This month, with Brighton’s The Old Ship Hotel launching a new incentive card for local businesses, Nick Mosley drops in to sample the dining and drinking options.
Whilst perhaps not as architecturally iconic as its neighbouring ‘grand old lady’ hotels, behind the facade is one of Brighton’s most fascinating heritage properties packed with quirky nooks and crannies.
It’s actually the oldest hotel in the city with parts of the original structure built way back in 1559 as a private house before opening as a hotel in 1665. Over the centuries, the property has seen it’s fair share of luminary guests including King Charles II prior to his escape by boat to France and – of course – the Prince Regent who hosted numerous balls in the splendid Georgian-style Assembly Rooms suite that is still at the heart of the hotel today. During its weird and wonderful history the hotel has hosted the local magistrates court and, at one point, the town’s post office.
A legacy of the long history of the hotel is the warren of atmospheric cellars hidden in the bowels of the property that have been home to everything from fine wine to horses and carriages. Today, the cellars are regularly open for special events and dinners, in fact Brighton’s Mixology Group will be hosting a new monthly series of consumer cocktail masterclasses there from the end of May. And local spirit-hunter, Rob Marks of Brighton Ghost Walk also presents a regular spooky supper for the brave-hearted.
Having gone through numerous owners, today the property is managed by Cairn Group and – a little birdie tells me – it is seeing considerable investment in the accommodation and public areas over the coming year. So it’s most definitely an exciting time for the team who work there.
The hotel has two main dining and drinking spaces: the informal Mess Deck Bar with it’s impressive, bustling and usually sun-drenched sea-facing terrace and the stylish Wardroom restaurant at the rear.
The Mess Deck offers a wide choice of quick and easy dishes from lunch until late into the evening which are perfect for an informal meal. Hearty doorstep sandwiches on thick bloomer bread, burgers and stone baked pizzas sit alongside finger foods including dirty nachos and chicken wings. Dishes are all very reasonably priced in the region of between £9 to £16, and I can honestly say that the fish finger sandwich I amicably divided with a colleague is more than enough for one person. There’s nothing here to change your world but the food is all well-prepared and plated, and it’s definitely served in a more relaxing environment than most lunch options on the seafront.
Service in the evening moves to the stylish candlelit Wardroom restaurant with an interior giving a nod to all things nautical. Many of the Mess Deck menu options are available but the focus is somewhat finer with dishes including Confit Duck Leg, Seared Fillet of Salmon, Butternut Squash Wellington and selection of grills such as sirloin steak and a rather delicious Chorizo and King Prawn Skewers plate which I can safely say didn’t hang around for long.
The kitchens of The Old Ship have been overseen by chef Phil Mesquitta who clearly knows what his guests are looking for. He’s a keen eye on modern British cuisine that’s tasty and well-presented yet accessible for everyone’s palette and pocket.
The wine-list is short but well-formed – and, again, very well-priced. There’s a very decent spirit list that includes more liqueurs than most local bars. It’s also great to see the city’s very own Brighton Gin featuring.
One stand-out for me about The Old Ship is the front-of-house team. They are really friendly and nothing is too much effort for them which quickly puts guests at ease without the stuffy pretence that sometimes accompanies hotel restaurants. I think this is clearly a reflection of the professional but relaxed style of the management team. If there was an award for smiley faces then I reckon The Old Ship would be a strong contender.
For local businesses, there’s a great reason to visit the Old Ship this month with the launch of their all-new ‘Be Rewarded’ card that gives exclusive discounts for company owners and their staff to use the hotel’s hospitality offering to meet and entertain clients. With 20% off food and drink – including Afternoon Tea – and a host of other benefits across the year, its an attractive incentive for Sussex-based firms to utilise The Old Ship. There’s also no fee for the card – if you’re a local business then you simply need to apply via an email to Carol Whitney in the hotel’s sales and marketing department at email@example.com.
I’d recommend anyone to take a look at The Old Ship Hotel and sample great Brighton hospitality.
The Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road Brighton BN1 1NR
01273 329 001