Written by Kate Thompson
Southsea’s grandest hotel is undergoing a £7m renewal that will reveal once again her regal splendour and regenerate a corner of the city that has seen better days. Kate Thompson finds out more. Photos: Johnny Black.
Afairy tale transformation is underway at the Queens Hotel in Southsea, and the sleeping beauty is being returned to her original glory.
The ornate finery of the turn of the century exterior has always hinted at her elegant past, and despite the neglect of recent years, her Edwardian Baroque grandeur still commands respect.
The new owners – a consortium led by hotelier Farid Yeganeh, are passionate about the future for the Queens Hotel. Speaking to Farid, the excitement is palpable.
“I have been in hotels all my life,” he explained. “My parents were hoteliers and I bought the Royal Beach Hotel 14 years ago.
“I love the industry and becoming the owner of the Queens Hotel has given me a renewed excitement.”
While there have been major challenges to overcome – only 60 per cent of the rooms had hot water when they took over in April, and the top floor had been closed for years – there have been many rewards already.
A beautiful marble ‘chequer board’ pattern floor has been revealed in the lobby and has instantly transformed the ambience of the hotel.
“We’ve spent nearly £1m so far and we are being rewarded as quickly as we are spending the money,” said Farid.
Once the painstaking work is completed by 2020, the Queens Hotel will have 104 bedrooms and the aspiration is for her to be Southsea’s only 4-star hotel.
“We want to create a classic style like the Rosewood Hotel in London.
“We are using a carpet maker in the North who uses designs dating back to the 1800s, and we would rather use good, solid secondhand furniture in different styles to complement the building,” he explained.
Central to their plans is their vision for the Osborne Road elevation.“We want to transform the street scene and we have plans for a delicatessen and a supper-club diner where China Town used to be in the basement.
“There will also be a spa with an indoor swimming pool, and the original entrance will be opened up to provide private access to the penthouse apartments we are planning for the top floor,” he said.
Of course, a hotel is about so much more than just bricks and mortar (however fine they may be) – it is the staff who ensure a warm welcome and set the tone.
Duty Manager Callum Buckland is fizzing with excitement about the transformation that is underway. A student of architecture, he has been researching the history of the hotel. While chef, James Martin is building a reputation for great food, and clearly loving the challenge. (His sous chef, Michael Horrell shared a morsel of smoked, rare beef that was tender and delicious while we chatted).
“In January, we will be auditioning new acts for a programme of events in 2018. The Queens is made for live music and will breathe even more life into her walls.
“Every day she is revealing something new to us – we are all on a journey, and its one we would like everyone to join us on,” said Farid.