Where: Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, UK.
Long story short: Previous reviews have, for very obvious and worthy reasons, banged on about the style at La Rosa and this style is what makes its initial appeal. It’s an old curiosity shop by the sea, a nostalgia museum, an homage to bawdier times. The attention to detail is spectacular but not forced. One gets the impression that every single curio in the hotel has been hand-picked and means something to someone.
Short story long: I can’t think of many hotel reviews which compare the establishment to a brothel, at least not favourably, anyway. Allow this to be the first. And I mean it in only the most flattering sense of course. As a die-hard Steinbeck fan, imagine my delight when I realized I was practically staying at The Bear, the glorious whorehouse of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I’m not for a second suggesting that La Rosa indulges in anything of the sort of Dora and her ladies but IF I were in charge of designing the filmset (and I’ve often imagined I might be…), I’d know where to start.
The thing about La Rosa is that they probably wouldn’t mind the comparison. When asked about their child “policy”, the manager Clementine says, breezily, “oh we don’t have a ‘policy’ on ANYTHING!”. When I suggest that if I were to bring my 11-month-old at a later date and she might touch some of the amazing treasures crammed into this box of delights, she replies with, “It’s just stuff!”.
I can’t begin to describe the style without (a) not doing it justice or (b) going ON AND ON. The attention to detail is spectacular but not forced.
So often at so-called “shabby-chic” establishments quirky style excuses poor quality but not at La Rosa. In the Saloon room – a glorious nod to cowboy opulence – the ethos might be tin mugs and banjos but the reality is brand new plug sockets, crisp new bed linen, shiny clean bath (and WHAT a bath) and not a speck of dust in sight. Yes there are old photographs everywhere, there are tin mugs in the bathroom but when you really need something (swanky homemade toiletries or artisan tea and chocolate, for example), rest assured it’s there. Oh, apart from a phone. Or a TV. Which, for some might be a step too far but, let’s face it, not for the sort of guest who wants to stay somewhere like this.
La Rosa was born, and it shows, of a tinker’s van travelling round festivals selling cake. The van settled at a campsite outside of Whitby and La Rosa campsite was born, promoting a spirit of bohemian inclusiveness. The clifftop hotel was a natural progression and, rather than cite itself as an upmarket version of the campsite, as it would be so easy to do, the hotel appears to be a natural extension of this (its loyalty “passport” for example, rewards visits to the campsite and hotel equally).
It’s a sweet shop for nostalgists, it’s a place to while away an entire lifetime. Each room has its own thing going on. La Rosa is a grand, French style sea-view masterpiece, Stoker is Gothic delight and Lewis is an imagining of Lewis Carroll’s study. But really what sets La Rosa apart from other hotels is its all-inclusive “no policies” attitude. No request is too big or small for the staff here. I popped down for some milk and got a seaview upgrade. I mentioned that I had been ill the previous night and got a “good GRIEF, you should have told us!”. When I left I was offered a guided tour of the curios and a potted history of the establishment.
Champagne tastes: Splurge (a relative term) on the Crow's Nest - a self-contained attic apartment with accessories such as a dressing up box. You can sleep up to six people (which would be cheap) but rent it as a couple for a weirdly wonderful indulgence.
Shandy pockets: All the rooms offer impressive value given the love that has obviously gone into them. Also, the hotel's ethos practically defines shandy pockets: "Buy second hand, make do and mend, more Wombles than eco warriors, more Steptoe than Selfridges."
Review by Hazel Davis
La Rosa: Palace in wonderland