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Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne (Small Luxury Hotels / World of Hyatt)

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This is my review of The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne.

If you ever wanted proof that American Express hotel cashback offers work, this is it. We were looking for somewhere new to go for a weekend break and realised that we had £300 of Amex cashback available via Small Luxury Hotels. This comprised 3 x ‘£100 back on a £300 spend’ offers across three different cards.

It seemed like a good reason to try a Small Luxury Hotels property. We were looking for a hotel where we could get a room at a sensible price that could sleep three (my daughter was away) and that it should be somewhere new to us.

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

We settled on The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, which advertises itself as the only five star hotel by the sea in Sussex.  Let’s be honest, there aren’t many contenders for great British seaside hotels full stop – Chewton Glen is the best option and that hotel plays down the fact that it is 5 minutes walk from a beach. I had never been here so I was intrigued, whilst knowing that we weren’t going to be in Four Seasons territory.


The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne is part of Elite Hotels and Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

It sits directly on the Eastbourne seafront, around 15 minutes walk from the railway station (85 minutes direct trip from London Victoria). The first thing you notice is that you are not ‘dead centre’ by the pier. The hotel is actually to the right of the pier (coming from the station) which is very quiet.

Importantly, it leaves you well positioned for a stroll up to Beachy Head which is how we passed our Saturday. There is a decent pub there which lets you relax from the steep walk up from the town centre.

The facade is hugely impressive and sets the tone for the rest of the hotel. If I have one message to get across about the hotel it is this: whilst there is a LOT which is outdated about the hotel, everything is maintained to the highest standard.

The other thing I want to stress is that the staff are excellent. Everyone, down to the room cleaners, was friendly and helpful. These two facts – great staff and a well maintained, albeit dated, hotel – make all the difference.

It’s a film set

The best way to describe The Grand Hotel Eastbourne experience is that it’s like being in a film set, or mysteriously going back in time to mid century. It’s like Burgh Island, except you don’t need to wear black tie for dinner.

I suggest you don’t come unless you are prepared to enter into the spirit of things.

Check in

You get a feeling for the sort of place you’re in as you walk through the car park, with slots reserved for everyone who has told the hotel they are bringing a car:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

As soon as you enter (past the doorman) you realise that you are in a different world.

Slightly unfortunately, immediately off to your left, is a large lounge which is furnished with chairs which look like they came from a retirement home. This does fit with much of the clientele but is not ideal.

At the far end of the lobby is a lovely spot called The Great Hall which gives a totally different impression:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

Our room at The Grand Hotel Eastbourne

We booked a junior suite with a sofa bed. At check in we were upgraded to a sea view junior suite, albeit in truth you had to peer around the edge of the windows to see the water.

(If you look at the top photo, we were in the wing on the far right so our room looked across the car park.)

Let’s be clear about something. If you’ve read a lot of my HfP hotel reviews in the past, you will have a feel for what I don’t like. Pretty much everything I don’t like came together here – unstealable coat hangers, single sinks, showers above the bath, cheap coffee machine etc – and yet, somehow, it didn’t matter.

It was weird and hard to explain. The best way I can put it was that there was a sense of ‘we’re all in it together’. This is a huge building which will cost a ludicrous amount of money just to keep the lights on. It has high levels of staffing, which also isn’t cheap. It’s Eastbourne, so business is very seasonal. In some ways I felt happy to give them our money so that it can keep on doing what it does for another 100 years.

Here’s our junior suite:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

The bed and sofa bed were comfortable. The wallpaper and bed headboard were clearly new:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

However, the furniture clearly wasn’t and had passed from being old into antique territory. What you can’t see is that it even had a Corby trouser press. This is the 2nd one I’ve seen in a room this year, having not had the pleasure for at least a decade.

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

Whilst there is no minibar, we got a welcome ice bucket with some flavoured water and apple juice. The suite contained a (not Nespresso) coffee machine and a kettle. To give credit, there was no shortage of teabags or UHT milk.

