels (bladderwrack and fennel) and Faith in Nature both smelt divine. As well as the studio apartment, Port Hotel also offers signature sea view rooms, as well as smaller town and cabin rooms—some are even dog friendly.

What is there to eat and drink?

Rooms are kitted out with craft teas and coffee, as well as still and sparkling water which are all complementary. The breakfast menu features vegetarian and vegan options, porridge and granola as well as avocado toast and waffles. I opted for Sussex smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and avruga caviar and a flat white which was strong and creamy. For my stay, the restaurant was closed (Sunday evening) but instead, a smaller snack-style menu was provided and I happily enjoyed a local cheese board, red wine and some very tasty olives. On days when the kitchen isn’t closed, the hotel offers two courses for $21 (£17.50) or three courses for $24 (£20) and includes dishes like red lentil tofu with peanut sauce, croquettes with blue cheese dip and poached pear cheesecake.

Any highlights?

Aesthetically the whole hotel is a highlight, and anyone who appreciates really sound interior design will absolutely love a stay at Port. The studio apartment really is a true delight and I’d recommend splashing out for an extra indulgent weekend in Eastbourne. 

Outside view of Eastbourne's Towner gallery and its stunning rainbow coloured facade
Eastbourne's Towner Gallery

The proximity to the beach also means you can hear the waves at night which only adds to the charm. I loved the details in my room, especially the record player and enjoyed listening to old tunes while soaking in the tub. In terms of nearby activities, Towner Gallery (host of 2023’s Turner Prize) is an absolute must-visit with brilliant exhibits in a beautiful space. Nearby retro cafe Favo’loso—also loved by Bill Bryson—is also worth a stop for a prawn cocktail sandwich and cappuccino.

Anything they could improve on?

The mattress was slightly uncomfortable, and there was a bit of vehicle noise from the road below.

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