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Hotel Highlights

  • Stylish London luxe in a seaside setting
  • Margate’s retro charms: fairgrounds, curios and fish ’n’ chips
  • Kent coast and countryside on your doorstep

Overview

18th-century Margate was a fashionable place to be – The Reading Rooms hotel rekindles this romance with its preserved Georgian features, antiques and seaside setting. Even the boutique B&B’s name is a nod to the town’s heyday, when visitors flocked to the spas, tearooms and libraries. Rooms are regal, each spanning an entire floor.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking The Reading Rooms with us:

A 10 millilitre bottle of Ren Moroccan Rose bath oil

Facilities

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The Reading Rooms hotel - Kent - United Kingdom

Need To Know

Rooms

Three.

Check–out

10.30am during the week, 11.30am at weekends. Check-in, from 4pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $212.27 (£125), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast (cooked options and cold) .

Also

Owner Liam is training to be an architect and played a large part in deciding the hotel’s design.

At the hotel

In-rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, free bottled water and REN products.

Our favourite rooms

You’ll wish you brought a ball gown and dancing shoes when you see Room Three’s gorgeous oak parquet floor, fit for a foxtrot. Exposed lime-washed beams, an opulent antique chandelier and deliberately unfinished walls add up to offbeat but elegant surroundings. There’s also plenty to admire in the bathroom, including a princely roll-top bath tub, a walk-in shower with mosaic tiles and an ornamental brass radiator. If you need WiFi while you’re here, book Room One or Two, which both have free internet access.

Packing tips

A wardrobe that encompasses the British seaside’s seasonal extremes: windcheater and wellingtons for rainy rambles on the beach, bikinis and beach towels for sunny days. Bring some Georgian literature to set the mood – a Gothic novel or two.

Also

Margate's shops and restaurants tend to close on Sundays and Mondays.

Children

This hotel is better suited to couples - leave the children at home!

Eco‐friendly

Breakfast is organic and locally sourced; solar energy is used; locals have been recruited as both craftsmen and staff.

Food & Drink

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The Reading Rooms hotel - Kent - United Kingdom

Hotel Restaurant

This is a B&B affair, so there’s no restaurant, but a generous breakfast (including cooked treats, fruit salads, pastries and jams) will be served in your room.

Hotel Bar

There’s no bar, so there’s all the more reason to explore Kent’s finest drinking dens.

Last orders

Just let the owners know how early you would like your morning meal – breakfast is served until 10.30am on weekends, 10am during the week.

Room service

Just breakfast.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Artfully disheveled attire, to fit in with the hotel’s particular brand of casual cool. Go vintage with a lace camisole or patterned shirt and team with dark denim.

Local Guide

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The Reading Rooms hotel - Kent - United Kingdom
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

The Shell Grotto (www.shellgrotto.co.uk) at Grotto Hill has winding underground passages leading to an oblong chamber bedecked with 2000sq ft mosaics, fashioned from 4.6 million shells. Why, or how, this was built has remained a mystery. The Powell-Cotton Museum (www.quexmuseum.org) at Quex House and Gardens was built by the eponymous Major Powell-Cotton: an eccentric Victorian adventurer who travelled across the globe, collecting large-scale taxidermy displays, weapons, ceramics, art and archaeology. The onsite café, restaurant and farm shop are stocked with top-quality local treats. While in reach of Canterbury, it makes sense to visit the Cathedral (www.canterbury-cathedral.org/). Kent has plenty of picturesque countryside, including bluebell-rich woods – pack a picnic and drive through the Blean, a very pretty woodland area with a nature reserve between Margate and Whitstable. The latter has been subject to a bit of a buzz lately; admire the rows of beach huts and the town’s newly fashionable bars and boutiques. Surfers should head for Joss Bay (www.jossbay.co.uk) and top up their skills with a lesson at the surf school. Stop for afternoon tea at the historic town of Sandwich, which has plenty of mediaeval buildings, cosy cafés and tempting gift shops. Walk up an appetite for lunch by promenading from Botany Bay to Broadstairs – treat yourselves to a pint in one of the waterfront pubs along the way.

