Short break - Principal Hotel, Manchester
15:55 18 February 2017
Louise Allen-Taylor was impressed by the £20million facelift at one of Manchester city centre’s most historic hotels
Wow! The £20m refurbishment of Manchester’s Palace Hotel, now rebranded as the Principal Hotel (from the same stable as the Principal York) has made a distinctive change. But as one who knows this historic hotel fairly well I’m glad to say the refurbishment hasn’t chucked out the charm with the chintz. Architects and interior designers have tastefully retained the best of the old world grandeur yet introduced some very 21st century charm.
This huge building on Oxford Street in the city centre began life as the Refuge Assurance headquarters. It’s full of Victorian character and was clearly built as a temple to commerce - think vast public areas, stone pillars, marble columns, long winding, intriguing corridors...TV’s Halcyon Hotel is small-fry in comparison.
This latest reincarnation was completed last autumn and now makes the venue a welcoming place for non-residents to wine, dine and relax as well as those staying over for personal pleasure, city sight-seeing or business conferences. There’s a new Refuge bar and restaurant, run in partnership with the Didsbury-based Volta brand. The dining and dress style here in Refuge is casual but standards are high...and on the Wednesday day night I visit it’s really busy...just like the trendy eaterie in Didsbury.
My companion Cath and I kicked off with a Pina Royale (£9) from the lengthy cocktail list - a champagne, pineapple and coconut ice concotion, delicious and refreshing. Then we headed into Refuge’s dining area and sitting in a comfy leather booth under a very high ceiling we chose from the large selection of small plates. The menu will change regularly but flavoursome and meaty Spanish style ‘tapas’ plates dominate. There’s plenty of vegetarian options too. The drinks list is carefully edited - beers, ciders, wines and champagnes to suit all pockets. We paired our platters with a dry white Albarino Domingo Martin 2015, a reasonable £27.
My room was a perfect example of ‘old and new’. It combined contemporary dove grey carpeting and curtains, state-of-the-art TV and sound system with original Victorian features like wood-lined walls, white stucco high ceilings (very high!) and Edwardian-style reading lamps. I loved the bathroom: powerful new shiny shower jets but set in stark black and white tiling...all rather Downton Abbey.
Breakfast here deserves a mention: a superb Savoy style buffet and hot dishes, plus an a la carte menu for which no extra charge is made (that is unusual). My smoked haddock with poached egg, hollandaise sauce and sourdough bread was exceptionally good.
But one thing really impressed me - the staff. Without exception, every individual I encountered was just how a hotel staff member should be - helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Obviously, people of principle at Principal.
Principal Hotel, Oxford Street, Manchester, M60 7HA. Tel: 0161 288 1111 www.phcompany.com/manchester