I’m rather partial to Eastbourne. An easy, laid-back vibe, sea views and miles of promenade all appeal, as do the town’s galleries, theatres, coastal walks and its clutch of cool cafes and bars. But nowadays there’s a noteworthy newcomer anchored just beyond the beach. Say hello to Port Hotel, Eastbourne, your next contemporary coastal escape…
Our stay at Port was complimentary for the purpose of this review. However, all views, opinions and love of a boutique hotel are entirely my own.
Port Hotel, Eastbourne
This design-led bolthole is dramatically dark on the outside but soothingly mellow inside. The brooding black exterior, the storm before the calm. Once inside, the drama is cast aside as you’re enveloped into a cocoon of subtle hues, natural materials and understated ambience.
Port’s subtle palette reflects its location. Soft sand, chalks and earthy tones mirror the pebbles on the beach. Muted greens echo the wind-blown grass of the south downs and hints of blush pink replicate the last flush of colour as the sun dips into the sea.
Warm woods, cork floors and natural fibres contrast with clean lines and a Scandi aesthetic. Created by interior designer Imraan Ismail, Port is calm, understated and quietly welcoming.
The ground floor space comprises the hotel’s restaurant, bar and small lounge area. It’s also where you’ll check in. There’s also a cool outdoor terrace a mere pebble’s pitch from the beach. But first the rooms…
The Bedrooms at Port
Port’s 19 rooms come in all shapes and sizes, befitting of a Victorian townhouse. Some are family rooms, there are cosy single cabin rooms and dog-friendly rooms too. Six rooms are sea-facing, some face the town’s rooftops with the South Downs beyond. Others are below deck on the lower ground floor.
Room Number Five
Our room for the night, the studio apartment, or room five, is Port’s biggest room with far-reaching views over the sea and to Eastbourne Pier.
This huge light-filled room with bay window overlooking the beach is a space filled with design features. From the Hay Sowden kettle to minimal ceramics and gorgeous artisan-made oak headboard. There’s not a speck of seaside chintz in sight and we loved the Crosley record player and retro vinyl.
The super-king sized bed with Hypnos mattress and high thread-count sheets gave us a perfect night’s sleep. We could have stayed there longer but the Hoogly teas and craft house bio-degradable coffee pods called us out of bed in the morning.
At check-in you’ll be asked which type of milk you prefer (soy, oat, cow’s etc.) which will then be sent to your room to be stored in the mini-fridge along with your complimentary water.
All rooms have large 40” flat-screen TVs, Nespresso coffee machines, kettles, safes, hairdryers and multiple USB charging ports.
A big squashy sofa-bed, desk area plus a small table and chairs in the bay window mean there are plenty of different spaces to spread out, work, relax or snuggle up in front of the TV.
Room 5 has a beautiful en-suite bathroom, as stylish as it is spacious, with double basins, a powerful walk-in shower, terrazzo tiles and black fittings. But the main feature is the deep free-standing bath. It did take a while to fill but once I was immersed it was divine.
The black towel rail is loaded with soft fluffy towels and there are waffle bathrobes to slip into. You’ll find Faith in Nature sustainable and cruelty-free toiletries and recycled toilet paper – Port is big on sustainability too.
The Ground Floor at Port
The restaurant, bar and lounge area make up the welcoming open-plan ground floor space at Port. The same coastal colour palette purveys with a changing display of art. Currently, wall art is by Jonathan Murphy and beautiful ceramics by Karen Peters.
The lounge area is a relaxed corner with comfy Ferm Living ‘Rico’ chairs which soften the clean Scandi décor and black marble fireplace. An area I could happily ensconce myself in and settle down with the papers.
Lunar Bar is a good spot to perch on a designer bar stool and peruse the well-stocked shelves opposite
Choose from a range of cocktails, Sussex wines, including sparkling from Rathfinny Vineyard, local craft beers or some stronger Sussex offerings. I recommend a gin and tonic made with local Seven Sisters Gin and Folkington Tonic, although there’s a pleasing range of Sussex gins to choose from.
