Location: Chocolate-box East Sussex coast
Perfect for: Celebrations and luxury group stays
Right on the promenade the perfect sea-view stands the Zanzibar International Hotel, a wonderufly luxury hotel in Hastings with a first class restaurant, beautiful and exotically themed rooms, and where champagne is served at breakfast. If you don’t fancy the beach, head to Hastings Old Town – it’s the holy trinity of contemporary living…
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It’s tipping down with rain as our train pulls in, late, at St Leonard’s Warrior Square station. It’s such a short walk – just across the Square and along the promenade – to Zanzibar, our hotel for the night, that we decide to forego a taxi.
But we still get soaked, and miserable; on the way we pass a statue of a very glum-looking Queen Victoria and like Her Majesty we’re not amused either.
All cares are forgotten though the moment we arrive at Zanzibar. We’re greeted with a warm “Ah, I’ve been expecting you!” by duty manager Monica and given a quick show-round.
The decor’s very calming; the well-travelled owners have collected beautiful sculptures, religious artefacts and furniture from around the world and we spot many a quiet corner that would be perfect for meditation.
Monica also points out the library of books and DVDs, from which we’re invited to help ourselves any time, and then taken upstairs to our room.
The eight rooms at Zanzibar take their names from favourite places the owners have been; ours is South America.
It’s fabulous, two rooms knocked into one, divided by a theatrical ceiling-to-floor curtain. On one side there’s the sleeping and living area, with a huge wooden bed and a dining table by the sash window looking out to sea. There’s even a telescope!
The other side resembles our own private spa, with an immense bath tub, his-and-his limestone sinks, loads of full-size Elemis products and super-fluffy towels, robes and slippers. The only thing we don’t love is that there’s no door on the loo, it’s just tucked away in a corner; Monsieur 2 and I love each other very much and share most things, but there’s a line.
We’ve been asked to choose what we’d like for breakfast from a lengthy menu and bring it down when we go for dinner. There’s no indication of what the supplements are for Champagne, or for having breakfast in bed, and then we realise why – there aren’t any. It’s all included! Neither of us can think of anywhere we’ve stayed where bubbly at breakfast comes as standard!
We change and go downstairs to the hotel restaurant Pier Nine, where another pleasant surprise awaits us – a complimentary welcome drink! As we sip our G&Ts we choose from the modern bistro menu.
Monsieur 2 starts with fantastic crisp seafood fritto misto while I enjoy a fiddly-to-eat but delicious combination of dressed crab with potted shrimps. For our main courses I see off a good quality, if slightly dry, rare breed pork chop with mini jacket potatoes; Monsieur 2’s rib eye steak is on the blue side of rare but he decides to persevere and it’s terrific, especially dipped into the tangy red wine gravy.
Puddings – salted caramel ice cream with roasted mango puree, and Baileys arctic roll – are lick-the-plate-clean perfect. It’s been a lovely meal; with the room’s bright pastel colours and driftwood furniture, coupled with the sea view, it’s felt like eating in our own private beach-house.
Friendly, playful service from L.A.-born waitress Jackie has been a hoot, and at just £40 each supper is one of the best, and best-value, meals we’ve had in quite a while.
Back in the South America room we slip into the super-comfy bed and cuddle up to watch a DVD from the library – Shakespeare In Love suits our romantic mood and we fall asleep happily afterwards…
A blissful start to the day – a lovely soak in the bath with our free newspaper (another complimentary item). Stapled to the front is the day’s weather forecast and suggestions for what to do in the town – so thoughtful!
On the dot of the requested time, there’s a knock on the door and breakfast’s brought in. What a feast!
Great granola, juicy fresh fruit, Hastings kipper with melted butter and a poached egg for me and a full English for Monsieur 2, along with freshly-squeezed juice, tea and of course that decadent glass of bubbly. This really is the life.
We fool around with our telescope watching the sea – and boys – from our window.
We know we’ve really liked somewhere when we wait until the very last minute to leave, and that’s exactly what we do at Zanzibar.
We’ve loved the warmth of welcome from all the staff, the sense of tranquility and escape, and the generosity of having so much included in the room rate that would be extra elsewhere. As we step out onto the promenade, the sun now shining in contrast to yesterday’s rain, we’re already talking about when we can come back again.Our rating: We’ve rated The Zanzibar as a gay friendly luxury boutique hotel in Hastings East Sussex, South East England, at 4.5 stars.
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