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

The shower and toilet seat don’t add much, I agree. The upside was big fluffy towels and bath robes plus Molton Brown toiletries in takeaway small bottles.

We’d obviously be wasting time having the usual HfP discussion about sockets. That said, the clock radio on one side of the bed had a single USB A.

I should say that The Grand still delivers newspapers (well, The Times and only The Times) to your bedroom each morning, for free. It’s another reason I was happy here.

If you want a fully refurbished room and there are just two of you, the hotel has just unveiled a makeover of its Superior Rooms.

Dining at The Grand

There are two restaurants at The Grand.

Mirabelle was originally, for the benefit of older London readers, the sister restaurant to Mirabelle on Curzon Street in London. I ate in the London version once but not only is it now closed but the entire block has been razed and a new building constructed. The Eastbourne branch carries on.

We didn’t eat here but the menu looked very ambitious. I doubt there are many places in Eastbourne serving caviar. There is a tasting menu or a la carte.

The huge main restaurant is The Garden Restaurant where we ate both nights.

This picture tells you all you need to know:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

Except it doesn’t, because it was great. It’s a big room with a high ceiling and LOTS of tables. It’s got a pianist. It’s got staff wearing bow ties. It is officially only open from 6pm to 8.30pm, although we left at 8.45pm one night and others were still eating.

It’s higher end London pricing (£30 for a main). The wine list is broad. When your plates come, all the waiters gather round and lift off the silver domes in unison. It’s fantastic.

The food is good but not great, but that’s absolutely not the point. You’re there because you’ve always secretly wanted to travel back in time to the 1930s and eat at The Savoy.

This is a PR photo but doesn’t begin to give a feel for the size of it. The nearest dining room to it in London is probably The Ritz, albeit clearly not as smart:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

The atmosphere is so period that I was genuinely shocked when I got the breakfast menu the next day and saw that it had smashed avocado on toast on it. It felt totally out of place.

Breakfast, obviously, is a la carte although a modest buffet is also available. All rates include breakfast unless you dare to order a fancy coffee in which case a £3 charge is made. A table must be reserved at check-in as one expects in such establishments. Your tea comes in a silver teapot and your milk comes in a silver jug. If you are staying somewhere else, go for breakfast – it’s £24 for non-residents and worth every penny just to hang out in the room.

Other facilities

As with everything else about the hotel, it tries to tick the boxes but never reaches greatness (but, I repeat, it doesn’t matter here).

Impressively The Grand has an outdoor pool. Even more impressively – given how cold it was last weekend and the cost of gas at the moment – it is heated. Whilst not huge, it would have been pleasant if the weather had been better. We had a dip – and it was warm – but as soon as your body came out of the water you were freezing. Obviously there isn’t any sort of pool bar or cafe.

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

There is also an indoor pool, a jacuzzi and a steam room. The indoor pool is too small and is in a windowless basement. The upside is that it was surprisingly underused which made up for a lot.

There is also a gym and a spa, neither of which we used. Obviously there is a snooker room although I didn’t peek in.

Here’s something else worth seeing – the remains of what would once have been an indoor shopping arcade, now just a series of display cabinets:

Review: The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne

What did it cost?

If you’re looking for great value and great weather then clearly the English coast is never going to deliver.

Our junior suite was £365 per night which included breakfast. We spent a further £350 on two meals for three in The Garden Restaurant for a total cost of £1,080.

We got £300 cashback from American Express because we split the bill across three credit cards, each of which had a ‘£100 cashback on a £300 Small Luxury Hotels spend’ offer. The net cost for two nights in a junior suite was therefore £780 which we felt was decent value given that this included two substantial meals and breakfast for three people.

