For years, Pete Doherty and Carl Barât were known for their demolition activities in hotel rooms. Today, The Libertines run their own boutique hotel in Margate, with rock and room service.
It is Sunday and close to closing time in the restaurant of this new hotel, right at the edge of the British Channel. The view of the gray sky is breathtaking. For seven courses we enjoyed the best the easternmost tip of County Kent has to offer.
Chef Joe Hill once worked for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and created a sensational menu with them: Whitstable oysters, sourdough bread, salted seaweed, egg yolk from local farms, blackberries and elderberries from the neighborhood.
And, to top it off, a thin but strong slice of Kent blue cheese. The adapted wines have been chosen by a brilliant sommelier who listens to the name Shabby and are not conducive to my vitality.
Of course I would like to end the evening in the hotel’s shady cellar bar, The Waste Land. But I feel that this last glass – Wasteland IPA, a beer inspired by gin ‘in which citrus and herbs meet in bitterness, typical of the West Coast’ – threatens to become too much of the glass.
The Albion Rooms
The seaside accommodation, the fine-dining experience and the basement bar experience together form The Albion Rooms, the brainchild and property of The Libertines. Indeed, that rock band. Once the most riotous in the UK.
The Libertines were once the UK’s most riotous.
The chaotically brilliant performances, the hysterical teenagers in the hall, the stories in the tabloids with often Amy Winehouse or Kate Moss in a secondary role, the frequent clashes with the police or the recordings in rehab clinics: they have all made way for this Victorian building. of five floors, with rooms decorated by top decorators such as Rhiannon Sussex, an in-house artist, literary evenings and, yes, well tucked away somewhere, a state-of-the-art recording studio.
When The Albion Rooms opened last September, co-owner Pete Doherty, now 41, immediately knew how to describe the new hotel: an idyllic place to hide, perfect for prophets with fresh inspiration, to relax, to relax. to write, to record, always just as happy and fully enjoying. ‘
‘For the first few months it was really nothing more than a kind of squat.’
Fellow singer Carl Barât describes the place that the rock band bought three years ago somewhat differently: ‘It was a B&B for a long time, one with the lowest review scores in all of Kent. And the building was pretty dilapidated, ‘says the 42-year-old songwriter over a coffee and an e-cigarette. ‘Spongy floorboards, sticky walls, everything tired. A building that you could see was once beautiful, but now completely demented. ‘
Until the four guys from The Libertines left the notary office with the keys. Although. ‘The first months it was really nothing more than a kind of squat. All kinds of people came in and not many artistic things happened immediately. ‘
‘There was a guy I thought was a good artist, until it turned out that he had kicked a hole in the wall in a branch of the restaurant chain Nando’s. So we threw him out. Not because of that incident in that restaurant, but because he didn’t produce art. Yes, it was sometimes very chaotic here. ”
From prison to boutique hotel
Things got really out of hand with Pete Doherty in the past as well. Like the time when he broke into Barât’s London flat while his three colleagues went on tour in Japan without him. Doherty had to serve six months in prison for that. If you don’t know the story, you can read all about it in one of the toilets in The Albion Rooms: there the press clippings about the incident are glued to the wall.
But that was five years ago, and in the meantime The Libertines have changed course: they now run a boutique hotel. The building they bought for around 530,000 euros in 2017 is far from abandoned and dilapidated. Brick by brick it has been transformed into a luxurious hotel with seven rooms, where you will find skin care products from top brands such as Haeckels in the bathroom.
The facial cleanser, for example, is based on seaweed, while the skin cleanser is made from sea buckthorn. Finally, the bioenergetic conditioner contains nettle. The Libertines are finally cleared.
“I feel like I have the best job you can dream of in the hospitality industry,” said Becca Hughes Davies, the manager of The Albion Rooms. Becca is 34 and worked in a ski hotel in fashionable Courchevel until March this year. She was cut out to take charge of this new hotel, which needed three years and an awful lot of money to be brought back to life by The Libertines.
No doubt we spent twice as much money as we needed to.
