As matriarch of the Brighton hotel scene, The Grand has garnered more attention than most, the low point of which was the IRA bomb that targeted Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and closed the hotel for two years. After reopening, it initially regained its radiance. But over the years, The Grand went from being a Brighton icon to a faded shadow of its former glory. The final blow to its confidence was in 2008 when the hotel lost its five-star rating after an essential refit was put on hold as a result of the recession.
Now, as the first full refurbishment for nearly 30 years is almost complete, the hotel is transformed from dusty old dame to a super stylish duchess, putting one of Britain's great Victorian hotels back at the top of its game.
Owned by the De Vere group for the past 20 years, The Grand is blessed with full-frontal views of Brighton beach. The hotel was built in 1864, and back then a stay there was seen as the epitome of wealth and success. The Grand is now hoping to win back the leisure market from rival hotels. Today, a smiling doorman, resplendent in top hat and tails, is an impressive addition to the entrance. Inside, guests are drawn towards the magnificent staircase which winds itself gracefully around seven floors up to a fanned skylight.
The refurbishment began with the conference and meeting areas including the vast Empress suite and the Albert room, before moving on to the accommodation. The Victoria bar, lounge and terrace was updated last year with muted tones of taupe and baby blue, in keeping with The Grand's legendary elegance. The rooms, on the other hand, have been designed in a more contemporary fashion. The new look has a tasteful New England beach house-meets-quintessential English seaside appeal to it.
A stunning addition to both the hotel and to Brighton is GB1, The Grand's new fish restaurant, which opened in February. Dominated by the silver-topped oyster and champagne bar, it has the opulent gilt-edged air of a Thirties New York cocktail bar and is already getting a name for itself among the city's resident foodies. And rightly so, the food is exemplary, with many dishes under £20, including a very good fish and chips for £9.
The final phase of refurbishment was the opening of a luxury day spa earlier this month. Like the rest of the hotel, it takes its inspiration from the seaside location and offers treatments such as Brighton Rock and Sea Salt Reviver.
And the goal of the refurbishment? De Vere announced last year that The Grand is to be put on the market. The changes will undoubtedly help to attract the £55m asking price.
Brighton's grande dame has the best spot on the prom, smack bang between Brighton Pier and the rusting remnants of the old West Pier and seconds from the beach. The hotel is a 15-minute saunter down from Brighton station. Trains from London Victoria take less than hour – with Gatwick airport 30 minutes away.
Behind the hotel is the main shopping district, Churchill Square (churchillsquare.com), where you can find everything from designer clothes to sticks of Brighton rock emblazoned with the name of your beloved (or football team).
A 10-minute stroll east will take you to the 18th-century Lanes, where you'll find a maze of antique shops, quirky stores, boutiques and the city's best restaurants.
Each of the 201 rooms, including eight feature rooms and four suites, is sparklingly fresh and smartly decorated in soft greys and briny blues, dotted with cheeky seaside features including red pinstriped cushions and starfish-embossed lamps. Opt for a deluxe sea-view room and you'll get knock-out views along the coast and a balcony built for sucking up lungfuls of sea air. Standard comforts include free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, coffee-making facilities and free bottled water.
While all the bathrooms have been updated, the standard options aren't particularly special; small tubs with rather basic over-bath showers. However, those attached to suites and feature rooms come with roll-top baths and a walk-in shower, along with a proper sea-faring telescope.
The refurbishment has also made way for a new standard of room. Chambre Unique is De Vere's "premium economy" of hotel rooms. All 48 rooms come with a partial sea-view, Sky TV, a Bose sound system, Starbucks coffee and ESPA bathroom products.
The Grand, 97-99 Kings Road, Brighton BN1 2FW (0871 222 4684; devere-hotels.co.uk)
Doubles start at £119, including breakfast.