Hotels aren’t necessarily the easiest thing to write about. What makes one stand out from another can sometimes be as simple as the thread count of their “crisp Egyptian cotton sheets”, the screen size of the flatscreen TV in the room, or the brand of toiletries in the bathroom.
And that’s not very interesting reading.
On the next level - it could be the view from the balcony, the range of treatments in the spa, or the number of AA-rosettes which help to rate its restaurant.
All very nice, but not necessarily something which gives it that defining edge.
On very rare occasions, it’ll be all about who has stayed there, who owns it, what sets it aside as one of the world’s true stand-out hotels, and why you might never want to leave the place. But, let’s face it, these are pretty thin on the ground - and probably entirely worth the glossy images and eulogising text which they can command in the world’s press.
So what makes The Royal Hotel on the Isle of Wight differ from other, similar, excellent four star establishments in the UK? Easy! As well as doing everything absolutely right as a hotel, it also makes the life of journalists that little bit easier…
Good parking (tick), great welcome (tick), well trained staff (tick), contemporary décor without losing sight of its 180 years of history (tick), spacious room (tick), fantastic food (tick) and a truly delicious great English breakfasts (tick). Yup - it certainly ticks all of the boxes for an enjoyable and (very) comfortable stay. Just ask some of your fellow guests - 70% of whom will be booking another stay there some time soon.
But what really helps to set it aside for the journalist, and makes this blog twice the length that it might otherwise have been, are the fascinating facts gathered together in the press pack waiting for them in their rooms.
In it, there’s the story of what makes this hotel really tick. Queen Victoria (the Island’s biggest fan) once stayed here; and it’s one of only 30 hotels to have been listed in every Michelin Guide since it was first published in 1911. True, it’s had its period of decline. But what’s an epic story of rebirth without an era when it slid into sad decline (brought on, in part, to the axing of the railway line to Ventnor)?
The process of rebirth has been watched over by accomplished hotelier William Bailey. Alan Staley, who trained under Anton Edelmann at The Savoy in London also arrived as head chef 16 years ago, and it’s no coincidence that the restaurant has enjoyed a two AA-rosette status ever since; and making its debut in The Good Food Guide last year.
The roasted fillet of beef with creamed potatoes, savoy cabbage, baby onions and girolles is a masterpiece. The Isle of Wight Gallybagger cheese soufflé with cauliflower velouté its signature dish.
Recent additions include the outdoor swimming pool in gardens plucked from the Riviera, as well as alfresco dining on a cliff-top overlooking the seep of Ventnor Bay.
“Be a part of the Royal Family” proclaims one of the hotels promotional offers. It’s a message not lost on a King of Rock, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, who has stayed here in the past.
Another lovely little touch are the striking pink geraniums which cascade down the southern face of the building – and the way in which head gardener Gary Steptoe takes so much pride in the knowledge that the cuttings he’s given to guests now adorn gardens all over the UK.
And you’ll find anything else you need to know here.
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