Hotel review | Belvidere Place, Broadstairs, Kent

An eclectic art collection and quirky style, not to mention a warm welcome, helped our reviewer to feel right at home

It used to take forever to reach the Kent coast by rail from London. This time – whoosh – a new high-speed rail link from St Pancras takes me to Broadstairs via Ebbsfleet in 84 minutes.

I'm walking down a typically tatty high street, using a map printed from the Belvidere Place website. Can't see the sea, but I spot a stylish dark grey double-fronted Georgian terrace. Inside, shafts of light from sash windows pierce the gloom. Everywhere is painted pewter grey. Owner Jilly Sharpe is wearing a long corduroy coat and wellies and leaning against the mantelpiece. Very Withnail and I.

A family down from London are sitting at a refectory table sipping from willow-pattern cups. Jilly chatters while giving two teenage boys their tea at another table beside a burr elm piano. Do I play? No? Oh well. It's for sale – £600. "A bargain," she says. Everything is for sale, well almost, she says. Not the picture on the wall which dominates the room – it's the Queen's head, just as she appears on a postage stamp, but created using mother-of-pearl buttons. A pearly queen, see?

My room is on the first floor, past her son's (Danger! Enter at your peril, says a sign). One of five, it's a big, white space. We're only minutes from the seafront but the view is of the back of Tesco, so, sensibly, Jilly has blocked it with pure white blinds. A large cream sofa sits on a cream carpet. Soon I realise it's hopeless trying to pin Jilly down to specific questions. Her conversation hares off in a multitude of directions, so I have no idea why she chose to move to Broadstairs from south London, or to do B&B, but I can tell you that the Dorchester's maitre d' is now a fan and the sitting room's display cabinets (teacup candles, china cake stands, one-off ceramics) are largely to do with a local art initiative.

I eat at Eddie Gilbert's fish restaurant in Ramsgate. Smoked eel soldiers and boiled duck egg, tea-smoked organic sea trout with crème fraiche, horseradish and potato salad. Oh, supper's heaven! What time's breakfast? Any time you like, comes Jilly's reply when I let myself in later.

No mistaking the sound of delivery vans when I wake at 7am. Poached pears, then scrambled eggs with tomatoes, basil and spinach.

When I return from the seafront, Gina the Cleaner has arrived and a man called Herbie has dropped by to play the piano. It's good to know that eccentricity is alive and well at the English seaside B&B.

• Southeastern ( runs an hourly high-speed service from London St Pancras to Broadstairs, from £31.50 return fares . Further details from


Sally Shalam

The GuardianTramp

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