Firstly, if you are driving do not rely on the postcode on your reservation, which brings you to the front door; you need to take advice on the tortuous route to the (free) car park at the rear, and arrive by 5 if you want to be sure of a space there (or try to find free on-street parking a block away). And look for the sign to the hidden lift to avoid carrying your baggage up the steps from the car park to the back door; I saw no porter.
The hotel was renovated more than a decade ago and, while the original features are still delightful, many of the fixtures and fittings are rather past their renewal date and a bit cheap and nasty in places. Everything about the hotel is contradictory and thus difficult to rate.
I had a spacious corner room with a great view of the pier and the sea, two huge windows (with warnings signs not to climb out on the dangerous balcony). Useful ironing board/iron (in a horrible looking fifties-style wardrobe) and coffee makings, and a very good shower room (modest toiletries, ineffective hairdryer). Good linens but the mattress (two beds pushed together) and pillows were terrible, and it took two tries to get a TV remote that even then only half worked. Only one electric socket by the bed each side for the reading lamps, so they had to be unplugged for keeping the laptop charged while using it in bed, and charging the phone for use as an alarm clock. The worst thing was the lack of air conditioning and the difficulty of opening the double glazed windows; the room got very hot by the evening on sunny days and the only option of an electric fan was then so noisy I could not hear the television.
Good free wifi once you have managed to log on (yet more phone calls to reception).
Useful water cooler/heater in the corridor.
Service is generally charming but incredibly hit and miss. I ordered and re-ordered a newspaper every day and every day it was left off the list - until the last day when I had specified not to bother with a paper as I thought i would be leaving very early - I did not but the newspaper was duly delivered; they did, though, send someone to fetch a newspaper and bring it to me in the breakfast room on the days when it had been forgotten. The bar staff in the evening have perfected chatting among themselves and avoiding catching the eye of any customer, to a ridiculous extent; I almost did a little dance - to the sympathetic amusement of other guests - and was still not noticed by the bar staff. Reception also seems a total muddle with either only one stressed person, or several people tripping over each other to do different things in a confined space. On my arrival I went and sat down for ten minutes, as the only staff member on duty was engaged in taking a lengthy phone call regarding a booking. Some clarification of roles and tasks is clearly needed.
I chose the hotel for its proximity to where I was working and the fact that it serves food until late (in the bar, restaurant only until 9.30 p.m.). I ate twice in each. The food in each case reflects the elderly coach party clientele that predominated during my stay - old fashioned menu (when did you last see deep fried brie on a menu?), bland and unadventurous, but quite OK (very good fish and chips , as one would hope). The wine list, on the other hand, is interesting to the point of being quite exciting and is excellent value. A very good claret for £23!
There is a breakfast buffet (fried full English, cereals, fruit, one type of cheese) but I got bored with its limited selection after the first two days. Excellent croissants!
Overall, my stay was good value for such a good room (but they do not add service charges, so budget for tips) and the hotel served its purpose. They are really trying hard but are clearly cutting corners and need to be careful that this classic hotel does not fade away. less