The Rose, Deal, Kent: ‘A riot of colour and character’ – hotel review

This eight-room boutique hotel mixes modern design, local heritage and fabulous food, reflecting the area’s burgeoning creative spirit

In the narrow Georgian streets of Deal’s old centre, plaques tell the story of the seaside town’s colourful past. Once a busy port and notorious smugglers’ haven, it was home to an unusually large number of pubs in Victorian times, rowdy with sailors, tradesmen and marines from the local barracks.

While plenty has changed, Deal still has a rebellious streak. The high street brims with independent shops and cafes and the town has an arty side that’s often overlooked, with nearby Margate and its Turner Contemporary gallery hogging the limelight.

In the middle of the High Street is The Rose – until recently a rather rundown old boozer. The handsome 200-year-old building reopened as a boutique hotel, bar and restaurant in May, thanks largely to the vision of co-owner Chris Hicks. Hicks’ great-grandfather and grandfather ran Thompson & Son brewery – which had more than 130 pubs in the area in its early-20th-century heyday – and he dreamed of returning to his family’s hospitality roots and opening a place in town.

Exterior of The Rose hotel and restaurant, Deal, Kent.

When I visit, The Rose has only been open a couple of weeks but there’s already a buzz about it. A group of women sip cocktails in the lounge, curious passersby peer through the windows and families settle down for lunch.

A red velvet curtain hides the staircase that leads up to the eight bedrooms. Forget the cool greys and pared-back decor favoured by many a boutique hotel: this place is a riot of colour and character and cleverly blends vintage, Victorian and mid-century elements.

The hotel entrance and red velvet curtain – behind which is the staircase to its eight bedrooms.
The hotel entrance and red velvet curtain – behind which is the staircase to its eight bedrooms Photograph: The Rose hotel, Deal, Kent/PR

All the bedrooms are lovely in their own way: from number nine, the smallest with its blue patterned wallpaper and a bold yellow velvet headboard; to romantic number four, with dark walls, orange furnishings and purple roll-top bath. Piles of books, magazines and great artwork add a homely feel and nice touches include a record player (with a small vinyl collection).

Downstairs there’s original 1950s wood panelling and green velvet banquettes in the dining room, and a garden and deck for alfresco drinking and dining. I chat to Chris before dinner and he shows me photos of Nigel Farage enjoying a pint in the property’s previous incarnation, as a pub. The vibe today couldn’t be more different.

At the helm in the kitchen is Rachel O’Sullivan, whose CV includes London hotspots Polpo and The Towpath. The menu is short but intriguing. Roast heritage tomatoes with croutons and aioli (£7), taramasalata with radishes (£6) and grilled sardines with bobby beans (£11), are prettily presented and full of flavour. I can’t resist the “Dutch baby”, a pancake-cum-Yorkshire-pudding with buttermilk ice-cream and rhubarb jam (£6), which proves too huge to finish.

Sunday lunch at The Rose, Deal, Kent.
Sunday lunch Photograph: The Rose hotel, Deal, Kent/PR

Breakfast is generous – with everything from homemade granola to a-la-carte options such as roast mushrooms and goats cheese on toast or steak and eggs, included in the room rate (from £4 for non-residents). I’m tempted to come back to try Sunday lunch, which isn’t bad value, with roasts from £14.

Deal is small, and everything a visitor could want is close at hand. The long pebbly beach has a striking concrete pier, and the coastal walks are particularly pretty: head west past the small castle to Kingsdown and up onto the white cliffs beyond for great views.

Deal Pier.
Deal pier Photograph: The Rose hotel, Deal, Kent/PR

The Saturday market held in a car park on the high street is a must for foodies, with just-baked cakes from Deal micro-baker Eat and Mess, fresh coffee from Real Deal Roasters and a lively pop-up wine bar. Shopping ranges from vintage at Mileage to vinyl at Smuggler’s Records, an independent label that grew into a shop, plus cafe-bar. Opposite is The Just Reproach, a one-room micropub, and around the corner is local artist Neil (Ned) Kelly’s Don’t Walk, Walk gallery – one of several indie galleries in town. The new Kent Museum of the Moving Image is worth a visit too: it’s packed with original poster art from Ealing Studios.

