A proper five-star hotel: review Grand Hotel Eastbourne

If discreet, elegant five-star service is your thing, read on

Arriving to review the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne was an experience before we even stepped out of the car. Built in the late 19th century, right on the beach, with views of Beach Head and an impressive 152 bedrooms, the Grand is a real grande dame.

It feels enormous as you sweep into the drive, with its wide, white façade and varied range of turrets and balconies. It’s not known as the ‘White Palace’ for nothing. And I do love a hotel where a uniformed doorman comes out to meet you, and takes your bags and so on. It sets the tone.

Debussy completed his symphony Le Mer in Suite 200 in 1905, should you want to book the maestro’s bed chamber. The Grand Hotel Orchestra broadcast live on BBC from the Great Hall every Sunday night from 1924 to 1939 on the programme Grand Hotel. Dennis Potter, whose Cream In My Coffee was filmed there, called it “a huge, creamy palace.” Part of Agatha Christie’s 2004 version of A Body in the Library was shot here too, amongst many other films and TV series. The hotel survived both wars, becoming a military headquarters during WWII. It’s seen some things.

Vast walkways, dining rooms, and corridors, built so as not to squash the crinolines of the well-to-do ladies of the time, gives the hotel a luxurious, spacious feeling that is rare in more modern buildings. Lord knows how much it costs to heat the place.

But I digress. Let me tell you about my stay

My friend and I were there for a birthday jolly. Our birthdays are exactly a week apart and we often do something together at the end of Jan. So we were at the Grand for dinner, bed, and breakfast.

Nothing cheers me up more than having a fantastic bedroom, and we were thrilled to have a seafront suite. Although this is definitely a room better suited to a couple, as it’s very ‘cozy’ as a twin setup! Good job we are very good mates!

The suite came complete with a chilled bottle of Canard-Duchêne for us, a little bottle of the Grand’s own gin, and a box of very pretty chocolates. Our luggage had been brought up whilst we took tea and waited for the suite to be ready.

Afternoon tea, Kath and Sam, and our chilled fizz

Afternoon tea, Kath and Sam, and our chilled fizz

Tea, incidentally, was delightful

There’s a lovely menu of different teas, from your traditional India teas, China teas and so forth, through to the fruity sort we had. I had ginger and lemongrass, and Kath had something and peach – and the pots come with chunks of the actual things, not bags of leaves. Really lovely.

We didn’t do the full Afternoon Tea, although we were tempted, and the ladies on the table next to us said it was excellent. But the sandwiches and salad we had were very good. And it comes with silver teaware and China crockery, all very old school posh. Lovely.

The suite we had was roomy – a lovely drawing room area between the bathroom and bedroom (which makes for a good layout, incidentally, nobody wants to hear someone else going to the loo in the middle of the night). With sofa and comfy chairs, and those astonishingly tall windows from floor to ceiling.

We also had a vast patio outside the windows, and a beautiful view over the sea. Wanting to make the most of our stay, we popped on our cozzies and spent some time in the pool and spa area, which was a refreshing thing to do after the drive. And then headed back to our room.

The bedroom chamber

Our suite drawing room, with views over the sea

A perfect setting to watch the day close, and polish off our bottle of cold fizz. We dressed for dinner, noting that there is a dress code throughout the hotel – no scruffy wear, and jackets for dinner.

So how was dinner?

The majority of this review is going to be about our dinner, because it was pretty close to being perfect. And I don’t say that very often. But the Mirabelle has an outstanding, fully-deserved reputation, and the food was probably the biggest draw for me.

The dining at the Mirabelle has always been good, but a touch of new flair and pizzazz is apparent throughout the menu since Alex Burtenshaw took the helm in 2023. The little touches throughout the plates demonstrates the skill and effort going on in the kitchen. It’s all in the detail.

Me: Tuna Tataki, with tonka bean kewpie mayo, sesame, avocado, yuzu citrus dressing £12.50

I knew immediately I’d made the right choice here. This was a well-balanced plate, with the citrussy, sesame-y dressing being the star of the show. The tuna was meltingly fresh, as you’d expect. But for me it was the dressing that made it sing. I polished it off with a spoon. The avocado moussey swirl was good too, and stopped the dish from being too rich. Lovely starter.

