Events: A Fortified Luxury Retreat
Our World | On 16, Feb 2012
If you have ever sailed the Solent and wondered what the round ‘forts’ are used for… I can now answer, for one of them anyway! Located approximately 10 mins or so from Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth lays a Victorian fortification that, behind the austere facade is rapidly being converted in to the UK’s latest ‘exclusive’ retreat.
I was invited by the hotel’s owners through their UK representation company to travel down to the south coast for a hard-hat tour of Spitbank Fort (those Victorians sure new a catchy name when they heard one…). We travelled by a fast boat to the Fort, piloted by someone attempting a speed record in choppy seas and clambered ‘aboard’ Spitbank Fort looking like drowned rats. Once inside, the Force 7 gale was completely forgotten as I took my first glimpses at what promises to be a genuine gem of a hotel.
This ‘doughnut’ shaped building is somewhat tardis like. It is spread out over a number of levels, with access to each level from the very sheltered inner courtyard; sundecks complete with fire pits and party hot tubs offering immense seas views at the top; bedrooms on the middle level, and lots and lots of unusual spaces for games, TV, museum and ‘chilling’ on the lowest level. The public space is entered upon ‘embarkation’, with a restaurant, Laurent Perrier Champagne bar and plenty of nooks and crannies from where to watch the world go by.
It is hard to get my head around how it will ultimately look when it opens this spring, but from the mood boards (located all around) I’d say it is going to be one of those sumptuous venues, where every surface brings out the tactile side of your personality. Oak flooring was seen, stunning reclaimed woods were also spotted being fixed as bar tops; the furniture we managed to spy was high-end, comfortable and quite decadent. The kitchen (which will be run by a Devon chef with a penchant for all things seafood) was really lovely; I struggle to imagine a lovelier kitchen to work in…I mention this because it looks as though there are a number of ‘back of house’ original passage ways and staircases that could be used to provide the fresh food almost anywhere within the fortress walls with very little fuss, backing up the flexible attitude of the management (none of that ‘can’t provide food there…service problems’ type of conversation).
When we looked at each of the 8 bedrooms on the middle level, they were absolutely not what I expected to see. I expected them to look a little like the somewhat identikit cabins of a cruise liner, but what I found were genuinely ‘different’ suites. Each room was large, with fantastic views of the Solent (as you would expect), amazing light, which changes day by day, or even hour by hour. There was plenty of exposed wood, but also comfortable, thick carpeted bedroom areas; many of the rooms had exposed original fortress features, and one of them even had a porthole in the floor!
The bathrooms were luxurious, although very large, they don’t all have baths and the toilet is not in a separate room. I believe this was a simple case of the designers working with the unusual space available to them (and compliance with English Heritage’s very exacting preservation orders), so don’t let this put you off…they are still stunningly well appointed and very luxurious. The rooms will be appointed with a huge bed (not twin beds) and a very large double sofa bed for those not wishing to share. As a result, the venue can only really sleep 16 people (or 18 if the upstairs deck restaurant is converted in to a bedroom…an easy conversion and one the hotel is more than willing to do on a need by need basis).
Although this number of rooms makes is perfect for small, exclusive retreats, it does perhaps curtail its use for larger events…or does it? Actually, no – the venue can be used for 60-80 people for lunches, dinners or parties; it’s just that not everyone can stay the night; so again, a flexible option for those type of events where the main gathering is larger than the nightly room requirement.
Some basic facts for you:
- A dedicated departure lounge at Gunwharf Quay, so you start your event in luxurious surrounds
- A dedicated, hotel owned, luxury launch boat for hotel guests only (although for the larger events, they can arrange hire of other vessels to carry people over)
- A fixed pontoon, which is raised or lowered as required to make embarkation / disembarkation very easy indeed
- Exclusive hire of the venue is the only real option – and is actually relatively reasonable (around £8,000 per night to include a decent food and drink allowance and all transportation between the Fort and the mainland) note that the price structure has yet to be confirmed
- Exclusivity for daytime/ evening functions for up to 80 people (minimum spend required)
This is a destination hotel, one that will be genuinely different, unexpected and it will offer the more jaded corporate traveller, the perfect antidote to the ‘norm’…or, as the owners, Amazing Retreats say “Iconic properties in spectacular locations for special occasions”. So, let P&MM know if you want to be the first corporate event there!