The Restaurant at Port
Head Chef, Alex Burtenshaw and his team have created a menu of inventive dishes and small plates which change with the seasons. Featuring freshly sourced produce from meat and fish to vegetables and local cheeses, Port showcases the best of, Eastbourne, Sussex and local artisan producers. Where possible the provenance is within a 30-mile radius of the hotel.
Vegan and gluten free choices make up a good portion of the menu and the wine list sports a good range of English wines and spirits including organic wine and craft beers.
The staff were all friendly and helpful, especially when it came to help with the menus and wine list.
To start we shared a divine charcuterie board with a selection of locally cured meats from Beal’s farm, and Brighton-based Rebel, served with olives and pickles and spiced lentil dip with chia seed crispbreads.
For my main course I dived into crisp buttermilk fried catch of the day with slaw and jalapeno tartare. I ordered a side of crispy new potato bravas dressed with Sriracha and Gochugaru which was plenty for one, in fact enough for two. All excellent although we’d have liked to see a cooked meat dish on the main course menu.
My companion tucked into homemade pasta, broccoli and wild garlic Ripassati, chilli and almond. To accompany we chose the house red which we’d sampled as our welcome drink on arrival. A very acceptable Domaine De Pellehaut Rouge.
We declined the dessert menu in favour of a Sussex cheeseboard, although the banana bread and butter pudding with rum and raisin ice cream sounded excellent.
The cheeseboard came with either three or five local cheeses, a variety of crispbreads, grapes and pickles.
We were rather full at this point so we went for the smaller board. This was served with Brighton Blue and St Giles, both semi-soft cheeses from High Weald Dairy, and Lord London.
Dining can be enjoyed inside the restaurant or out on the little sun-trap of a terrace with far-reaching sea views.
From full English to plant based and everything in between, breakfast aka brunch, has you covered and goes on until 2:30pm.
Full English for him with exclamations of delight at the quality of the bacon. He still mentions it. For me avocado chunks bound with tomato, coriander and spring onion on granary topped with a perfectly poached egg.
There are cereals, grains, sweets and smoothies to start followed by more substantial delights. The Duck Royale, a shredded confit duck leg and fried duck egg topped with sriracha on a homemade waffle sounded wonderful.
Hoogly tea or coffee from local roaster Craft Coffee House is served with your choice of milk.
We loved Port’s calm, soothing air, contemporary design and serious attention to detail. Port’s restaurant is excellent with an imaginative menu and locally sourced produce both in terms of food and drink. The staff were all friendly and attentive but not overly so and the hotel’s sustainability ethic is more than agreeable.
I’m working on an excuse to make my next coastal escape to Port Hotel. In fact, I think I’ll forgo the excuse and just book.
What to do nearby
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Eastbourne and nearby. Port Hotel, Eastbourne has some fabulous hikes and coastal walks right from the doorstep including the iconic Seven Sisters Cliff walk. Kayak at Cuckmere Haven or walk under the trees at Friston Forest.
In the town you’ll find the award-winning Towner Gallery with various exhibitions including a permanent exhibition of one of the largest public collections of work by Sussex war time artist Eric Ravilious. Eastbourne is also home to three theatres, a Victorian pier and a Napoleonic Fortress.
Nearby villages worth a visit are Alfriston for general quaintness, an excellent bookshop and Rathfinny Vineyard for wine tours and tastings. Charleston, home of Virginia Wolf, is also within striking distance as are Glynebourne and Lewes. If castles are your thing then a visit to Herstmonceux Castle is recommended.
Getting to Port Hotel, Eastbourne
By Train: From London Victoria Southern Railway goes direct to Eastbourne in around 1.5 hours.
From the station take a taxi or it’s around 20-minutes on foot.
By Car: Guests receive one visitor permit per stay for on-road parking although spaces could be scarce in summer.
Need to know
Rooms: Doubles from £140-£230 per night with a minimum stay of two nights on weekends. Breakfast is £16 per person. Wi-Fi is included.
There’s no lift in the hotel and it has steps up to the front door with no ramps. Rooms aren’t accessible for wheelchairs.
Port Hotel, Eastbourne
11-12 Royal Parade