When I proudly announced I was off to a review a hotel in Southend on Sea, I must admit I received some funny looks. True, I’m rarely found outside a half mile radius of Green Park station and more likely to opt for skiing in Courchevel than seagulls in Camber Sands, but something rather interesting is happening in Southend.
Now, we may have got into a spot of bother recently when writing about gentrification, so I’ll tread carefully. But put it this way: the same thing is happening in Southend that happened in Brighton a generation ago, and it’s not all bad. Young Londoners, priced out of the Big Smoke (it’s £35 for a dozen oysters at Kaspar’s, did you hear?) are deciding that this slightly scruffy seaside town is a fine place to raise a family. They’ve brought with them a string of ‘arts-and-culture’ events, from music festivals to antiques fairs, and the whole thing’s suddenly got very hip. Helpfully, the trains from London have also got a fair bit better (quite probably because the route to the City is now run by an Italian company) so I hopped on one last Saturday to Roslin Beach Hotel.
Perched on the award winning Thorpe Bay, with the in-house restaurant holding two coveted AA Rosettes, I decided Roslin Beach was just the place to begin my dalliance with Southend. I’d dragged along my better half for the ride, primarily to console me if the lack of the District line all got a bit too much, and was armed with an open mind and a killer bikini. First impressions of Roslin Beach came just outside the station, in the form of an expression of awe on the face of our local cab driver when we declared our destination. This was clearly the place to be on a Saturday night, we thought smugly as we zipped down the coast.
Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed and sauntered up the stairs to our room with quiet admiration. As it turned out, this was the sort of hotel that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a People home-tour exclusive. It emulated the boho vibe you’d imagine Meghan Markle shooting for at her Malibu beach house, before she did a huge 180º and landed in the Queen’s back garden. It was breezy, beachy and rather chic. If you are (as you all should be) loyal fans of my reviews, then you’ll know that I recently whizzed up to the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane to review Galvin at Windows. I can say with complete certainty, and slight surprise, that the view from our balcony out over the bay was equally gorgeous. I got to work making myself comfortable – not a difficult feat when one’s room is pre-stocked with Elemis toiletries- and soon it was time for dinner.
It takes little more than a Google search to get excited about Roslin Beach’s restaurant. The cab ride to the hotel had shown us that were plenty of places in Southend to let down your hair (and, probably, your ancestors) with a few Jagerbombs, but this wasn’t one of them. Roslin Beach is the pinnacle of fine dining in town and it certainly makes an effort, specialising in fresh seafood. Being a tentacle aficionado, this had been the part of our weekend I was most looking forward to and we opted for squid, skate and scallops accordingly. The food was pleasant and well presented, though we were slightly disappointed when what was billed on the menu as tender baby squid turned out to be strips of its thoroughly beefed-up big brother. Despite this minor setback, Roslin Beach redeemed itself with the skate wing, resting seductively in a pool of golden butter, rich potted shrimps and samphire, slipping gently away from the bone. There had been a wedding on at the hotel that day, and the newlyweds were taking photos on the beach opposite. It was a sweet setting for dinner, and definitely good-first-date material. We skipped off to bed quite happily afterwards.
Settling down for the night with the sun setting outside, the design and decor of our room was a welcome reminder of where we were. Sea-foam greens and beachy blues are found in the throw pillows on the bed and the accents on the walls. The pink carpets could be gaudy, but somehow work – together, the whole aesthetic is enjoyably soothing. Falling asleep listening to the sounds of the sea, I could well have been in the Mediterranean rather than the Essex coast (if it wasn’t for the resolutely muddy colour of the beach). Roslin Beach had reminded me how much I enjoy hotels.
Morning came, bringing with it a room service breakfast consisting of two full English platters, a patisserie selection, toast and fruit salad (they know how to end things on good terms). I decided that this city girl has been won over. I went in a tourist, and came out ready to be a (semi) regular. I was vaguely aware that it might be down to one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in some time, or the breakfast trays that rivalled a small country’s surface area, or perhaps I’d just woken up on the right side of the bed, but something had definitely warmed my cold London heart to this beachy retreat. Admittedly, there are prettier seaside towns, grander promenades, bluer seas, but if you can’t enjoy a night here, there’s something wrong with you. Congratulations, Roslin Beach Hotel – you’ve done a fine job.