We’re in the midst of the longest heatwave since 1976 and it’s time for a breather. Decamp from the stifling city and in just 1 hour and 20 minutes you can swap St Pancras for the shingle beach, salty air and cooling sea. The latest in a roll-call of gentrified coastal towns, Deal has witnessed an influx of design-savvy Londoners buying up its pretty Georgian houses and bringing with them shops, restaurants, hotels and a new crowd known to locals as ‘DFL’s’ (down-from-London’s).
One such couple are Christopher Hicks and Alex Bagner who have renovated the town’s roughest spit-and-sawdust pub, The Rose. Christopher is the great-grandson of John Matthews, owner of the Thompson & Son Brewery which owned The Rose and lots of local pubs until the 1950’s. Along with wife Alex, formerly an editor at Wallpaper* magazine and onefinestay.com the pair have set to restore the pub to it’s former glory, bringing it up to date with a new bar and restaurant and eight boutique bedrooms above.
The pub sits on the High Street, two roads back from the seafront. It’s a 5-minute walk from the station past a reassuringly un-chi-chi strip of scrappy newsagents and jolly fish-and-chippy’s. Step inside The Rose and you’re in a distinctly 2018 world of house plants, rattan and mustard velvet. It’s no surprise that the interiors have been done by Harding and Read with styling by East London fashion favourite, Michelle Kelly, yet the welcome is friendly and laid-back.
Our bedroom (Number 4) is like a jewel-box with it’s amber headboard, embroidered silk cushions and glossy sliding doors opening to reveal a roll-top plum bathtub. There are excellent details; a record player with a selection of vinyls (Santana, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell and the Beach Boys) and delicious-smelling organic products from Austin Austin. On the landing outside there’s a DIY tea-making station with homely Cornishware mugs and proper builder’s teabags so you can make a cuppa and take it back to bed.
Downstairs there’s a decent bar with a daily changing cocktail – we tried the berry bellini – and a restaurant with an open kitchen producing little plates of fried whitebait and smoky prawns. Dinner is delicious but brunch is perhaps even better, drawing crowds of locals as well as hotel guests for sourdough toast with pear and ginger jam, Scotch Woodcock and bacon rolls. There’s also an outdoor terrace where you can sit in the sun with a coffee and the papers.
More of a restaurant-with-rooms than a hotel proper, you’ll want to get out and about. The shingle beach and pier is just 2 minutes walk. We went for a bracing pre-breakfast dip and the swimming is typically English – lovely once you’re in. For a mosey around town, turn left out of the hotel and explore the assortment of antiques shops and boutiques stopping at Hoxton Store for presents, and Will & Yates on the seafront for art, ceramics and homewares. Pick out your dream home from the string of pastel terraced cottages on Middle Street, and wander along the water front for a cone at the ice cream parlour that hasn’t changed since the 50’s. There are a number of good restaurants in town too, start at cosy French wine bar, Le Pinardier opposite the hotel for an aperitif and then head on to Victuals and Co around the corner.
It is said that on a clear day in Deal you can see France. And as we swam out from the shore there she was, shimmering on the horizon, so close you felt you might kick on and reach her. The Rose makes the perfect bolthole for anyone reluctant to travel far and yet yearning to feel a very long way from London.