Monday, 20 January 2014

Big Sleep Hotels UK. Stylish budget hotels. Cosmo Fry. Museum of Chocolate for Bristol? Raymond Chandler. John Malkovich.

The Big Sleep Hotel in Cardiff is opposite the Motorpoint Arena and John Lewis,
near Cardiff Bay,  the Millennium Stadium, St David's shopping arcade, and the railway station. Conde Nast voted it "1 of 25 coolest hotels in the world."
Film star John Malkovich is one of the original investors in the Big Sleep.

Cheltenham Big Sleep Hotel was originally the tax office, and opened in 2006.
 The conversion was filmed by itv reality show  Risky Business.  

The elegant Georgian Big Sleep Hotel on the sea front in Eastbourne.
It opened in 2008 and is Fry's favourite.

Award-winning, stylish Big Sleep budget hotels in Cardiff, Cheltenham and Eastbourne are quite different from the usual characterless budget hotel chains. They were up for sale in June 2012 with Colliers International, either separately or as a whole, but were taken off the market very soon afterwards.  Nonetheless, the valuations at the time make interesting reading. The Big Sleep Hotel in Cheltenham, with 62 bedrooms, was valued at £3 million, Cardiff, with 81 bedrooms at £2 million, and Eastbourne with 50 bedrooms at £1.6 million. 

Owner Cosmo Fry, a descendant of the Fry's chocolate family,  originally planned to sell up in order to set up Museum of Chocolate on the Cadbury's site in Keynsham  near Bristol,.Fry's grandfather, Cecil, was the last Fry to run the factory in Keynsham before it was taken over by Cadbury's. Unfortunately Cadbury’s had little appetite for the idea, as it already has one in Birmingham. There are only 46 museums of chocolate in the world, and doubtless Fry would have made it stylish and interesting. 

In 1999 he came up with the novel idea of converting the former British Gas building in central Cardiff into the first Big Sleep HotelFry and his wife, former fashion editor Lulu Anderson, were new to the hotel trade,  as he explained, "so we were not restrained by having to conform to anybody else’s ideas of how hotels should look or operate. We were thinking out of the box."  Their next hotel almost in the centre of Cheltenham was converted from the redundant Tax Office.

Big Sleep Cheltenham public seating area

The Eastbourne bar is open late at night for residents. 
The breakfast room is at the other end.
 Table Tennis, Darts and a Pool Table are in the basement.

Fry used his Counter Tops business in Bath - the first company in the UK to bend formica,  to provide exciting brightly-coloured formica, stylish wood flooring and fittings in all three hotels which are a perfect backdrop for his house style. Fleece or Orla Kiely patterned curtains abound. Bedrooms are in muted colours, with quality mattresses, sheets and pillows; flat screen tvs include Sky Sports plus there are the usual hairdryers and tea and coffee making facilities.  Continental breakfasts are included in the price of the room, and hot breakfasts are available at a reasonable price. WiFi is free in public areas and the laid-back hotels are welcoming to dogs, children and the disabled. 

Family room for four, Cheltenham

The Big Sleep website is a joy to visit, and you can even click on a photo of bedrooms and other areas in the hotel. Some singles and doubles are currently available from £34 and look out for deals. Countertops is also an impressive website with an impressive range of services. 

Cardiff penthouse

Cheltenham suite. 
In 2013 The Guardian listed the Big Sleep Hotel there
as one of the 100 top chic places to go to in the UK for under £100 a night

The Big Sleep name is a tribute to Raymond Chandler's 1939 book and subsequent film in 1946 starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. 

Ironically the name refers to death, 
in Chandler’s words: 
“sleeping the big sleep”.