Artist Residence, Brighton: hotel review | Travel
Saturday evening in Brighton is hen party central. L-plated brides-to-be totter from the station, ready for a big, brash night out. But there’s no hint of the kiss-me-quick vibe inside the Artist Residence, a 24-bedroom boutique hotel on smart Regency Square. Made up of two townhouses, it’s all wooden floors, dark walls and big art, and with two restaurants and two bars, there’s already a buzz at 7pm.
The welcome is casual but warm – no formal check-in – and we’re shown straight to our second-floor room overlooking the sea. A Roberts radio is playing 1920s tunes, there’s a mini-Smeg fridge and striking original prints on the wall. While a slightly industrial vibe is a common trend in places of this ilk, this feels a bit special.
Owner Justin Salisbury became an “accidental hotelier” at 20 in 2008 when his mother, who ran this place as a (rather rundown) guesthouse, was hit by a bus and left in a coma. In need of some low-cost renovation, he invited local artists to decorate rooms in exchange for a stay. Guests loved the resulting bohemian atmosphere and four years ago Justin extended into the house next door. He has since opened hotels in Cornwall and London, with a fourth launching in Oxford in this June.
Twelve of the bedrooms were designed by the original artists; others are by new talent brought in during a recent refresh. I love the one by Maria Rivans, with intricate collages of 1940s pin-ups in surreal landscapes. Some bedrooms have balconies, and for groups (a sophisticated hen do, perhaps), the basement has two rooms sleeping four and another for six.
Also in the basement is the Curious Mr Hanbury cocktail bar. Hidden, speakeasy-style, behind a bookshelf, it’s a cool, cosy space (capacity 16), where barman Kingley concocts pretty and delicious potions. Upstairs in the bigger Cocktail Shack, Hawaiian-shirted staff serve a livelier crowd.
Dinner is across the hall in The Set. Though Brighton’s food scene has improved in recent years, the city doesn’t have a Michelin star yet. But The Set was reviewed in the 2017 Michelin Guide – an impressive nod to chefs Dan Kenny and Semone Bonner.
We sit at the counter by the open kitchen and choose from three four-course set menus (from £31 to £36). Everything, from belly pork with pear and hispi cabbage to white chocolate and satsuma, is creative and tasty. Amuse bouches arrive between courses and there’s a wine pairing option, too.
For casual dining, the Set Café’s concise menu features several dishes from the main restaurant (small plates from £5). It’s also where we breakfast the next day (included in the room price if you book direct). The stack of pancakes with berries looks tempting, but a mini-English wins out.
The cloudless day is perfect for a ride on the new British Airways i360 (tickets from £14.40/£7.20), a moving observation tower opposite us on the seafront. Basically a 162-metre tower with a doughnut-shaped pod that rises up and down, it has, unsurprisingly, garnered a host of (often rude) nicknames.
The observation pod rises to 138 metres, and there’s a bar if you fancy a tipple on the 20 minute “flight”. They say you can see for 26 miles, and there’s lots to gawp at: the burnt-out West Pier, the Seven Sisters white cliffs, the Regency terraces – and our rather nice hotel itself.
• Accommodation was provided by Artist Residence Brighton (doubles from £90 B&B, 01273 324302, artistresidencebrighton.co.uk)
Ask a local
Andy Doig, neon artist
Stroll by the sea at sunset and take in the breathtaking murmuration of starlings before they roost on the remains of the West Pier. At their peak, in December, flocks can swell to as many as 40,000 birds.
Dine by candlelight at marble topped tables at Riddle and Finns, among the antique jewellery shops of the lanes, and enjoy delicious seafood in a relaxed atmosphere.
Find a treasure to take home, anything from an old photo to a vintage piece of clothing, at Snoopers Paradise flea market in the North Laine.
The hippest coffee house in Brighton, Pelicano, also in the North Laine, has a divine selection of cakes and savoury bites. There’s seating inside and outside (under a rare kiwi tree).
Take pot luck from a bewildering selection of bottled beers at tiny Trafalgar Wines, Brighton’s oldest off licence.
Sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy the best films in the coolest cinema, the Duke of York’s.