French pop-up restaurant owner unveils new seaside hotel plan
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A restaurateur who fell in love with Aldeburgh after opening a pop-up seaside French eatery is staying for good – after raising money to buy the venue to create a quality hotel-diner.
George Pell hopes to return 152 High Street to its 350-year-old roots as a hotel, with seven guest rooms and his popular L’Escargot Sur Mer continuing to serve eaters.
Mr Pell decided to up sticks and move his Soho-based L’Escargot team to the Suffolk coast in 2020, saying he “didn’t really see any interest in reopening in London” following the first coronavirus lockdown.
At first, he only intended to use the site of the former 152 restaurant and East Coast Café for the month of August.
Yet while he admitted “it felt like were doing something a bit bonkers”, he could see immediately his gamble had paid off - as the team ran out of wine in the first weekend at the restaurant.
But now Mr Pell has raised money from Aldeburgh-based investors to buy the building - and has submitted a planning application to convert the upper floors into hotel rooms.
If approved, work would start later in the year and be ready for spring 2022.
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Mr Pell said: “The story started last year when we decamped up to Aldeburgh, which was only supposed to be for a month.
“It was very successful and I fell in love with the town.
“The building was for sale and we’ve ended up getting a group of local investors together with myself to buy the building.”
Mr Pell said he was keen for the work – designed by architect Charles Curry-Hyde, with interior design by Kate Fulford – to be done “as sensitively as possible” to Aldeburgh’s historic surroundings.
He says the proposals are “remarkably similar” to the building’s previous layout as a hotel, which also had 12 rooms.
“We’re going back to the building’s origins of what it was for,” Mr Pell said of the site, which was last used as a hotel in 1976.
“From a design point of view, we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the area around it.”
His aim is to create a “beautiful beach townhouse” which will be a gateway for people to explore Aldeburgh and the Suffolk coast.
His vision is to model it on Paris’ Hotel Amour, which similarly offers a high-quality place to stay that enables people to explore the French city.
“Aldeburgh is a really exciting place,” he said.
“It’s got a magical quality to it. It’s so relaxing when you get there, with its big sky and its stillness. It’s just so beautiful.
“The rooms will be high-end in terms of quality. There will be comfort and luxury but it won’t be like a spa hotel.
“We want people to come here, get up in the morning and explore the area. The rooms are part of a bigger story.”
Mr Curry-Hyde, who is based in Ipswich and has already worked on several notable Suffolk buildings such as Whisstocks in Woodbridge and the conversion of Crown Maltings in Aldeburgh, said: “It is such a privilege to be working with George and his team.
“I have longed for someone whose passion and expertise matches this beautiful place.
“We will look back in years to come and see this as the point when Suffolk took its place as a great destination to match the south and south-west coast.
“It is also so pleasing to shepherd a listed building back to its historic use with so little intervention.
“The cultural, placemaking and energy benefits of this are immense.”
Interior designer Kate Fulford, who lives and works in Aldeburgh, has worked on numerous projects worldwide - including the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados and the restoration of Apsley House in London.
She has 20 years of experience working in residential and commercial projects. and has recently was highly commended for the Studio Indigo Award for Design Innovation.
She said: "George and his wife Malin clearly have a talent for delivering a dining experience but they are taking this project much further.
"With a restaurant, wine bar, private dining room and clubby charm, its arms are open to all.
"My aim for the interior - stylish but relaxed, reminding of East Suffolk’s heritage and well worth a long drive."