By Dan Thompson
The missing bit of Margate’s long regeneration is finally being addressed, as a wave of hotels open to appeal to the town’s new visitors.
Aside from some very boutique offerings, the town has had a dire shortage of hotel rooms. As well as being bad for visitors, that shortage of beds has also fuelled an airbnb boom, taking homes off the market for local people.
Reopening (after a soft launch at the end of the 2022 season) with a weekend of activities including a vintage market, live jazz, and DJs, Selina Margate has replaced the old Smith’s Court Hotel. That had been owned by the same family for 40 years, and Selina’s take on the big building on Eastern Esplanade is something fresh, contemporary, but delightfully unfussy. It’s the kind of high end that doesn’t need to shout about it. Think country Lord in comfortable, well-tailored tweeds.
There are dormitories downstairs, each sleeping six people, and bedrooms upstairs. The rooms are smart, simple, and many have sea views.
The ground floor is a jumble of bar, coworking space, boutique, and restaurant, all flowing from one to another to create the feel of something far bigger than it actually is. It has the obligatory collection of work by this year’s favourite local artists on the walls – Rebecca Strickson, Margo McDaid, and Lisa McGuinness feature prominently. But the boutique space means there’s also work for sale, and a selection of Peony Vintage clothing too. That feels like a proper commitment to the local community.
Selina Margate is light and airy throughout, and with enough space that you’ll always find a corner (and won’t be hurried out, Lyon’s Cafe style, the moment you finish your cuppa). Food is good, and prices at the reasonable end of the DFL price range. The hotel is celebrating the launch of its on-site European restaurant, HOWM, alongside its Latin American inspired beer garden, XIBALBA. The huge paved back garden has plenty of spaces for families to spread out.
The spaces will also be used for live music, DJs, and other events throughout the year. Selina’s focus on wellbeing means they’re already offering yoga and other similar workshops.
It feels like Selina Margate could easily become a cornerstone of Margate’s new tourist economy, just like the Reading Rooms were for a different set ten years ago.
The Selina group is one of the world’s fastest-growing hospitality brands. It was founded in Latin America in 2015 and is growing at an average of a new property each week. The company plans to rapidly expand across Europe and the United States, targeting 400 locations and 100,000 beds by 2023. It says it uses local artists “to breathe new life” into its buildings, local musicians and creates co-working space for the community. Selina Ltd says it also operates a programme running everything from English classes to mental health workshops, and beach clean ups.