As I sit in the bar at The Vincent Hotel, sipping the house cocktail (a rather delicious chilli martini), I feel that I'm in good company.
Relaxing on the white leather sofas next to me are Liverpool FC legends Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish, while on the far wall the faces of Anna Friel, David Bowie, Daniel Day-Lewis and Eva Herzigova peer into the room from black-and-white original photos by the international fashion photographer Tony McGee.
He is a friend of hotel owner Paul Adams, a Southport restaurateur who has evidently just opened the town's latest haunt for the local celebrities.
A steady stream of well-dressed twenty- and thirtysomethings are arriving to check out the bar – which is only open to members and hotel guests – but The Vincent isn't just a venue for the local cool set, it's now the place to stay for anyone looking for a Southport hotel offering more than three-star standards.
The luxury 60-bedroom hotel is already full for the British Open Championship at nearby Royal Birkdale next month, and golfers (particularly Americans) playing at one of "the golf coast's" 18 courses have been eagerly booking up rooms.
The Vincent was accepted as a member of the cool and prestigious Design Hotels collection long before it opened last week, and it's easy to see why. From its zinc and granite façade with Art Deco-style signage and lighting, to the sleek reception and the intimate and sophisticated Tony McGee bar, the hotel is as hip as they come – but not at the expense of levels of comfort and service.
The Vincent Hotel, 98 Lord Street, Southport, PR8 1JR. (01704 534400; www.thevincenthotel.com). The hotel has been built on the site of an old cinema, on the elegant tree-lined boulevard of Lord Street, which reputedly inspired Napoleon III to build the Champs-Elysées. A five-minute walk from the promenade, Lord Street is dotted with boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and old-fashioned hotels in red brick Victorian buildings.
Time from nearest mainline station: Southport station is five minutes' walk away.
The rooms come in three types and sizes, from the standard to the 100 sq m penthouse suite with private steam room, spa bath with Splash TV, and outdoor Jacuzzi.
My "V-Studio" room – slightly bigger than the standard "V-Residence" – had a wonderfully comfortable emperor-size bed with luxurious Frette linen.
I particularly loved the neat little Magimix Nespresso machine for quick and easy coffee-making (provided in all rooms), and the striking Tony McGee black-and-white picture of Cuban ballet dancers mounted on to a giant window screen instead of curtains.
Unusually, bathrooms have deep soaking tubs – a take on the space-saving Japanese omni tub – with showers above, plus heated mirrors which, very effectively, prevent steaming and are lit just-so for applying make-up.
All rooms are decked out in shades of brown, grey and cream, and come with pay-per-view movies on 32-inch LCD TVs.
In a few weeks' time The Vincent's spa will open on the top floor, with three treatment rooms offering therapies based around ESPA products, alongside a small gym.
In the golf simulator room, complete with artificial grass floor and a huge cinema-like screen, all those golf-mad guests will be able to "play" any one of 52 courses around the world, while enjoying a few beers from the bar.
If you fancy getting some outdoor exercise, the hotel also has four "cruiser" bikes which are free to borrow. The V-Deli on the ground floor, which sells sandwiches, soups, salads and drinks to go, will even pack you up a picnic to take on your ride.
The deli annexes the casual V-Cafe brasserie, which has an open kitchen and serves an all-day dining menu inspired by The Wolseley in London's Piccadilly.
Breakfast choices range from porridge with berries to thick buttered toast with homemade baked beans, whilst lunch and dinner options include a selection of caviars served with blinis, bangers and mash, Wiener schnitzel, and Moroccan-style poussin with couscous.
A pre- or post-dinner cocktail in the Tony McGee lounge is a must, especially given that the cocktail list was devised by none other than world champion bar tender Tony Adams – nephew of your well-connected host.
Freebies: Coffee and tea-making facilities; slippers.
Keeping in touch: Telephones (includign free calls to UK landlines), free Wi-Fi, and TVs in all bedrooms.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at £140, not including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: The Crimond Hotel (01704 536 456; www.crimondhotel.com), in Knowsley Road, offers doubles from £80 B&B.Reuse content