Historic Portsmouth hotel to open new basement bar with £700,000 revamp

A HISTORIC Portsmouth hotel is undergoing a major refurbishment that will see it open a new basement bar.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 2:55 pm
The Keppel's Head Hotel, in The Hard, Portsea.

The Keppel’s Head Hotel, in The Hard, Portsea, remains open for business throughout the renovation work, which is due to finish on Wednesday February 12.

The work sees the return of an old haunt for navy sailors – with relaunch of the Nut Bar, a popular fixture of the venue from the 1950’s to the 1990’s.

The bar will be open in the basement function room.

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The mysterious 18th century Royal Navy uniform, believed to have been worn by Lord Nelson.

The hotel, which was built in 1779, enjoyed a variety of guests during the Swinging Sixties, ranging from The Beatles to covert officers from MI6 and the KGB.

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It's this history that co-owner Tring Lim, who acquired the venue with her husband and a group of friends in April 2019, hopes to preserve while updating the hotel’s facilities.

She said: ‘It was the history that made it very attractive to us.’

The revamped reception of the The Keppel's Head Hotel.

Given pride of place in the dining room is a piece of the hotel’s folklore – a 18th century Royal Navy uniform that may have been worn by a decorated admiral.

There is a dispute as to whether it belonged to Admiral Nelson or Admiral Keppler, according to the hotel’s manger and Mrs Lim’s nephew-in-law, Ivan Lim.

He said: ‘It was displayed in dining room before we took over the hotel.

‘Some people say it was Lord Nelson’s, others say it was Admiral Keppler’s.

The ceiling of the hotel's dining room has been preserved.

‘If a historian can solve the mystery, they would be more than welcome to visit.’

Mrs Lim, who moved to Portsmouth from London 18 years ago, added: ‘We have kept the dining room’s ceiling as it was as it’s so beautiful.'

More than £700,000 has been spent on the refurbishment, which includes redecorating the rooms, replacing the beds, and undertaking maintenance on building’s wiring and plumbing.

In 2016, Mrs Lim bought the 300-year-old pub The Lady Hamilton, in The Hard, bringing it back into business after it closed three year prior.

Going from running a 11 room pub and bed & breakfast to filling a 30 room hotel has not been easy, according to the hotelier.

She said: ‘The biggest challenge has been filling the rooms in the winter.’

The hotel hopes to attract more visitors with live music nights, according to manger Ivan.

The 32-year-old said: ‘We hosted two live music nights back in December, and we hope to host them every fortnight.

‘We are also applying for license to host marriage ceremonies.’

A restaurant provides a range of Asian and European dishes, with the chef’s special changing weekly.

The Keppel’s Head Hotel, which also serves thirsty visitors in its ground floor Nelson bar, offers a range of drinks from Carlsberg.