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Review of The Beach Hotel in Minehead

PUBLISHED: 15:51 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:51 28 July 2016

The Beach Hotel is by the sea next to the West Somerset Railway

The Beach Hotel is by the sea next to the West Somerset Railway

Archant

Sarah Ford visits a unique hotel which is blazing a trail of success

There’s a sign in the lobby of The Beach Hotel in Minehead which urges you to: Soak up the sun, breath the salty air, rest, relax and reflect.

It’s not a tough ask for any guest enjoying the light and airy ambience, the comfortable yet stylish furniture and top quality restaurant, which has been gaining rave reviews from foodies looking for something above and beyond the norm. Sometimes it’s not until the end of their stay that staff will draw a guest’s attention to the fact that this luxury Minehead hotel is run by the YMCA.

“You can see their jaw drop,” says manager Dave Jackson. “And we can then have that conversation with them about what we are trying to achieve here.”

The YMCA is the oldest UK youth charity and has celebrated nearly 18 months at the helm of this seaside hotel, which trains and supports young people.

While they are justifiably pleased with what has been achieved here, Dave says the charity was very deliberate about its branding: “If people are searching for a hotel and they see YMCA they will have misconceptions and we’ve had to overcome a few.

“We pride ourselves on excellent service, quality locally-sourced food and ensuring everyone is individually looked after, from the moment they walk through the door to when they say goodbye.”

The YMCA Somerset Coast group bought the iconic Beach Hotel in 2013 with a £1.03million grant to refurbish the building. It was originally built in 1874, at the same time as the neighbouring West Somerset Railway.

Friendly, helpful staff wear a black uniform of ties and waistcoats, which nod back to the hotel’s Victorian roots, while the local names of the 15 hotel rooms - such as Holnicote and Selworthy - are a reminder of the beautiful Somerset surroundings. The building overlooks the sea, the wooded slopes of Minehead’s North Hill and the town’s Esplanade, which runs down to the historic harbour.

As well as restoring a town landmark, reopening this building has meant that young people are offered apprenticeships, training and support. The hotel also has a separate wing for safe supported accommodation for young people who are in a housing crisis.

The hotel is unique and is set to become a blueprint for national social enterprise ventures. Although, as Dave explains, it is not a training hotel: “We are a hotel run by professionals for apprentices, which is a fundamental difference.

“We run the hotel, make all the decisions; they are then brought alongside us to get their qualifications.”

There are opportunities for 12 apprentices, from front-of-house, to hotel management and professional catering. Once their lives are turned round, it’s often then time for them to move onwards and upwards.

Dave says: “It’s a difficult dichotomy that they leave us but they will want to come back and I want to be there for that moment.

“I want to see them in a few years’ time when they come back and open their own restaurant up the road!”

More to see

Within The Beach Hotel complex you will also find:

- Minehead Museum – an exhibition on the town’s history run by volunteers.

- The town’s Information Centre

- The Beach Café.

- A fitness suite, offering classes for members and non-members.

- Art work – exhibitions from local painters and photographers on show.

Hidden gem

The Beach Hotel is proud of its restaurant, which it believes compares well with some of the best on offer in this part of Somerset. Open to non-residents it is led by highly experienced chef Paul Ruttledge whose background includes three-rosette restaurants. The Beach Hotel offers elegantly presented British and European cuisine and works closely with local producers.

The new Free My Menu system means the chef can alter the menu on the website according to produce available that day.

thebeachhotel.org

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