Room Service: Hotel Du Vin, Brighton

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The Independent Travel

Who needs two piers, anyway? Despite the fall from grace of the West Pier, there are plenty more reasons to visit Brighton in 2003 – such as its newest hotel. Despite the elegant surroundings at the Hotel du Vin, there's no sniffy dress code and no anxious glances at the carpet if you come back from a wintery hike caked in mud. In fact, the place is so relaxed that there are even notices stuck in the bathrooms imploring you to stuff the toiletries in your suitcase when you leave.

Who needs two piers, anyway? Despite the fall from grace of the West Pier, there are plenty more reasons to visit Brighton in 2003 – such as its newest hotel. Despite the elegant surroundings at the Hotel du Vin, there's no sniffy dress code and no anxious glances at the carpet if you come back from a wintery hike caked in mud. In fact, the place is so relaxed that there are even notices stuck in the bathrooms imploring you to stuff the toiletries in your suitcase when you leave.

The interior designer was obviously a little more demanding. The hotel forms an eclectic collection of buildings, knitted together by a wash of peppermint paintwork. At the centre is a 1934 Mock-Tudor building, which originally housed a wine merchant.

As many original features as possible have been retained, including a fantastic stripped-back wooden staircase, but plenty of simple, contemporary style has been added. The bar, which forms the central space, is a soothing mixture of earthy colours and feel-appeal textures. But its mezzanine level comes complete with purple-topped billiards table and a flock of suspended wooden seagulls. And as you'd expect from the name, the hotel has a stash of more than 600 wines.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Hotel du Vin, 2-6 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AD (01273 718588, www.hotelduvin.com); just off the seafront, a few minutes' walk from the Lanes.

Time from international airport: from Gatwick, frequent fast trains take half an hour; it's a 10-minute downhill walk from Brighton's railway station.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Each of the 37 rooms is sponsored by a wine firm (in return their wines appear on the bar and bistro list) and all seem to have been designed with hangovers in mind. Carpets are soft and grey. Beds are vast, with Frette linen sheets and duckdown duvets. Freshly ground coffee, a cafetière and fresh milk are provided.

The best bit is the bathrooms, though. Decked out with tiny grey tiles, freestanding porcelain basins and shiny steel flooring, they boast huge, freestanding baths.

In some suites, two baths have been squeezed together in a corner of the bedroom for those who like to bathe cheek to cheek. The rooms even come with a list of deco suppliers, in case you want to recreate the Hotel du Vin style in the comfort of your own home.

Freebies: Arran Aromatics shampoo and shower gel, decanted into miniature wine bottles.

Keeping in touch: cable TVs, stereos, phones and modem points.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Rooms cost from £115 to £185 midweek and from £125 to £205 at weekends. If you're here to celebrate, book the best room in the house, the Cristal suite (£250 midweek, £350 weekend).

I'm not paying that: the Hotel Pelirocco (01273 327055, www.hotelpelirocco.co.uk), nearby at 10 Regency Square, has colourful rooms from £50.

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