With the opening of The Rose, Deal now has a place to stay that suits its creative, independent character. Chris even plans to relaunch Walmer Ale, the Thompson & Son brewery’s most famous tipple. It’s a nod to the past, while toasting a positive future. I’ll drink to that.

Accommodation was provided by The Rose (doubles from £100 B&B), 91 High Street, Deal, Kent

Ask a local

Deal beach, Kent.
Deal beach Photograph: The Rose hotel, Deal, Kent/PR

William Thomson, author of The Book of Tides and The World of Tides. He also runs regular Tide Walks (tidalcompass.com)

Shop
Dunlin and Diver on the High Street focuses on supporting local artisans, stocking everything from print and pottery to jewellery and quilts (they sell my books, cards and maps too!). Other good homeware shops include Taylor-Jones & Son, which has a more animal/nature theme, and Hoxton Store, with a chic aesthetic.

Music
I like The Lighthouse because it gets quality bands from all over the world. Last time I was in, there was a trio of French brothers and it was great fun. This would never have happened in Deal 10 years ago; with events like that I’ve often got to pinch myself that we’re in Deal.

Do
Dover Sea Safari runs high-speed boat trips past Deal with a guide sharing the fascinating history of the town.

Foraging
Lucia from The Wild Kitchen takes people along the beach looking for edible seaweeds and then adds them into delicious recipes with a tasty cook-up at the end.

Contributor

Jane Dunford

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
1823 Spinning Block Hotel, Clitheroe: ‘Don Draper would love this place’ – review
Clitheroe’s Holmes Mill combines a brewery, food hall, restaurant and hotel to stylish effect. In fact, there are so many foodie delights it’s no wonder our writer spent so little time in his room

Tony Naylor

20, Apr, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
The Mount Edgcumbe, Tunbridge Wells, Kent: hotel review
This former lodging house for people taking the waters was reborn as a bar and restaurant five years ago and has now added six fun-but-tasteful bedrooms

Jane Dunford

15, Sep, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
The Five Bells Inn, Brabourne (near Ashford), Kent: hotel review
Cosy and slightly bonkers rooms (in a good way), a welcoming bar and scrumptious food make this pub with rooms an ideal base for exploring Romney Marsh and the North Downs

Liz Boulter

22, Sep, 2017 @5:30 AM

Article image
Abbots Court, Dorset: ‘A luxurious but unstuffy country retreat’ – hotel review
The renovation was part-sponsored by Farrow and Ball but it’s the delicious menu created using ingredients from the grounds that reveals this largely self-sufficient B&B’s true colours

Rachel Dixon

29, Jun, 2018 @5:30 AM

Article image
Seven, Southend-on-Sea, Essex: hotel review
Southend is famous for its 19th-century pier and old-fashioned seaside fun. The opening of the town’s first boutique hotel might start to change that perception

Robert Hull

23, Feb, 2018 @6:30 AM

Article image
Havener’s Bar & Grill, Fowey, Cornwall: B&B review
Teething problems over, this south Cornwall restaurant with rooms now offers cosy stays and refined pub grub that rival its riverside setting for the feelgood factor

Jane Dunford

09, Jun, 2017 @10:09 AM

Article image
Hotel review: The Apartment, Whitstable, Kent

This fabulous art deco-style B&B in Whitstable is enough to make Isabel Choat want to stick on some Ella Fitzgerald and flop on the sofa with a G&T

Isabel Choat

31, Aug, 2012 @9:45 PM

Article image
Hotel review | Belvidere Place, Broadstairs, Kent

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

Sally Shalam

06, Aug, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
British boltholes: The Yarrow, Broadstairs, Kent: hotel review
East Kent further education college has its own hotel, restaurant and spa, where students learn on the job. A great idea that makes for an enjoyable, endearing stay

Rachel Dixon

03, Sep, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Fence Gate Lodge, near Burnley, Lancashire: hotel review
This inn on the edge of the Ribble Valley has long had a reputation for good food and drink. Now it’s added a glam 24-bedroom lodge across the road

Tony Naylor

20, Oct, 2017 @10:37 AM