Just over two years have passed since London indie legends The Libertines ventured into the hospitality trade with the opening of The Albion Rooms on Margate seafront. For a garage punk band to become hoteliers is not the most obvious creative foray, but in this instance, for The Libertines with their record artwork full of old-world trinkets, song lyrics bursting with decadence and their Wildean opium den chic, it all made sense.
Since opening day, Edge of Arcady have admiringly watched the reams of social media pics with punters and bands stood on the increasingly iconic black and gold staircase leading up to the venue’s front door, and last week we finally had the opportunity to make our way from our South Wales home to ascend the steps ourselves and spend a few days away in this opulent rock’n’roll bolthole by the sea.
Entering The Albion Rooms is like walking into a luxuriously gothic Libertines art gallery. The reception hall’s black walls are adorned with collages, sketches and handwritten lyrics from Carl Barat and Peter Doherty as red chandeliers hang from the ceiling, all delicious walnut coloured wooden floorboards and a deep red carpet leading upstairs.
When we arrived at 2pm we were told our room wasn’t ready but were invited to head down to The Wasteland, the basement bar, site of many a hedonistic gig already, for refreshments or to peruse the town while the room was being prepared. We opted for a pint, made our way downstairs and straight out the backdoor with a Beavertown Brewery Neck Oil IPA, to the suntrap beer garden complimented by a ginormous mural of the boys in the band, replete with red coldstream guards tunics. We shared the beer garden with another couple who had arrived moments before us and a table of eight people with two dogs, overhearing hotel staff gleefully advise the group Pete Doherty’s own dogs drank from their dogs water bowl only weeks ago. Very relaxed proceedings for a Good Friday bank holiday afternoon.
After consuming a couple of pints, at 4pm we were informed our room was ready. A point that must be made early on – the staff at the Albion Rooms really help make the place. Hotel and bar staff alike, they seem to genuinely enjoy being there and remained utterly kind, helpful and accommodating throughout the stay, from personally showing us around our hotel room, to providing all important oat milk refills on request.
Climbing the stairway we passed more Libertines artwork, alongside David Bowie and Sex Pistols prints as well as an oversized neon-pink cross, another feature of many instagram posts over the past twenty-four months. Our room, two stories up, was The Mowsle Barton. A fascinating feature of The Albion Rooms is the 7 room names – The Lombard, The Rowntree, The Mowsle Barton, The Delaney, William Blake, Emily Dickinson and The Loft, inspired by band members nicknames, song titles and their favourite poets. The Mowsle Barton is potentially the most obscure – named after an H.H. Munro short story (The Peace Of Mowsle Barton) about Edwardian village witchcraft, deceit and one individual’s misguided attempt at swapping bustling city life for rural quietude.
Like much of the hotel, our room is painted a striking black with gold trim. The thick black curtains with gold tassel follows suit, wooden floorboards remaining a rich polished walnut. The main focal point of The Mowsle Barton is a feature wall of sumptuous Anna Hayman animal print, along with an original Peter Doherty canvas and ‘Fuck War’ artwork – all brightly coloured snarling soldiers and flowers. The bed is outrageously comfortable, strewn with two gold cushions and naked lightbulb lamps either side on bedside tables. An ornate lamp stands on a desk by the door backed by a large decoratively framed mirror, gold painted chair below. If no novels or poems have been written in this room yet, we feel it’s only a matter of time. All of the rooms have been created with the guiding aesthetic of The Libertines and interior decorator Rhiannon Sussex.
You’ll find no stash of Douwe Egberts instant coffee sachets here. Complimentary to each room is a jar of freshly ground coffee with a french press, Yorkshire Tea bags, kettle and bone china cups. We also found some quality snacks in the welcome basket and with a fridge stocked with coca cola, tasty beers, cans of water and a small sized bottle of milk. We’ve already used the words luxurious and sumptuous in this feature and it’s additions like this that make it so. Not to mention the courtesy robes and slippers, black-out sleep eye masks, Beats bluetooth speaker and the Malin + Goetz shower products found in the compact but comfortable bathroom – with rainfall shower and traditional porcelain taps and sink.
With a professional recording studio situated on the ground floor and a top notch gig-hosting drinkery in the basement, it’s fair to wonder what kind of stay The Albion Rooms has in store – a serene, relaxed weekend at the seaside or a raucous, debauched knees-up of a break? Truth is, you could manage either. Throughout our stay indie-folkers Albion were recording an EP in the studio, regularly witnessed supping beers in the back yard, and Indie Amnesty hosted a club night. Recently The Gulps and Shed Seven have put on shows and The Libertines themselves were spotted shoring up recordings for album number four, but we chose to spend most of our evenings in our room playing Bananagrams and eating takeaway in the lap of luxury, undisturbed by downstairs’ events.
When we did make our way to The Wasteland for a night we were welcomed into a bar packed with music fans eagerly awaiting Max Bianco and The Blue Hearts. The venue is festooned with regalia – fairy lights, a mannequin wearing a trademark Libs tunic and Tommy helmet sits side of stage, gas masks, taxidermy pets on shelves and a wasteland mural of an apocalyptic Margate, the band marching off into the distance. There’s a healthy variety of IPAs and lagers on tap, cocktails and spirits aplenty. Max Bianco began his set with a solo show, then joined by the rest of his band for a set landing somewhere brilliantly between David Gray and The Rolling Stones. Conveniently, it was only a drunken stumble up four brief flights of stairs until we found ourselves back in the cosiness of our palatial duvet.
After a Saturday night in The Wasteland came a Sunday morning in the Arcady Lounge, a charming restaurant decorated with vases and bottles of dried flowers, crucifixes, typewriter, feathered lampshades and rustic furnishing, including a lavish leather egg shaped armchair, with a panoramic window view of Margate seafront toward the English Channel, interrupted only by the Oval Bandstand across the street. Breakfasts are included in the price of your hotel room and include hot drinks and juice, a cup of granola and yoghurt and a choice of fry up, breakfast muffins, avocado on toast and eggs benedict – vegetarian and vegan options all catered for. We demolished a delicious breakfast muffin and coffee each and every day.
The Albion Rooms is situated in the locale of Cliftonville. Anyone wondering where traditional Camden Town has gone over the past decade, we reckon they picked it up and dropped it in this spot on the south east coast. Its main street, Northdown Road, features an abundance of vintage clothes and antiques shops. A small walk into Margate’s Old Town gives you more vintage stores, craft markets, fish and chip takeaways and coffee shops, next to tourist attractions like the fascinating and potentially ancient Shell Grotto, Margate Caves, the Tudor House, Turner Contemporary gallery, not forgetting Dreamland theme park – now a Sky TV series, and the stretches of popular sandy beach. The White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral are a short drive away, and if you fancy a Libertines pilgrimage, the Tap ‘n’ Tin in Chatham, site of their now infamous ‘freedom gig’ reunion in 2003, is an hours drive up the road.
Sometimes after a short break away you find a part of yourself aching to get back to the familiar comfort of your own bed and sofa but we can hand on heart, honestly say that after four days in The Albion Rooms we truly did not want to leave.
Have we whetted your appetite and made you eager for a getaway to Margate? Make your way over to The Albion Rooms site to check out room availability – https://thealbionrooms.live
Also, Carl Barat and partner Edie Langley have just this weekend opened Justine’s nightclub at Marine Gardens, Margate – described by Barat in an interview with The Isle of Thanet News as hosting an inclusive programme of events, “not just Libertines and indie but working with local curators so there will be all sorts of different nights coming up”. The opening night sounds like it was a blast – a certain addition to the itinerary for all Arcadian excursionists.