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The Berkeley Hotel Knightsbridge London + Beach Huts

Cabin Crew 

Over the last while, swimming against the tide, we have been consumed by a tsunami of beach huts from Bexhill-on-Sea, Cooden Beach and Eastbourne to Hastings, Littlehampton and Westbrook Bay. And Deal of course. But we never quite expected to be breezily coasting along to face seaside exposure in… Knightsbridge. Shedding any retro rusticity never mind dodging budgie smuggling by the bucketful, primary colours afloat, The Berkeley offers sophistication in spades while flying the flag for its coastal theme. When the chips are down, it’s time to head for the beach huts at your local five star. Talk about drowning in a new strand of luxury. Life’s beachy. Over to Gertrude Stein in her 1914 classic Tender Buttons: “A winning of all the blessings, a sample not a sample because there is no worry.”

Our hut is full of the haves and the have knots. HMS Bon Voyage is plain sailing thanks to the crew on board this afternoon. We’re feeling somewhat nautical and rather nice, ready to learn the ropes. Fortunately all hands are on deck to deliver service with platefuls of smile. Ship ahoy! We’re all awash with admiration for this full throttle­ experience. Our table might be a cacophony of firm but feisty first world orders but we’re not feeling fishy so dive straight into the off menu on zeitgeist in vogue vegetarian range (we don’t want crabs or the £128 tomahawk steak). Nothing tastes as good as skinny fries. Or baked artichoke, grilled tenderstem, courgette and tomato. Or even charred asparagus, carrots, radish and truffle goat’s curd. Not forgetting lemon drizzle bites washed down with British sparkling Gusbourne Blanc des Blancs. Somebody give that vintner a knighthood! Gertie again, “Nearer in fairer sea, nearer and farther, show white has lime in sight, show a stitch of 10.”

There are five huts: Whitstable (lobster red and white stripes); Southwold (ocean blue); Walberswick (sandy orange); Deal (seagrass green); Padstow (surf blue). As for the experience – it’s a micro break good enough to write home about or at least to send a postcard. Everything is shipshape although it’s not like we’re here to rock the boat, more like rock the casbah!  Late afternoon is all about topping up our monokini ready spring tan on The Berkeley’s terrace. Bronze is the new gold. Who’d have thought? We’ve never had such pun. Seamen’s paradise. We just don’t wanna leave but hang on, mixing our drinks with our metaphors, someone’s commanding doors to manual. Best not catching cabin fever. Waving goodbye, we’re all washed up but in a good way, heading across Wilton Place to the local Nag’s Head just in time to catch sunset. Life’s peachy.  And finally Ms Stein: “A cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a collapse and a sold hole, a little less hot.”


The Isle of Thanet Kent + Westbrook Bay Beach Huts

Not the Last Resort

Westbrook Bay Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Isle of Thanet is the most easterly point of Kent. Once separated from the mainland by the Wantsum Channel, this area to the north of Deal and east of Whitstable is famed for its golden strands. All 15 of them. Margate Main Sands may be one of the best known beaches, crammed on sunny weekends, but just round the coast to the west is the quieter Westbrook Bay. Really an early 20th century suburb of Margate, Westbrook has its own distinct identity.

Houses Westbrook Bay Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Margate Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Street Furniture Margate Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Metal Street Furniture Margate Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Westbrook Bay Beach Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Westbrook Bay Beach Margate Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Westbrook Bay Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach Huts Westbrook Bay Margate Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beach huts line the esplanade of Westbrook Bay. Born out of an 18th century sense of modesty, they have become a cherished part of coastal heritage. Still great for changing into swimming gear, beach huts have their limitations as a couple discovered when they set fire to their hut in Bournemouth recently. They are not designed for cooking. Cucumber sandwiches are more appropriate. Beach huts’ latest reincarnation is as valuable real estate. Current prices in neighbouring East Sussex range from £15,000 in Eastbourne to £55,000 in Rye. Whitstable in Kent, £30,000. In 2016, Kent Online featured the extraordinary headline “Margate posh beach huts go on sale for £500,000”. On closer inspection, the article actually refers to beach hut style two bedroom terraced houses overlooking the beach.

Beach Hut Westbrook Bay Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley