Londoners looking for a quick and easy weekend break by the sea might not until recently have considered Southend-on-Sea. Which is a pity because it's really easy and quick to reach from the capital (by car or public transport) and boasts just the right balance of old-fashioned gentility and kiss-me-quick charm. Also, walking or riding the mile or so length of its famously long pier (the UK's longest, since you ask) is a rite-of-passage for lovers of UK seaside towns, especially since Jamie Oliver made it famous on TV with his Friday Night Feasts.
Now, with the arrival of Seven, Southend's first properly posh boutique hotel, there's somewhere special to stay too. Situated among the resort's elegant Regency terraces, high above the seafront and right opposite the Victorian Cliff funicular railway, it's a bold statement indeed – a former nursing home that does a pretty good job of injecting a bit of glamour into Southend.
It's a medium-sized hotel, with 37 guestrooms, divided in status between between 'Cosy', 'Calm' and 'Comfy', plus a handful of top-floor suites. Around half of the rooms make the most of the sea views, out over the famous pier and right across to the coast of Kent, and the best have a balcony from which to enjoy it. The decor is just the thing to make you feel special, with cool pastel shades alongside dark wood and brass fittings, custom-made fretwork and fancy headboards on big comfy beds with decent quality linen. All the rooms are well equipped with tea- and coffee-making facilities, complimentary water, a/c, wifi and Freeview TVs, along with bright and shiny bathrooms – not the largest but they all have walk-in showers, underfloor heating and Bigelow toiletries.
We'll be honest and say you feel a little bit transported staying at Seven – it's easy to imagine yourself in a cool new joint in Barcelona or up one of those towers in Dubai rather than overlooking the Thames estuary in Southend. The fabulous restaurant – Aurum – does nothing to dispel this impression, with its low lighting and bespoke modern furnishings, and a terrace with views over that omnipresent pier below. The menu, however, is thoroughly and deliberately British, the brainchild of chef Simon Webb (former head chef at London's Langham Hotel), which highlights local ingredients such as Essex burrata (who'd have thought?), oysters from Colchester and local cockles served with Dover Sole, while excellent salt-aged lamb and shorthorn beef cooked in their charcoal oven means it's not only for fish lovers. Outside, the lights of Southend shine that little bit brighter now Seven is in town. Treat yourself to a break by the sea.
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