There’s no better time to discover what tourists take for granted at Blackpool’s most historic hotel.
Dickens liked the place, so did Churchill. An aperitif in the No 10 bar is like drinking on the set of Harry Potter. All those prime ministers watching. The fabric of the hotel, built in the 1800s, sings with history.
We’ve given Elton John a miss in favour of dinner here, “draught” dodgers from the gales, mingling with Scots Guard and other public functionaries. A piper plays a reel nearby and Elton’s hits drift in on the teeth of a gale.
I’ve sipped whisky with Mrs Thatcher up above, watched politicians romance TV researchers here, been led out by security after gatecrashing Major’s “kitchen cabinet.” Had food slopped in my lap too by a young waitress distracted by a handsome naval commander. Service has improved immeasurably since. And as old gals go the Imperial wears her years far lighter than I do. But it’s the staff who are the real foundations here.
The Palm Court is buzzing. Canny pricing by the new (Puma Hotels) management helps, £7.95 carvery deals and Euro-footie specials and suchlike, even if the ad writers confuse complemented and complemented. Over the road the Hilton’s doing great guns with its £20 for two Deal Monster, bubbly, Sunday five-course carvery. Such bargains help tide the seaside economy over and encourage locals to discover what they’re missing.
A long and lovely well lit corridor leads to Palm Court’s Palladian goes Gothic splendour. Great pillars, chandeliers, marbled globe lights, high ceilings, alcoved windows overlooking the sea. Dinner, table d’hote, three courses, costs £21, less than I’ve paid at other four star hotels. Our starters look and taste delicious, baby prawn and mango cocktail, with cherry tomatoes, rocket, red pepper, and red Leicester cheese and potato gallette, beautiful caramelized baby shallots, pepper sauce. One main course, pan seared pork loin, suffers overlong in preparation or waiting, probably because of pressures on the kitchen, but tastes succulent, and is served with caramelised red onion mash and thyme and apple cafe au lait. Slow braised feather blade of beef is a triumph, well-cut meat deceptively dark outside, mouthwateringly tender within, melting in the mouth, served with potatoes sauteed in butter until tender and browned, cabbage, bacon fricassee and red wine jus. Generous servings. We still make space for pear and rhubarb crumble with vanilla custard in a tureen on the side. Solstice Shiraz, a soft fruited Sicilian red,at £16.95 is good value, and complimentary Harrogate still water complements the lot. Total bill £58.95 for a Dickens of a good time. Great expectations for next time.
Name: Palm Court Restaurant
Address: Imperial Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool
Phone: (01253) 623971
Open: Dinner 7pm to 9pm daily, Sunday lunch 12.30pm till 2pm
Parking: On site
Disabled access: Accessible throughout
Worth a visit for: Outstanding architecture
One thing I’d change: reprint weary wine lists