In recent years, Newcastle’s most famous TV export has been the hard drinking, permatanned girls and boys of Geordie Shore. But last year, BBC1’s Your Home in Their Hands brought us Janet, vintage interiors enthusiast and owner of The Rosebery Hotel in Jesmond. Arriving by cab just before midnight, we found the entrance to the hotel festooned with fairy lights.
We followed the simple self check-in instructions and let ourselves into the lobby, packed with objects, ornaments and decorations – lamps made from old Bakelite phones, an ancient cash register, and decorative mirrors all competed for our attention. Our room was a feast for the eyes, with sparkles, lush fabrics, exotic wallpaper and vintage touches all around – it’s tempting to describe the style as eclectic, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. The centrepiece of the room was a large ornate bed, restored in French vintage style, painted white and upholstered in rich fabric. The table in the bay window was already set for the next morning’s breakfast, a hamper stuffed with pastries, as well as cereal, fruit and porridge. In the (slightly noisy) fridge we found juice, milk and yoghurt, along with some strawberries, which we enjoyed straight away along with the sparkling wine left out on the mirrored table.
The bathroom was light and spacious, with mirrored tiles on the wall and a large freestanding bath (rooms come with either a bath or shower). Little treats dotted around the room (such as boxes of chocolates and face masks) made us feel a little spoiled. Over the course of the weekend, we didn’t see any of the other guests, but I can see the hotel having particular appeal for couples.
Next morning, after a lazy breakfast eaten in our pyjamas, we meet Janet. I was surprised to discover that the hotel has 21 rooms, much larger than the cozy entrance would suggest. Janet tells us a little about the history of the place (which has been in her family for 37 years and has hosted Bryan Ferry and the cast of Hi De Hi), and a lot about the design and how she created its unique look. We discover that every object has a story behind it. Most have been bought cheaply at boot sales and antique fairs around the North East and restored either by Janet, or by local craftspeople. Janet’s passion for upcycling old furniture is contagious and I found myself contemplating a home makeover of my own.
Over the past decade, the North East has become something of a cultural hotspot thanks to the Baltic Contemporary Art Centre and Sage music venue just over the Tyne in Gateshead, not to mention numerous galleries and theatres throughout Newcastle itself. This Autumn, the Rugby World Cup will bring a fresh influx of visitors as Newcastle takes on host city duties. I don’t doubt they’ll find plenty to do and see. En route to the town centre (around 25-30 mins walk), we stopped to check out the Biscuit Factory (16 Stoddart Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE2 1AN) a converted industrial building exhibiting contemporary arts and crafts, before heading down to the Quayside. After a hearty lunch served by friendly staff and matched with local ales at Hop and Cleaver (40 Sandhill, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3RG), we crossed the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead. The Baltic (Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA), was hosting exhibits by three contemporary artists, and has a superb view from the outdoor viewing platform (complete with nesting Kittiwakes). We arrived back at the hotel just in time for an aperitif.
While the exuberant décor at the Rosebery won’t be to everyone’s taste, and fans of clean lines and minimalism might prefer to stay elsewhere, the rooms are full of personal touches, some of which (like the balloons we found in the bath) border on the eccentric, but it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into every aspect of the rooms. The noise from the fridge might have disturbed me if I hadn’t slept so soundly in the comfy bed and I struggled to get the unfamiliar toaster oven to work without instructions – but these are minor quibbles. The Rosebery is a welcome antidote to bland, corporate chain hotels.
Eating and drinking: A freecontinental breakfast including locally blended Ouseburn coffee is served in the room. Toaster ovens are provided to warm the pastries (also locally made). No cooked option is available. The hotel website includes helpful information on places to eat close to the hotel and in town. Two mins from the hotel is Peace and Loaf, run by Masterchef 2010 finalist Dave Coulson.