Kath: Pan Fried Scallops, with celeriac puree, bacon jam, Granny Smith apple, puffed potato £14.50

This was as light and as zingy as you’d expect from the description. We were a little confused by the ‘puffed potato’, expecting something, well, potatoey in appearance. But it was the little puffy things that look like Rice Krispies. Which really did taste like potato! Love a fancy touch like this. Fresher than fresh scallop, VERY finely on the right side of being cooked. Another excellent starter.

Me: Lamb Rump, with salt baked swede, baby carrots, turnip puree, haggis cylinder, whisky lamb jus £38.00
We also shared a side dish, Charred Hispi cabbage, buttermilk dressing, crispy shallots £6.50

I ordered this because I had missed out on having any haggis on Burns Night. I couldn’t resist! But as you can see from the picture, there’s a lot more going on here. This was a truly wonderful plate of meaty heaven. Perfectly-cooked lamb, soft sweet veg purees, and of course the haggis cylinder. Greedy me wanted more haggis but actually the whole plate was well balanced. I was glad we had ordered some extra veggies, as this was a rich plateful. The jus, incidentally, was a triumph, such depth of flavour. Yum. I ate the lot.

Kath: Fillet of Beef, with cep puree, beef shin ravioli, parmesan foam, raspberry jus £48.00

I almost had beef envy when Kath’s fillet turned up, especially when she sliced into it. So tender. A cracking piece of beef. I don’t know which butchers the Mirabelle orders from but the quality of the meat is very impressive. The plump raviolo on top was a nice touch, with the very delicately cheesy foam. A clever dish, this one. The sweetness of the jus a nice touch too, lifting the overall mouthful.

Me: Pineapple Upside Down Financier Cake, with spiced rum caramel, coconut ice cream £10.50

I’m often ashamed when I come to write up reviews and find that I haven’t managed to shoehorn pudding in. But I managed it this time and I was so pleased I did. On the menu, this sounded like a bit of a mad combination, but on closer inspection of course pineapple, rum, and coconut are absolutely perfect bedfellows. And this was stunning! Add the almond flavour and the lovely caramelly beurre noisette crust of a financier to the sweetness and goo of the roasted pineapple, and you’ve got a very special upside down cake indeed. The ice cream totally stops it being insanely sweet. Heaven.

Kath: Dark Chocolate Fondant, caramelised white chocolate centre, blood orange ice cream, poached Yorkshire rhubarb £10.50

One of us had to go chocolate, right? This was lush – softly gooey in the middle of the fondant but with white chocolate, a lovely touch. The rhubarb was very soft too, melt in the mouth, sous vide style. The little biscuity touch was a sophisticated addition, giving what is a very sumptuous dish some delightful texture and bite.


We tried a variety of wines by the glass, as we had a few different things going on, and wines are available by the glass throughout the menu, starting from £7-8 per glass and up. We placed our trust in the sommelier and it was a good decision. The wine list changes frequently so I’ll just say that we had a Chablis and a Sauvignon Blanc for our starters, I had a very good Pinot Noir with my lamb, and Kath was going to have a Rothschild Cab Sauv but he brought her “something better,” he said. Sadly we never found out what it was, but it was ace! And yes, we went there with the pudding wine – a wonderful Tokaji that finished us both off completely.

The rest of our visit

Unsurprisingly, I slept like the dead for most of the night, waking up next to our lovely huge window overlooking the sea. The breakfast was excellent – after such a meat feast the night before I plumped for the veggie breakfast and I would love to know what kind of voodoo magic created the lentil pudding that is the V alternative to black pudding. Insane! A secret recipe, apparently.

We took a blustery wander along the seafront for a bit, blew away some cobwebs before it was time to collect the car and head home. But I’ll be back. My stay was a gorgeous oasis of calm in a busy week, with service that befits a bygone era of elegance and gentility. Brava.

The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

Read more: Five more of our favourite Sussex hotels

About Sam Harrington-Lowe
As the managing editor Sam is responsible for all the Title publications and works diligently to develop the brand and support relationships with all partners and clients. She runs things with her dedicated PA Ms Alice Pickle Pug