Margate has become the Hamptons for Londoners – and it’s turned a new corner

No 42 Margate
The rooftop at No.42 - GuestHouse Hotels

A stay at the recently opened No.42 Margate suggests we have turned a corner in the Margate debate. The whole vibe in the once-desolate town has been about flourishing art cliques, happenings, dive bars, and sinking banana boulevardiers at the Glass Jar, which looks out at the 1920s monolith spelling “LIDO” on each side, topped with what looks like a giant ruby. But also curry club and pints at Wetherspoons’ the Mechanical Elephant.

No.42 has raised the bar in price if nothing else. If you told me 10 years ago that there would be a spa in Margate (the hotel’s basement set of treatment rooms) offering £95 massages, I’d have laughed in your face. OK, so that’s still cheaper than London, and my back massage followed by facial (at the end of which you receive a vial of oil and a QR code to recreate the soundtrack to your treatment at home) was good indeed. But this is all still a fairly surprising offering for Thanet.

No 42 Margate
With £95 massages on its spa menu, No.42 has raised the bar in price if nothing else - GuestHouse Hotels

Then there’s the hotel restaurant, the Pearly Cow. The eponymous Pearl Cow tartare is a small plate for £17, but nice. A ribeye steak costs £34, and a monkfish tail for two an ambitious £68. Everything I had was at the very least absolutely fine, apart from the parmesan spelt risotto and the beef fat chips – both outlandishly delicious. But £8 for six chips is veering into “God loves a trier” territory. And that ribeye doesn’t come with any sides as standard.

The dining room is gorgeous, but staff repeatedly kept a door open with an ugly view to behind the scenes, and the service was chaotic in the way you’d expect when you keep hearing the phrase “sorry, it’s my first day”.

No 42 Margate
The hotel's restaurant the Pearly Cow has a 'gorgeous' dining room - GuestHouse Hotels

All that grumbling aside, everything else at the hotel on my visit was impressive. Local artists, ceramicists, and so on, have been commissioned for the interiors, and the whole feels like serious fortunes were spent on it. Refreshingly, despite being part of a mini chain, it looks like a one-off. Some particularly memorable details: the gold lettering on glass panels by signwriter Mia Pollak, whose work is omnipresent in town, and a “pantry” with free jars of sweets on the second floor.

The rooftop at sunset is a beauty – go for the sage-based cocktail with tequila, lemon, apricot and vetiver. Lush. The space can be enclosed off-season, so the view is always available, even in the darkest TS Eliot (he wrote The Waste Land in Margate) days of winter.

No 42 Margate
In the bedrooms, freehand artwork unfurls behind the headboards - GuestHouse Hotels

Rooms feel like suites, some with little balconies overlooking the sea, and each with a record player and set of vinyl. I usually never bother, but the records in my room, “curated by local record shop Ghost Papa”, included Lou Reed’s New York, which I love.

Every inch of my room had been worked – from the freehand artwork that looked like ribbons unfurling behind the headboard, to the shape of the mirrors, and strange alien-looking, heavy plaster artwork that served as a chandelier. Gold stars for whoever ordered the Steamery clothes steamers and opted for a shower door that swivels at its mid-point, so neither inhibits movement in the shower nor takes up unnecessary space in the bathroom itself. Chic and smart.

No 42 Margate
The exterior of No. 42 - GuestHouse Hotels

Over breakfast (which felt, again, a little ambitious at £20 for a pastry and then something with eggs on toast), it was clear to me just how busy the hotel was. And all the friends I had dinner with were telling me the DFL (down from London) crowd is no longer seasonal, it is year-round. Who would have ever guessed that one of the sketchiest, saddest seaside towns in the country could have turned into a Hamptons for Hackneyites? But here we are. And I guess I’m here increasingly often.

Essentials

Doubles at No.42 by Guesthouse (01843 261200; guesthousehotels.co.uk) from £155, not including breakfast. There is one accessible room.

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