In October 2016, England’s oldest hotel was destroyed by fire. The Royal Clarence had stood proudly in Exeter for the best part of 250 years. Plans are now underway to rebuild the Royal Clarence, with work expected to finish in 2019.
Thankfully visitors won’t need to wait that long to enjoy a stay in a recently renovated and classy yet contemporary hotel. Young’s owned The City Gate is proudly open for business after undergoing a £1.2m refurbishment.
Young’s might be best known for their pubs – some of which date back to the 1800s – but in recent years they’ve also invested heavily in their 23 hotels, which are spread across London and the South West.
Last year the company spent £25.7m on existing estates. Early indicators suggest the changes are paying off. Room sales have increased by 2.9% over the past year and occupancy now stands at 74.9%.
The City Gate re-launched in May after undergoing a four month refurbishment. The same interior designer has been responsible for all of Young’s refurbishments and so far, the hard work appears to be paying off.
Situated a short walk from the city centre, The City Gate now boasts 14 new boutique bedrooms based around themes of cotton, water and wool. Management are also keen to promote what they claim is Exeter’s only central beer garden.
The hotel’s owners say their desire was to make each room feel special. Complimentary Devon fudge and vintage port is served in every room, along with Sky TV (with a full movies and sports package) and a well-equipped Nespresso machine. The décor is modern throughout with the bedrooms feeling light and airy.
On top of these refurbishments, Young’s are rolling out their new ‘On Tap’ app, BurgerShacks and craft beer range across their pubs. With a desire to attract customers across all ages, Young’s are reluctant to state explicitly that these changes are designed to bring in younger punters, but the fact remains the chain is trying to capture a younger demographic.
An impressively large cellar bar is available to hire free of charge and can accommodate up to 120 people for parties or meetings. The original brick walls and worn wooden floors result in a room which is full of character.
The City Gate say they like to think of themselves as “a great pub with rooms rather than a hotel”. This is evidenced by the impressive menu. Boutique Hotelier enjoyed 28 day aged black angus sirloin with triple cooked chips and an exquisite peppercorn sauce. Every dish is handmade, and local suppliers are used wherever possible. The homegrown vibe extends to the bar where local brands including Plymouth Gin are on offer alongside local craft beers and ales.
The City Gate market themselves as “small enough to offer friendly and personal service to all guests” and are keen to add “special touches” wherever possible. This means every guest is shown to their room, GHD hair straighteners are available on request and every bathroom is different, modelled differently depending on the shape of the room.
Downsides are few and far between. Some long-standing guests have been disappointed with the new-look garden, and the building’s listed status means there’s no disabled access beyond the ground floor. But initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And despite the costs resulting from the vast improvements, the venue has been able to maintain its price list.
According to The City Gate’s management, plenty of people hadn’t even realised the property existed, so the refurbishment, along with positive reviews in the local press, is helping to put them back on the map.
Charismatic, friendly and attentive staff are on hand to serve both corporate based clientele who tend to visit from Mon-Thurs, and those travelling for leisure on the weekends.
Local attraction ‘The Quay’ is a short walk away and is a must-visit for anyone who fancies a tranquil daytime walk or quiet evening drink. The city centre is easy to navigate and just a short walk away from the hotel.
*Written by roving reporter Sam Hailes.