As I sit sipping an All on Board Bramble, a yacht pulls out of the marina, giving the impression we're moving – but we're not. I'm sitting with my companion, Toby, drinking cocktails (mine is Plymouth Sloe Gin and berries) on the sixth and top floor of the funky new Southampton Harbour Hotel, a property that is revolutionizing the international port town and its local area.
The Southampton Harbour has been designed like a superyacht – each of the six floors has a promenade "deck" and every single one of the 85 rooms has a sea view. The top-floor HarBAR, where we're quaffing cocktails, has panoramic views of the Solent, though feels a world away from the busy hub of cruise terminals just minutes away.
This nautical-themed hotel and spa is the latest in a number of openings from the Harbour Hotels group, which owns properties in coastal towns all over England including St Ives (Cornwall) and Chichester and Brighton in Sussex. It's significant for Southampton, though – there's nothing like it in a city of dated offerings, and represents the perfect before or after stopoff for cruise passengers passing through.
Aside from the views, the spa with its living wall, the quirky cocktails or the firepits (also on the top-floor bar), the big reason to visit this hotel is for its food. The Jetty, the hotel's ground-floor restaurant, serves up fresh, locally sourced food that is simply and beautifully cooked under the auspices of Michelin-starred chef Alex Aitken, its chef patron.
The hotel's sense of fun is infused into the menu, too. We dined on Scallops for Breakfast, a dish of seared scallops with savoury waffle, sweet cured bacon and bacon jam, pan-fried John Dory with samphire, cherry tomatoes and new potatoes and New Forest venison and funky desserts, including Oops I Dropped my Ice Cream, an upside-down ice-cream cone filled with salted-caramel ice cream and hazelnut parfait on a bed of edible "sand" scattered with fine shreds of crispy seaweed. It's delicious.
HarBAR serves food all day – including breakfast – and the ground-floor spa has a café with healthy offerings, but if you're short on time, don't miss the Jetty.
The Southampton Harbour Hotel is set in the city's Ocean Village, a working marina bustling with nautical movement. Take time to stroll around looking at the boats or head further afield to the New Forest, William the Conqueror's former hunting ground, just a short drive away in one of the hotel's fleet of Mercedes. Alternatively, it's easy to hop on a short ferry ride over to the Isle of Wight for a day trip to Cowes where you can experience the ultimate British seaside vibe.
The writer was a guest of Southampton Harbour Hotel. It did not review or approve this article.