Bournemouth's answer to Miami, The Nici is knock-out

The Nici is bringing luxury back to Bournemouth, discovers Kate Wickers.

On the Westcliff of Bournemouth, I step into The Nici hotel, where it’s 30 degrees in the shade and there’s a salsa band playing (not really, but that’s certainly the vibe). At the reception, the words ‘MY AMI’ are emblazoned across a specially commissioned artwork (should there be any doubt as to where design inspiration was found). The soft furnishings swirl with floral motifs, the artworks ‘pop’ Andy Warhol style, hexagonal white tiles gleam underfoot, matt gold palm tree lights cast a sunshiny glow. With its Art Deco flourishes, there’s no question that The Nici is bringing luxury back to Bournemouth, once the classiest of British coastal towns.

The glamour continues upstairs in my sea-view suite, where the bed is emperor size (a foot longer than a super-king), and I’ve a classy retro cocktail cabinet, complete with pineapple-shaped ice-bucket and ready mixed cocktails to enjoy, which I do on my private terrace with sunbed, with cliff-top views to the new 30 metre outdoor swimming pool, etched with cream-coloured cabanas, sunbeds, and parasols. Behind there, the sea sparkles.

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The Nici is a destination hotel (in other words, you don’t have to feel guilty if you never set foot beyond the perimeters). It has a swanky new spa, an outside pool area (where it’s hard to believe that you’re still in England), a bijoux luxury cinema and a very good restaurant – South Beach – with a vast terrace, where it’s not unusual to find A listers lounging (the exclusive resort of Sandbanks – home to many a famous face including Jamie Redknapp, Liam Gallagher, and Rick Stein – is just down the road). Soon to open is Old Harry Rocks, a glass-fronted Mediterranean restaurant, with far reaching sea views to the three soaring chalk formations it takes its name from.

The deck at The NiciThe deck at The Nici
The deck at The Nici

By now, I’m in a wonderfully retro mood, slipping into my halter-neck swimsuit and heading down to the pool where I lunch on a crayfish and prawn cocktail (a nod to the US is found in the bourbon Marie rose dressing). Later, when clouds gather, I’ve all the excuse I need to head inside to the spa. The 18-metre indoor pool is a showstopper; the peachy-copper coloured, mood-lit, ceiling contrasting perfectly with the aqua-blue tiles, and makes me feel like I’m swimming in one of David Hockey’s famous Hollywood pool paintings. There’s a hydrotherapy pool at one end, and sauna and aromatherapy steam room at the other, and upstairs, in a cocoon of a relaxation room (painted in soft neutral tones) the invitation is to doze on a crystal-infused daybed (which, I’m told, will help align my body to a happy, balanced state) before or after enjoying a treatment (try the 60-minute relaxation massage, with award-winning products from Oskia). For those with energy to burn, there’s a gym and studio (with various classes), and bikes to borrow. I pedal along the beach-hugging coastal path to The Saltwater Sauna (like a posh shed on wheels with a panoramic window), located on Sandbanks beach. While roasting in the wood-fired heat, I watch the seagulls fly by, then nip across the sand for a revitalising dip in the sea to experience what Finnish-born owner Arlene calls loyly – the benefits of combining sauna heat and nature – which leaves me feeling invigorated and happy, just as I was promised.

For a pre-dinner cocktail, the lounge bar has the look of a luxury cruise liner, with its curvaceous velvet armchairs and silver disco-ball chandelier, but as the weather is behaving, I settle into one of two new sunken seating areas by the pool, with fire pits as the centre pieces. For dinner, at South Beach, where a vintage pinball machine twinkles, and flamingos are a theme, I tuck into The Nici crabcake, followed by rib eye with sweet potato mash, still feeling every second that I’m stateside.

Even though it’s tempting to stay put, a stroll along Bournemouth’s prom shouldn’t be missed as it lines seven miles of golden sands that rank in the top five beaches in Europe. From The Nici, a zig zag cliffside path deposits me at a shore lined with wooden beach huts and the West Cliff Railway (a cliff-hugging funicular) built in 1908. From here it’s a 20-minute leisurely walk to Bournemouth’s (rather uninspiring) iron pier, and Alum Chine, a sub-tropical garden planted in the 1920s, home to an aviary where I spot Blue quaker parakeets and Pineapple conures, delivering another unexpected dash of exotica.

Back at The Nici, a South Beach Punch is the heady concoction (including Havana Club spiced rum and Cointreau) that I select as my final sundowner. All around me, the atmosphere is pure summer fun. Cocktail shakers are spinning; Gloria Estefan is singing; ‘Big Nic’ burgers are cooking; and if a guy in white suit pulled up a stool at the bar, a la Don Johnson, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Double rooms at The Nici start at £230 but do check out the website as there are often special offers (currently, rooms in June from £198). Family rooms and dog-friendly rooms are available.

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