LAURA LONGWORTH enjoys cocktails, spa facilities and award-winning food.
One night’s stay in a twin residence room with breakfast, £113; canapes £5; a glass of Prosecco £6; back, face and scalp treatment £80; soup of day, main, side and bottle of house red £43.40
The last time I went to Southport, my sister and I were twisted upside down at 109ft and tossed about at 50mph. And all we could see was the sky and the ground and the faces of our parents muddled together.
Proving that adults are really only bigger versions of their childhood selves, we returned to the seaside town last week for a girl’s trip away, seeking that same thrill of euphoria and self-inflicted sickness. Except this time, when we spent a night at The Vincent, a 4* boutique hotel on a Victorian shopping boulevard named Lord Street, our feet were firmly on the ground and our eyes on things much better than rollercoasters: cocktails; a spa; and award-winning food.
And unlike rollercoasters, there was nothing depersonalising at The Vincent. In fact, guests, and their individual needs, were the priority.
Take our appointment at Vincent Beauty, a spa on the sixth floor. A consultation before our treatments – a back exfoliation and massage; a scalp treatment; and an aromatherapy facial – identified our skin’s problem areas and allowed us to pick products according to our desired mood. There were even oils for balancing hormones: good news for the neurotic cat-ladies among us. (Yes, I do mean me).
Being a place for the millennial age, (a group tending to be more concerned with health and self-improvement than any other), luxury at The Vincent revolves around the experience of discovery and social connection.
The V-Cafe, for example, an award-winning restaurant, uses locally produced, organic ingredients, has takeaway sushi on the menu and serves up everything from fish and chips to “Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Leek & Parmesan”. It had the playfulness and intimacy of a neighbourhood café: a canopy of teapots twinkled above and the chalkboard promised coffee and a kitten for each unaccompanied child. And then there were the napkins, informing the “Vincent cab driver” to look for the customer’s money in their shoes, socks or boxer shorts, after one too many glasses of the siren-like house red, “Sin by the sea”.
But then there were the faultless touches of service characteristic of a boutique hotel: the waiters refilling our wine glasses; the bar staff taking them up to our room; the porter carrying our bags at check-in. At The Vincent, there was a clear philosophy: you can indulge, you can relax, and you can even have one too many. In other words, you can be yourself - and we’ll still treat you impeccably.
In fact, one thing to know about me is that I’m one of those overly polite people who’d ask to use the toilet in their own mothers’ home. But in the spa’s relaxation room – and the aromatherapy fragrances, or perhaps, the glass of Prosecco, may also have had something to do with it – I wasted no time in making myself at home with the canapés, magazines and drinks buffet.
And of course there was the food itself, made with utmost patience and care, evidenced by our starters: sweet potato and coconut creamed for a delicately sweet soup. But it’s clear the dishes were also made and presented with the intent of offering the thrill of discovery. Take our mains, a medley of ingredients, all intertwined: slices of aubergine, charred and flecked with spices for a mild after-kick; onions tangled with sweet strips of spinach; potato cubes with a spattering of Bombay spices, all couched with red lentil dahl. To top it off, roasted sesame seeds gave pops of crunch to a side of broccoli.
This playfulness also reflected the mood of the town itself, and I’m not referring only to such family attractions as the Pleasureland theme park, Splash World or Silcocks Funland. I’m also talking about Wesley Street (recently decorated in miles of wool), with its independent shops painted in pastel colours. And there were laid back venues like Irish bar Maloney’s, or gastropub The Hungry Monk, where mismatched mirrors, proverbial signs and picture frames clutter the walls, which, along with the use of china teacups, vaguely reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.
With its little messages – the chalkboard, the napkins, the silhouettes of world-class ballet dancers captured by Tony McGee in the rooms – the hotel drew me into a sort of correspondence, reminding me that luxury living is a combination of both self-enrichment and letting go. The best of the boutique hotel – it’s top quality service, its fine dining etc – has been brought together with the trappings of a lifestyle brand, offering a luxury that’s about more than just pleasing the senses. No, I was given much more than that: the real thrill was the game of intrigue and exploration. Like I said, we adults are really only bigger children.