Turning off the windy sea-front on to a Georgian backstreet full of B&Bs, scaffolding and bedsits, you come face to face with an altogether smarter façade. Blanch House is a small, boutique hotel that's quietly gaining a reputation as the hippest joint in town. It's run by Chris Edwards and Amanda Blanch, who have exported their metropolitan style to the seaside; Amanda is a music PR turned interior designer and Chris used to run the bar at the Groucho and the GE Club at the Great Eastern Hotel in London.

The bar is a striking mixture of retro, futurism and several shades of brown. Linger in there too long (perhaps in the company of Liam Gallagher, Julie Burchill or Sara Cox, all of whom have been recent visitors) and the eye is inevitably drawn to the back-lit stack of cocktail glasses. Chris's reputation with the shaker means the place is frequently jumping through the small hours and beyond. It may be a relief to discover that breakfast does not start until nine and continues for much of the morning.

Breakfast is served in C, an independently run restaurant on the lower-ground floor that offers eclectic cuisine. If you don't fancy dining on the premises, then all the culinary possibilities of Brighton's Kemp Town are a short walk away.

Location, location, location

Blanch House, 17 Atlingworth Street, Brighton (01273 603504, www.blanchhouse.co.uk).

Time to station: it's a 10-minute taxi ride to Brighton station, which should cost about £5. Gatwick is half-an-hour north.

Are you lying comfortably?

Staying here is an experience; from the informal check-in onwards you feel like a guest at a very select party. The moment you open the door of your individually-themed bedroom you step into another world. So far, 11 rooms have been given a fantasy makeover ranging from the ethnic Indian room, all dim lighting, drapes and exotic cushions, through to the top of the range Champagne suite, which has abandoned the traditional concept of the en suite. A cast-iron tub stands in the corner of the bedroom (but you still get a separate toilet). Depending on your mood you might also request the more romantic Rose room, have a white out in the Snowstorm room, or, if your flares are big enough, book the Seventies-themed Boogie Nights. All rooms have big, comfortable beds and powerful showers.

Freebies: Bottles of Molton Brown shampoo and shower gel adorn the bathrooms.

Keeping in touch: most rooms have telephone and ISDN lines.

The bottom line

The smallest doubles are £100; the Champagne Suite is £220.

I'm not paying that: Penny Lanes, around the corner at 11 Charlotte Street (01273 603197) has doubles from £60 midweek, £70 weekends, with breakfast.