When Matthew Slotover, co-founder of Frieze magazine and the international art fairs of the same name decided to branch out, top of his list was opening a restaurant. Toklas, the result, has now been serving modern Mediterranean fare for almost a year in its home on the Strand, London.
But another, more ambitious project also presented itself. ‘We were not looking to open a hotel, but this beautiful detached building became available, with views over Turner Contemporary to the sea,’ says Slotover of the Fort Road Hotel, which he has just launched. ‘The building had been a hotel since 1820 and had been derelict for 30 years. We thought it would be great to bring it back to life,’ he explains.
Working with private residential developer Gabriel Chipperfield and artist Tom Gidley, Slotover conceived the Fort Road Hotel to be a reimagining of the traditional seaside hotel with a focus on design, contemporary art, architecture and food.
‘Margate has become an amazing centre for food and art,’ he explains, ‘with several excellent restaurants, the Turner Contemporary, Carl Freedman Gallery, Open School East, and Tracey Emin’s studio and art school, to name a few.’ And it also has a magical quality that appeals to the visually minded: ‘The light, sky and sea are incredible there – Turner called it the most beautiful light in Europe,’ says Slotover.
Purchased at auction four years ago, the Fort Road Hotel had once been a landmark of Margate. Now, Slotover’s team have transformed it into a comfortable and stylish 14-room hotel with a roof terrace offering remarkable panoramic views of Margate’s seascape, bathed in that beautiful light Turner was so fond of: the perfect place to watch the sunset with either a hot chocolate or negroni, depending on the weather.
The Fort Road’s art collection is at the heart of the hotel’s interior design, imbuing each space with character. On the ground floor and in the basement bar, you will find impressive works by contemporary artists that have connections to Margate such as Tracey Emin and Hannah Lees. Guests can’t miss the colourful and romantic mural by Sophie Von Hellermann, specially commissioned for the stairway between the restaurant and bar. The light-filled bedrooms, too, house carefully selected 20th-century abstract and figurative works, many by not well-known mid-century female artists.
The menu is short but appetising, offering a range of simple dishes with an emphasis on seasonality and locally sourced fresh ingredients: from a classic pan-fried Dover sole with mussels in cider to a rich Ashmore cheddar soufflé, with local cheese or cherry tart to finish.
All in all, Fort Road Hotel is a welcome addition to the area and offers a great stopover for those making the trip to the town to visit the excellent Turner Contemporary and the other art institutions there. No wonder it is the brainchild of one of the founders of Frieze.
Fort Road Hotel, 18 Fort Road, Margate; fortroadhotel.com
By Scarlet Bailey-Tail. Scarlet is based in London and specialises in writing about art