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By 'eck it's Grand
Grand Hotel (Leigh-on-Sea)
Member Name: Emerald
Grand Hotel (Leigh-on-Sea)
Date: 10/05/01, updated on 10/05/01 (297 review reads)
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Sometimes it feels like this pub is part of my life. I had my first date with my (now)husband here; we searched through Estate Agents leaflets over a pint looking for our first flat; hubby's band welcomed in the Millenium upstairs in the function room, and he even worked behind the bar for a while. So you'll have to excuse me if I'm biased, but let me tell you why my not-so-local (20 minutes walk away) is the place we always end up when "going out for a beer" even if we don't mean to.
The Grand Hotel is a masterpiece of decorative Victorian architecture. Built in 1898, it was indeed a "grand" hotel in its heyday; catering for rich visitors to the quiet resort of Leigh on Sea. But as the British holiday trade declined, so did the hotel and it eventually became a pub owned by the Scottish & Newcastle brewery chain.
Because of its size, the Grand is more like three pubs in one, which is great because it caters for a wide variety of tastes. The bars themselves occupy the three large rooms downstairs. As you walk in to the entrance hall with its sweeping staircase, to the right is the imaginatively named "front bar". The bar stools sit incongruously alongside chesterfield sofas, for some reason all full of old blokes with dogs. If this was up north there would be flat caps (I know this having lived two years in Barnsley).
Don't let the front bar put you off though, most of the old blokes don't bite. Some of them smell a bit but they blame it on the dogs. Instead, head on through to the (again cryptically titled) Back Bar. This is where ostensibly the food is served, although you can eat anywhere in the pub. The menu is pretty straightforward pub fayre - steaks, chicken, chips and onion rings, along with the odd chilli or chik-tik-mas. The food is also incredibly cheap - you can get a steak and chips for a little over £2. Of course for that price it's not exactly cordon bleu
standard, but after an afternoon's drinking in the sun, it certainly fills a hole.
In the afternoons this is the area where children are allowed, although you have to keep them off the Grand Piano (result of a fundraising effort "A Grand for the Grand" a couple of years ago). Anyone can get up and tinkle the ivories, in fact if I hear chopsticks again I may go postal. But one evening a week a professional pianist comes in to put the amateur Liberaces to shame. This is also where events like pub quizzes, murder mystery evenings and the like are held. There was even a dog show a couple of years ago as part of the Leigh Easter Parade.
The back bar also leads out into the garden, where kids can run around for hours playing on the swings, slide, or in the summer, the bouncy castle. There are also rabbits and guinea pigs to pet and the totally enclosed space means that the little darlings can't go and get themselves lost or run over.
If children or old blokes are not your thing, however, (and lets face it, they are a niche market), then try the third bar which which runs along the left-hand side of the building. It's called, yes...you guessed it...the Side Bar and this is where the young, hip and trendy people hang out. It's the bar with the big screen for sporting events, and the slot machines, and the pool tables. This is where they have the halloween dressing-up competitions and vodka promotions and, most importantly, the juke box.
In the summer the side bar is full of students home for the holidays. Friday nights it's full of young locals before they go off clubbing, Sunday afternoons it's chock-a-block with people watching the rugby/football/cricket and threatening to bring the roof down with their cheering. It's the party bar, so if this is your kind of thing, it's the place to be.
Upstairs is the function room which is either hired out for anything from wedding recepti
ons to yoga classes, or open for bands or the Sunday night comedy club. I've been to many a gig upstairs at the Grand - it's a good sized room with plenty of room for dancing and a seperate bar so you don't have to keep running downstairs for a beer. The bands range from blues and covers bands to Irish to the local indie kids and admission is usually around £3. A good (and cheap) night can be had by all.
Recently the Grand was refurbished and re-opened as a hotel. The top two floors were converted into spacious rooms, all with satellite TV and en-suite facilities. Room rate is about £40 per night, and you're right slap bang in the heart of Leigh with it's shopping and art galleries and cockle sheds, so if you're thinking about a short holiday it's the ideal location.
It may not be everyone's ideal venue; essentially the Grand is a jack of all trades. Advantages to one may be disadvantages to someone else, but then there's always another bar to sit in. To me it's a good place for a beer and to meet friends. You get so many types of people in one place. If you enjoy sitting with a cold beer on a summers afternoon and watching the world go by, you should give the Grand a try.