Michael Edwards enjoys the coolest B&B in Margate, The Libertines’ Albion Rooms.
If film stars don’t die in Liverpool, then rock stars don’t become hoteliers in Margate. At least they didn’t until The Libertines – media magnets Pete Doherty, Carl Barât and co – bought a run-down B & B. Located on Eastern Esplanade’s seafront it took three years to rehabilitate, renovate and revive. Previously the property got some of the worst reviews on the Thanet coastline. Now, it’s the coolest of places to stay.
Golden gilt picks out the stairs rising to the townhouse’s front door. A red neon light, a handwritten Albion Rooms scrawl signature, is a potent signifier. This is arty Margate. Home to Dreamland and Tracey Emin. Now it’s The Libertines’ coastal hideout too.
Once upon a time bands trashed hotels. Nowadays, The Libertines curate soft-furnishing selections and paint choices. Pop-art featuring Andy Warhol hints that they may see the Albion Rooms as a Warholian factory of creativity.
Heading into their 40s, the four band members created The Albion Rooms as a place where they could reunite, relax and work. “A fine Arcadian bolthole,” as Pete Doherty described it and also, in Doherty’s lingo, a good place for “a knees-up”.
Like many a nostalgic idyll, the decor harks back to better times. Though whether those better times come from the eras of Hancock’s Half-Hour, Emily Dickinson or William Blake – some of Pete Doherty’s muses – is never quite clear. Pulling together his ideas on history, Doherty published his collected writings as The Books of Albion.
Whatever the fusion of styles, coloured from a rich dark romantic palette, it is a bold aesthetic. An eclectic creation that may even cause Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to blink. Rock stars prefer to view the world through dark shades and The Albion Room operates from a dark palette.
Certainly, with the Albion Rooms, there is a sense of poacher turned gamekeeper. There’s a price list in case you have a Keith Moon moment and plan to wreck the room. Think carefully before throwing the artwork – usually pop art or nudes – out of the window to the seagulls. Artwork prices are available on application.
Given The Libertines’ reputation for inclusively treating their fans as friends – back in the day they invited fans back to sleep on spare mattresses – it is perhaps inevitable that Libertines aficionados would be invited to the band’s bolt-hole. Although nowadays it is at a price.
The ride in those early days may have been chaotic, dangerous, loud and sexy but as those fans head towards middle age The Albion Rooms turn down the volume.
In October 2020 when The Albion Rooms opened, the first reviewer looked back, rather than forward, using “Sex, drugs and B & B” as his title. With bar, cafe, restaurant and recording studio this is far from your run-of-the-mill B & B. To walk through The Albion Rooms is to stroll through an art gallery.
Once COVID is under control, management has big plans for The Waste Land restaurant and the bar: hopefully to host live music, comedy nights and other arty events. If the standard of breakfasts is anything to go by the restaurant will be spectacular. Choose from The Works, the ultimate full English, or the Veggie Load-up. Though lighter options are available. On the rockstar clock, breakfast doesn’t begin until nine and meanders through until eleven.
The Waste Land is far from a throwaway allusion. Whilst writing fragments of The Waste Land at the Nayland Rock shelter in 1921, T. S. Eliot stayed just two doors along on Eastern Promenade. Doherty, an aspiring writer, who at the age of 16 won a British Council poetry competition, would have known that. Hence, the naming of the bar and restaurant.
Margate’s arty reputation is on the up. The Turner Contemporary has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. After a brush with cancer, Tracey Emin has recovered determined to bring 30 artists’ studios to Margate on the site of a former mortuary.
There is a sense that guests don’t choose The Albion Rooms just as a base for visiting Margate. The Libertines had a cult following. Heading up the stairs, there’s a poster proclaiming, “I’m an artist. I don’t follow normal rules.” Guests still want a slice of The Libertines’ attitude, even if nowadays they expect it to come with luxury toiletries and one of the best-cooked breakfasts in the land.
Tell me more about The Albion Rooms, Margate
The Albion Rooms , 31 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate CT9 2HL
T: 01843 264041 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rooms begin from around £125 including breakfast.