As Barât puts it with a wink: ‘It is no secret that we are not hoteliers or real estate developers. We did this by trial and error. And undoubtedly we spent twice as much money as we needed to. ‘
But now everything is exactly the way the boys want it. Drawings of the band members on the walls, in various guises, a ‘vape pack’ in every room, gold lacquer on the beds and wallpaper with crocodile skin, as well as Christ on the cross, pillows printed with leopards, Motorola flip phones next to the bed, and a poster-sized business card of a sex worker, “for the hottest nipples in London, call 836 7890”.
I spend the night in the ‘William Blake’ room, which is decorated by Barât himself. In the dressing room hangs a painting by Will Bianchi, which shows the late singer of The Clash, Joe Strummer, crossing the River, fishing for souls hidden somewhere deep in the water. ‘Wish you were here’, they shout cheerfully. If only you had been there …
But The Albion Rooms is also cozy and hospitable. Have to. As Barât blatantly admits, the band is not popular enough to survive this very expensive operation with only fans passing by.
What’s more, covid has also hit the hip seaside town of Margate, a two-hour drive east from London. The Albion Rooms was not yet running at full capacity. Perfect, because it gives management time to drive in.
And behold, in the first weeks after the opening, it was not only fans, friends or family who came by. “We also had an elderly couple from London, in their early seventies, who stayed here last week. They were just looking for a nice place in Margate, with a good table. During their dinner Carl sat at the next table, and those people had no idea who he was. Delicious. ‘
The elderly Londoners may not have stayed in the suite that Doherty furnished to his taste. The Emily Dickinson Suite – Dickinson is one of Doherty’s favorite poets – greedily displays Victorian nude on the walls, and what Barât describes as a “blood-stained heart that Peter drew on the wall, on the original plaster.”
Whether it might be one of his real blood paintings? ‘I don’t know’, Barât frowns. ‘But it seems so. And if that is indeed the case, then there is no problem with hygiene: we have placed glass on it. ‘
By the way, Doherty isn’t here this week. He was here last month, after a covidproof performance by The Libertines’ in Newcastle. He took advantage of his absence to record ten new songs for a fourth album with his companions.
But now the singer is already in France. “He has a big house there on the Normandy cliffs,” says Barât. ‘With a room in which he creates art. Then he drinks brandy and walks outside among his animals. ‘
Without Doherty in the neighborhood, Barât will play the role of Basil Fawlty, and is therefore responsible for the first ‘professional’ visitors to The Albion Rooms. Maybe just as well. It is an open secret that Doherty has been battling addiction for a long time, and perhaps will continue to do so for some time to come. Not always perfectly compatible with a host role.
And then, while we chat with Barât and Hughes Davies, singer Jack Jones comes in to take over the recording studio with his Welsh band Trampolene. “This is just great,” he says. ‘You don’t want to know how much money they spent on that studio. Madness. The mixing console alone was about 90,000 euros. ‘ He says he would like to join us for a drink.
Only now he is a teetotaler. An inevitable step in the life of someone who has been a member of that other band of Pete Doherty for three years. ‘Yes, we laughed a lot for three years and learned all the tricks of the trade,’ laughs Jones. “Like a real rock star.”
But the Crohn’s disease he struggled with, of course, didn’t help deal with all that alcohol. ‘I was a wreck and realized I had to stop drinking. I did that without taking a single step into rehab. ‘ And then: ‘That’s how Pete introduces me on stage sometimes:’ My only guitarist who hasn’t ended up in rehab. ”
Perhaps it is better that Doherty doesn’t walk around here all the time. All the more so because Carl Barât is more than happy to do the honors. If he can, of course. He lives with his wife and two young children in East London, so he can’t be here all the time.
“Yes, that’s also like that,” he says. ‘Maybe the customers expect me to be here, that they come to see someone from The Libertines. And be disappointed if they don’t see me sitting here in a chair at the reception. ‘ And then, after a pause: “Well, in a few years I might be sitting there seven out of seven, 24 out of 24, over there in that corner.”
The Albion Rooms, 31 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville, Margate, England. From 125 to 250 euros for a double room.
Due to the measures taken in the fight against the corona virus, travel to the United Kingdom is currently not recommended. View the latest travel advice on the website of Foreign Affairs.