With spring and summer on their way (please let that be true, weather gods), we launch a series of reviews of hidden treasures and best spots to stay in Sussex.
Before you read the Cooden Beach Hotel review below, you need to know a few things. Firstly, they had no idea I was coming. This is 100% independent..
I’ve seen a rat in a restaurant dining room before. It takes a lot to shock me, but a fair bit to impress me.
Secondly, I’ve stayed in more hotels than I can remember over the years, both as a journalist but also as an event organiser. Some have been stunning, some not so. I’ve seen a rat in a restaurant dining room before. It takes a lot to shock me, but a fair bit to impress me.
And thirdly, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I delight in staying at hotels; I look for the best, and feel sad when it goes wrong. I’m not looking for trouble. I’m looking for joy.
(Also worth noting is that it’s often important that dogs are allowed, as Alice Pickle comes with me a lot, and I have a fascination for Art Deco and Agatha Christie, so if you’ve got a hotel that feels like Poirot might be here and the dog gets its own bowl, you’re halfway done.)
Do you like to travel elegantly? This article might be for you… read more
OH GET ON WITH IT. TELL US ABOUT THE HOTEL
Okay, okay. The hotel was built in 1928 and was taken over by the current owners in 2005. They’ve rightly earned themselves some business awards along the way and done some extensive refurbs, and the hotel is clean, well appointed, with nice carpets and modern decor. There’s a link to the refurb video at the foot of this piece if you’re interested. It’s still knocking on a bit but I like the fact that they’ve kept some of the original aspects, like the windows. I wonder if any of it is listed.
It’s right on the beach. And when I say right on the beach, I mean it. You can almost touch the sea from the window. It’s worth paying the extra bit for a sea view room, in my opinion. There’s a ton of outside space and rolling seas with miles of beach to walk the dog on.
THERE’S A LEISURE CLUB?!
Really, I’ve stayed in much posher hotels than this where they have only a fraction of the facilities. There’s a pool! And a tub! And the keeping fit room thing!
THINGS I LOVED
I wrote these down as notes as I went along, so they’re a bit random, but…
- There’s a car park
- You’re right on the beach
- Free, hassle-free Wi-Fi without restrictions
- Could possibly be in an Agatha Christie book
- There is room service
- In my single room the bed is generous, as demonstrated by Alice for scale
- I have a bath in the bathroom!
- Decent loo roll, fluffy white towels, and some nice toiletries
- There are plug sockets where you actually bloody need them – ie by the bed for a charger, and where you would have the kettle or laptop to work. No doing yogic poses to try and plug stuff in (one of my bêtes noires)
- There is a Cadbury hot chocolate sachet and biscuits on the tea tray. This is a nice, unnecessary touch
- Dogs are made very welcome – you can’t take them in the posh restaurant, the Brasserie, but they’re fine in the Tavern and all the staff are cheerful not resentful about it
- The seagulls on the roof outside my sea view window are friendly, if a little like drunk mates who’ve had one whisky too many
- Decent sized flat screen tele
- Gosh everything is so clean
WHAT ABOUT FOOD? WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THAT
I took my dinner in the Tavern where there were lots of other people with dogs and it was a very cheerful and friendly place to eat, the dogs ensuring everyone has to talk to each other in a very un-British fashion.
There are some things that you can set a place’s standards by and a burger is one of them.
The Tavern is the less posh of the two eateries, and the Brasserie looks lovely, very smart. But no doggies. I didn’t mind, I liked the Tav. It’s a decent pub grub sort of a menu but they assured me that the burger was indeed homemade so I had that.
There are some things that you can set a place’s standards by and a burger is one of them. Other things I watch for are whether they can turn out a good steak, how they poach an egg, and whether they can make a custard. But I digress.
Burger was great. They gave me extra – very well-dressed – salad, without charging anything on top, and the chips were great. Skins on, skinny and crispy, and salty. And unusually, the burger was slightly pink, which is how it should be, really. Heaven. Brand-named condiments had definitely not been topped up with cheaper versions – I can tell this sort of stuff – and everything was clean. Crisp clear glass, unsmeary cutlery. This stuff matters.
So, dogs can’t come into the breakfast room. It’s probably the only thing I’d have a grumble about, but they work hard to fix that. You can have breakfast in your room.
They probably won’t want me to publicise this too much but I was so impressed I have to – the room breakfast is continental. I can’t eat that stuff – bread, pastry, fruit, jams etc. The sugar sends me bonkers. I explained this to the delightful Ali, who I think runs the reception team, and she was like, “Oh no problem, just tell us what you want and we’ll bring it up.”
So I left a makeshift note on my door handle. I wondered how it would work out.
AND HERE IS THE EVIDENCE!
Need I say more? What a corking breakfast, and so beautifully served on the plate, and it was HOT! And fresh coffee in the pot. And they fussed the dog, and actually I don’t want to leave. I’ve seriously stayed in some of the most upmarket hotels in the world, and this breakfast would give any of them a worrying run for their money. And the poached eggs, in case you were wondering, were perfect. Slightly wobbly, runny yolk, but warm.
Yes, the staff here are a joy. They’re really friendly and warm and it feels like a family. Traveling on your own can feel a bit soulless sometimes but every step of the way someone at the hotel took the time to chat to me, say hello to the dog, and make me feel absolutely relaxed and not at all like a lonely billy-no-mates.
More than that though, the standard of the service is good. Again, I’ve eaten in and stayed at much more expensive places and the service here knocks spots off ‘em. The owners and managers here are doing a great job – in a hotel, good service is a top-down job. The staff seem happy, and well trained.
SO IN SUMMARY
This is an actual hidden jewel – especially when I tell you the price I paid for this oasis of loveliness. I imagine in summer it’s probably a bit mad, because of its location, but on a wild and showery spring day it was an adventure.
I would come back, like a shot, and probably will do so, very soon. Cooden Beach Hotel, you have put a massive grin on my face. Thank you.
Great for – weekends away, staying with dogs, people who like to pretend they’re in an Agatha Christie, people who like good food and friendly service.
Notable – amazing location right on the beach, lots to do locally like golf etc.
Standout – the service and the food, both very impressive. Also having a wet area, pool and so on. Absolute bonus
PRICES (LOW SEASON)
Single room overnight inc breakfast £60 – extra tenner for the sea view
Double/twin overnight inc breakfast £110 – prob extra cost for sea view, not sure if it’s a bit more for a double room
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