Local restaurants

Mullins Brasserie (+44 (0)1843 295603), a five-minute walk from the hotel in the Market place, serves flavourful West Indies cuisine in sleek surroundings, including curried goat and pan-seared blackened tuna. The Ambrette (+44 (0)1843 231504) at 44 King Street in Margate serves up authentic Asian delicacies, including a signature dish of freshwater perch with peppers, coriander, fenugreek and carom seeds. Venture into Broadstairs for Osteria Posilipo (+44 (0)1843 601133) at 14 Albion Street for Neapolitan fare such as home-made gnocchi with butternut squash and king prawns in a brandy sauce. The Reading Rooms’ owners, Liam and Louise, lived in Florence for a while and are big fans. The Sportsman (+44 (0)1227 273370) on Faversham Road is a gutsy gastropub in Whitstable, serving up treats such as rock oysters and hot chorizo, crispy duck with smoked chilli salsa and sour cream and jasmine tea junket with rosehip syrup.

Local bars

Have a drink at Age & Sons (+44 (0)1843 851515), a café, restaurant and bar housed in a Victorian warehouse at Charlotte Court in Ramsgate. Cocktails are served in the basement bar – try the Hops Martini and the Elderflower Rickie. Sample local ale and cider (and nibble on cheese and pickles) at The Lifeboat Ale & Cider House (+44 (0)7837 024259; http://thelifeboat-margate.com) at 1 Market Street, Margate.

Local cafés

Head to Harbour Café and Kitchen (+44 (0)1843 290110) at 15 The Parade in Margate; great for lunch and light bites.

+ Enlarge
Handsome Hawley Square

The Reading Rooms

31 Hawley Square, Kent CT9 1PH, United Kingdom

Planes

Gatwick is just over 80 miles away. Book a taxi in advance or hail one at the airport.

Trains

Margate Railway Station is less than a mile away, with Southeastern services connecting to London (www.nationalrail.co.uk).

Automobiles

Canterbury is 40 minutes away by car. The B&B doesn’t have guest parking.

Reviews

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The Reading Rooms hotel - Kent - United Kingdom

Anonymous review

by Jordan Paramor , Celebrity scribe

What do you mean a wet weekend in Margate doesn't sound like your idea of heaven? Perhaps you haven’t heard about the Reading Rooms. And if there’s a more romantic afternoon than sitting in a seaside café eating scones and drinking tea while the rain pours down outside, we’d like to know what it is... Arriving by train in this Kent seaside town on a stormy Friday night, w…
Read more

The Reading Rooms

Anonymous review by Jordan Paramor, Celebrity scribe

What do you mean a wet weekend in Margate doesn't sound like your idea of heaven? Perhaps you haven’t heard about the Reading Rooms. And if there’s a more romantic afternoon than sitting in a seaside café eating scones and drinking tea while the rain pours down outside, we’d like to know what it is...

Arriving by train in this Kent seaside town on a stormy Friday night, we hopped in a taxi to the nearby Reading Rooms. A boutique bed and breakfast with just three rooms, each has a large ensuite and a bed big enough to sleep a family of eight. Louise and Liam, the owners of this luxury guesthouse – who viewers of the Hotel Inspector may recognise them from their telly debut – were there to show us to our top-floor room (room 3, considered to be the best, don’t you know).

Ruth Watson was originally on hand to help and harangue the couple as they embarked on the Georgian building’s renovation – stripping back the layers to highlight the original plasterwork, uncovering centuries-old cornicing, stocking the rooms with antique finds – and even Smith's very own James Lohan jetted in to Margate (by train) to road test one of the brand-new bedrooms. Luckily for all, including Mr Smith, the end result was very much to his liking: the couple’s distinctive blend of east London cool successfully transplanted into its Margate setting.

The idea of a boutique retreat in Margate might seem surprising but, as the programme showed, this Kent coastal town is undergoing a revival. Turner Contemporary is opening a new gallery on the seafront in 2011, backed by arty Margate native, Tracey Emin – plans and models of it can be pored over in Droit House, on the Harbour Arm. Factor in the more established (occasionally weird and wonderful) attractions such as the Shell Grotto and the museums, shops and cafés – not forgetting the Kent countryside and coast. Helpfully, Louise and Liam were there to talk us through the local area. And the extensive breakfast menu.

As all the tasty fare here is bought in from outside, it’s very fresh and ridiculously tempting. While my other half gleefully got stuck into circling half the menu (I had to take the pencil away from him in the end – it was getting embarrassing), I checked out the enormous bathroom. While perched on the edge of the freestanding tub I pondered which of the lovely Ren products I’d be snaffling.

Local pubs abeckoning, before we’d even unpacked we were out the door, mentally clutching a list of local recommendations. Both of us having forgotten to bring an umbrella, we arrived at the Lifeboat bar drenched and gagging for a warming drink. Small but perfectly formed, this watering hole boasts real ales and ciders so strong they’d probably give you an ulcer – but who cares, they taste great. And, of course, there's a lovely open fire.

