Hilton shows how to make an entrance

By Anthea Gerrie and Nathan Jeffay, March 7, 2008

Two new hotels have opened in Manchester in just over a year

Considering it became a landmark within a few months of opening, it seems astonishing there has not been a Hilton in Manchester city centre until now.

But having finally arrived, this high-design hotel is set to give competitors a run for their money in a city which already has more than its fair share of stylish four and five-star lodgings.

The lobby of this architectural triumph in the Beetham Building, Manchester’s first skyscraper, has an immediate wow factor, thanks to acres of polished marble and a spiral staircase designed for Hollywood-style grand entrances. Rooms are spacious with particularly good bathrooms, luxurious linens and the now de rigueur plasma TV.

There is also an executive floor, with a private lounge serving complimentary breakfast, drinks and snacks. This makes the "plus" rooms which give access to it worth the splurge for business travellers (who will welcome the oversized desk and ergonomically-designed chair in their room) and special-occasion leisure visitors, who will revel in the extra plasma screen they can enjoy from their private Jacuzzi.

A signature restaurant is lacking (the Podium eatery-cum-lounge does not seem set to become a dining destination) but given the proximity of buzzy restaurants such as Choice and Albert’s Shed in nearby Castlefield, guests are more likely to eat out and finish the evening at Cloud 23, the hotel’s super-stylish 23rd floor, glass-walled bar.

If you need to stay in Manchester either side of a simchah or just to get a decent night’s sleep before or after a day of meetings, the proximity of the six-month-old City Inn in Manchester — part of the clever City Inn chain which has other properties in Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow and London — allows you to scuttle out of the lobby just minutes before you need to board a train at Manchester Piccadilly Station.
You would probably not go to this City Inn if you wanted a relaxing getaway. But if you need clean, modern functionality, that is exactly what you get. That said, what this place does not offer is that bland, characterless functionality you associate with somewhere like Travelodge.

Instead, it has cleverly worked out the things that are essential in a hotel, and provided these in good quality and excellent design.

Naturally, guests expect a TV, radio, films and internet access. So all of these are provided via iMac in the room. In a similar vein, the design of the hotel is sufficiently appealing to reduce the need for decorative elements.

This includes two towering walls of glass which converge on one corner and are incorporated into the design of 26 guest rooms. The only pity is that this being central Manchester — and forgive me if this reminds you of the Fawlty Towers moment when Basil responds to a guest complaining about the view from her room with: "What did you expect? Sydney Opera House" — the view is of a dingy car park.

The hotel has also solved — and with great panache — the potential for lack of privacy in its restaurant, the Piccadilly Lounge. Clever use of curtains create a sense of air and space as well as providing an attractive design feature.

The hotel’s strength, along with exceptional value for money — and its award-winning City Café — is in some of the thoughtful touches, like picture windows which actually open, and iron and ironing board, cotton bathrobes and laptop safes in every room.

And the approach seems to be working. For the chain has already garnered a clutch of awards, including Group Hotel of the Year in the 2005 Caterer and Hotelkeeper Awards and best business hotel brand in the Business Travel Awards in 2004 and 2005.

Last updated: 1:36pm, September 10 2008