How to book

It’s always complex booking any hotel which is part of Small Luxury Hotels. There are four ways you could book and it is pot luck which is cheaper:

  • via the Hyatt website, for cash or points (standard rooms were available for 18,000 Hyatt points) – cash bookings would earn 5 Hyatt points per $1 spent
  • via our hotel booking partner Emyr Thomas (contact Emyr here) who will get you a package which includes an upgrade if available, $50 equivalent food and beverage credit per stay, early check-in and late check-out if available – you pay Best Flexible Rate in this case

It is also worth checking, assuming you collect Rewards, because of the 10% reward on your ex-VAT spend. This will end in early 2024 when the new One Key reward scheme is launched.

If you have an Amex cashback deal you need to book a ‘pay at hotel’ rate. There is no requirement to book via SLH despite what the offer rules say.

What made it easier here is that all rooms include breakfast. Booking via Hyatt or via Emyr would get you free breakfast at Small Luxury Hotels but often at a higher daily rate than any special offers. This wasn’t an issue at The Grand so we took the SLH website option.

The website of The Grand Hotel Eastbourne is here if you want to find out more. I do recommend it, but only if you visit in the right frame of mind.

World of Hyatt update – September 2023:

Get bonus points: Our article on Hyatt’s new ‘double base points’ promotion, valid at all hotels outside the Americas, is here. It runs to 15th September 2023. Registration is now closed.

New to World of Hyatt?  Read our overview of World of Hyatt here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on what we think World of Hyatt points are worth is here.

Buy points: If you need additional World of Hyatt points, you can buy them here.

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Comments (139)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • ChasP says:

    nice review – perhaps a bit more heart than head – but thats what makes a review rather than a description

  • Mike says:

    Rob, I seem to remember someone having their Amex cards removed by Amex, for using two or more Amex cards to split a bill. This “abuse” was using the Shop Small promotion. Is it in order to split hotel bills between cards? I’ve avoided doing that since reading about the Shop Small incident.

    • Rob says:

      That involved using about nine cards though, at a time when Amex refunded £5 out of £10. I doubt three cards are an issue, especially as Amex puts the offer on multiple carsd in the first place and has nothing in its rules about this.

      Another BIG difference – Amex funds Shops Small out of its own pocket. These deals are funded by the merchant.

  • LD27 says:

    This review brings back many memories. We stayed a number of times in late 80s and 90s during autumn conference season. It doesn’t look as though much has changed and sounds like the service is still as good. My last memory is sitting in the lobby with a cup of tea trying to settle a baby who would not stop crying. In the end I put him in the car and drove home leaving OH to have a peaceful night’s sleep!

  • pauldb says:

    Surely in such a place they’re called cloches, not domes?

  • Karin ajimal Pousson says:

    Nice review about the Grand Hotel, I live right next door to it and often eat at the Mirabelle very good food and select.
    I need your help what to do with my Virgin Avios since I don’t fly anymore being nearly 86 and try to avoid airports.
    My BA avios I convert to nectar points which works very well for me.
    Keep up the good work


  • Rob H not Rob says:

    Well, I’ve been to Hastings and I’ve been to Brighton,
    I’ve been to Eastbourne too

    What a tune !


    Of all the hotels I have stayed in around the world, there’s been a few….. The Grand at Eastbourne has by far the best staff and quite possibly the finest breakfast, not just the food but the atmosphere….. long may it continue

  • Sally Jane Hurst says:

    And every Friday and Saturday night (plus Wednesdays in July and August) they roll back the lounge carpet to reveal a dancefloor. The 4 piece Grand Band (piano / double bass / drums / vocals) play songs in a variety of ballroom and modern dance tempos. I sing with them (along with two other vocalists in rotation). It’s an elegant and fun way to spend your post dining time, listening or dancing. It’s a beautiful hotel x

    • Rob says:

      Indeed they do! I stuck my head in to look.

      The snag is that if you’re eating at the front of the restaurant it clashes with the pianist and starts to drive you mad. You need to shut the pianist down when you start!

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