The owner is a comedy character who talks to everyone like he knows them, then forgets them entirely by the next time he sees them. Pouncing on us for a chat, he offered to cook us something ‘hearty in the kitchen’. But we already had reservations at the nearby Indian restaurant, the Ambrette, and had to decline his kind offer. Not that we escaped taking part in the fish raffle. Quite what we were going to do with a large plaice is anyone’s guess.

The Ambrette and its Modern English cuisine from a celebrated chef lived up to brilliant reviews and everything we ordered from its eclectic menu was full of flavour, including a chocolate samosa, which tasted better than it may sound. Dinner done, it was back to the Lifeboat for a snifter before we collapsed full and happy into the most comfortable bed of all time.

Bacon and sausage sandwiches, croissants, toast, juice and fresh coffee wolfed (told you we circled a lot), we kicked off Saturday with a visit to the Shell Grotto, an underground cavern decorated entirely in, well, shells. No one quite knows why or when it was created, but for £3 it’s well worth a gander, if only to try and spot the phallic symbols apparently hidden in the design. Scott’s Furniture Emporium was next, a second-hand shop around the corner set in a series of jumbled rooms. Kitsch overload, but there are some genuine gems to be found among the retro toys and floral fireguards.

Still full from our enormous breakfast we headed to the Mad Hatters Tea Rooms in the old town. It’s Christmas all year round in this old-fashioned café, and decorations hang from every corner. Even the mad hatter himself, Peter, wears a tinsel top hat as he serves you cakes and sandwiches, all of which gives the two-floor building a warm and delightfully surreal feel.

Of course these Smiths couldn’t visit the seaside without throwing some cash at the amusement arcades, of which there are plenty to choose from in Margate. After spending £8 trying to win a roulette-chip key-ring on the 2p falls machines – in the end the owner felt so sorry for me he just opened it up and gave it to me – we embarked on a mini pub crawl along this swathe of Kent's seafront.

The Lighthouse Bar at the Margate Harbour Arm is just down from Tracy Emin’s famous pink-neon 'I Never Stopped Loving You' sign on Droit House. With bar staff who aim to please and candles that flatter, here they’ll whip you up any kind of cocktail while you take in the English Channel views. Just along the arm is BeBeached, an intimate 'real food' restaurant festooned with fairy lights and bunting. Its owner, Jean Beswick, is well known locally for her home-made delights, and the menu changes constantly. The highlights for us were the grilled halloumi, meatloaf with blue cheese sauce and sticky toffee pudding with chocolate custard. With wine and bottled water the bill came to a respectable £30 each, and we left feeling like we never needed to eat again. At least not until breakfast the next morning at our guesthouse-with-gusto, anyway.

Anyone looking to get away for the weekend to do as little as possible will love Margate. Partly because, erm, there isn’t a whole lot to do. But it’s rather relaxing not feeling under pressure to run from one place to the next, and in one day we pretty much covered all there was to see. It’s quintessentially English, a little run-down (let’s be kind and call it shabby chic) and very, very charming. The council's pumping lots of money into this East Kent town and some great restaurants have popped up recently. When the brand new hi-tech Turner Contemporary art gallery is completed in 2011, that’s sure to have people flocking. I'm pretty sure we’ll be back. Partly for the culture, and partly because we can’t stop thinking about those breakfast sandwiches at the Reading Rooms.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Reading Rooms's Guestbook below.

 

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I loved the attention to detail and the freedom to do as you pleased.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the gorgeous breakfast (fresh juices fruit, beautiful bread, tasty eggs and muesli all were too tempting to pass up) and the spacious bedroom and modern, spotless bathroom. The house has oodles of charm. The owners were helpful and made us feel looked after. Parking permits for local streets were supplied.

Don’t expect

The location could be better. Margate still has a way to go before it delivers on its promise. The old town is charming enough, but the surrounding areas are very depressing. For example, the graffiti on house around the corner has a spelling mistake ('do NOT let your dog HEER'). Boarded up buildings and hoodies abound. And local restaurants left something to be desired if you are looking for healthy fare.

Rating: 5/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Stunning decor and a very comfortable bed – perfect for a long lie-in. Deep bathtub and REN goodies make for an indulgent and relaxing soak. Delicious choices for breakfast – I recommend soft cheese, honey and cinnamon on ciabatta toast. Breakfast served in your room makes for a very special stay.

Don’t expect

The continued development of Margate.

Rating: 10/10 stars