The Liquid Lounge, the new bar and brasserie in boutique hotel 1 Sallyport, opened in February this year and oozed smoothly on to the Berwick scene. A £1m makeover has transformed what was an old shop and office at the front of the 17th-century Grade II-listed building into a vision of pale wood, scarlet velvet and cream leather. Add a chandelier or two, fresh flower arrangements and a grand piano, plus barmen serving French martinis and you've got the picture.
The sleepy border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed is a little star-struck, truth be told, but then the residents are used to Elizabeth Middlemiss causing a bit of a stir. 1 Sallyport has been steadily evolving since this glamorous blonde chef first turned one of her bedrooms into the Lowry Room in 1995 and started offering luxury B&B. (L S Lowry, famous for his matchstick men paintings, often holidayed in Berwick; one of his pictures features the little alleyway, Sallyport.) Now there are six suites in two historic buildings.
A higgledy-piggledy warren of rooms, 1 Sallyport still feels in part like somebody's home. It has retained the personal touches of a B&B – there are even signs asking you to take your shoes off by the stairs – which is all part of its charm. The design is also highly individual, just like its owner: colourful and contemporary is mixed with French country style. Wrought-iron chandeliers are draped with ribbons and padded hearts, and bunting adorns the stairs and the fireplace in the dining room.
The hotel is renowned for its breakfasts: freshly squeezed orange juice, porridge with cream ("go on, treat yourself") and heather honey. It now also serves gourmet dinners featuring fresh, seasonal Northumberland produce – with a price tag to match: £39.95 for three courses. However, the brasserie menu is served all day – you can have a creamy local fish pie and glass of wine for about £15.
This B&B is now a fully-fledged boutique hotel – with bows on. Quite literally.
1 Sallyport, off Bridge Street, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland (01289 308827; sallyport.co.uk ). Surrounded by Elizabethan walls at the mouth of the River Tweed, Berwick has cobbled roads and sea views.
Time from nearest mainline station: Berwick's handsome station is a 15-minute walk away, astride the East Coast main line. Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Edinburgh Waverley are both about 60 miles and 45 minutes away, while York is two hours south. London King's Cross and Birmingham both have direct trains to and from Berwick taking around four hours.
You can choose between the Lowry, Tiffany, Madison, Smugglers and Mulberry suites and the Manhattan Loft. I was in Mulberry, a "penthouse" in the eaves, which takes up the entire top floor of the west wing with romantic views over the rooftops. It has wooden floors and a soft palette of beige, cream and brown.
Alcoves house an array of books and there is a basket of magazines to flick through. In the bathroom – freestanding tub and separate shower – are candles and bundles of turquoise-coloured towels.
Freebies: mineral water, organic teas and home-made shortbread. Bottles of L'Occitane and Crabtree & Evelyn products to use in situ.
Keeping in touch: direct-dial telephones and Sky TV.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Bed and breakfast from £110.
I'm not paying that: Old Vicarage Guesthouse (01289 306 909; oldvicarageberwick.co.uk ) offers B&B from £80.