“Come in and let us surprise you” is the message greeting guests at the entrance to the new ibis Styles Leeds City Centre Arena. Well for me it did — and on two counts.
The first is the tie-up with a branch of Marco Pierre White’s Marco’s New York Italian (there is an entrance within the hotel). The second is that the establishment has gone full-on “Yawkshire”.
This is initially evident in the chill-out area on the ground floor where the board games include a Leeds edition of Monopoly and a giant image of the Leeds United football team from the glory days of the Don Revie era.
As the “Ey up chuck” welcome emblazoned on the room card holder should indicate, the effect is even more pronounced within the accommodation itself.
“Ave a gander” is the imploring message on the large mirror next to my room door. I confess I had to Google “put t’wood in t’oil” but I now know it means “close the door”. And the brand of the complimentary tea bags? Yorkshire, of course.
The room basics positively reflect the ibis reputation for cheap and cheerful. No pricey toiletries or fancy snacks but a comfy bed, decent washing facilities, effective lighting and ample power sockets.
Continuing the local theme, a wooden board above the bed features an aesthetically pleasing map of central Leeds.
In location terms, the hotel is undeniably in the heart of things, and staff are good in terms of advice on directions and transport — and in my case replacing a ripped tote bag containing my journalistic essentials.
The ibis Styles is barely a 10-minute walk from the train station and close to cultural and entertainment attractions. Among them is the excellent Leeds City Museum, which reflects the significant contribution of Jewish personalities, as well as covering issues such as antisemitism.
One of the most impressive exhibits is devoted to prominent suffragette Leonora Cohen (nee Thorp), who married a Jew against the express wishes of his family. If visiting friends in the main Jewish areas of Alwoodley and Moortown, it’s around a tenner by cab.
Back at the hotel, Marco’s offers some refreshing summer cocktails, a good fish selection — I would recommend the salmon Napoli style – and a suitably Italian alcoholic finale in Sicilian lemon sorbet with frozen limoncello.
Guests also take breakfast in the restaurant, but when I visited it was the ibis version — basic. Staff hope a Marco’s breakfast will be introduced so make sure to “ave a gander” again.