on April 18, 2008
The Britannia is a Grade II listed building with a particularly grand entrance hall sporting a magnificent chandelier that would not be misplaced in the grandest of theatre auditorium. On checking in, with a decent internet deal, I was given a card to cash in for a complimentary bottle of house wine. I was expecting that the wine would only be given alongside an evening meal but I was told to take the voucher to the bar in order to redeem it for a bottle of house red or white. Having checked in I wandered back to the ground floor to claim my bottle of red. It was nothing special – an Italian that I decided would nicely accompany one of my homemade “special lasagnes” that I was planning to cook later on in the week. Indeed both my wife and I were pleasantly surprised with this fruity little number when we “cracked it open” the following Friday night. It was nothing special but there again it was not offensive and IT WAS FREE!Checking in had been a bit of a challenge as I had great difficulty understanding the hotel receptionist and he volunteered little. Even asking for a receipt had been a task in itself, as he didn’t seem to understand me I could only catch every other word uttered by him. He mumbled and his accent was heavy and his command of English extremely limited – all of these speech qualities mitigate against him ever being a first class hotel receptionist in the U.K. Having made my payment and obtained a receipt my next task was to sort out where I should go for breakfast the following day. Why I did it I’m really not sure as after several minutes I was none the wiser and I decided to explore the hotel on my own. After all finding the breakfast hall couldn’t be that difficult!Having achieved check in I climbed the grand balconied staircase to the first floor and strolled down the broad corridors to my bedroom, which was at the furthest point from the reception. The corridor walls were covered with pictures and period furniture dotted the length of the hall set amongst the original ornate pillars of this Victorian (1858) cotton Cash-and-Carry warehouse. This clearly is a grand building although it soon became clear that it had seen much better days – the paintwork is scuffed, the carpets threadbare in places and the bedroom (to be kind) is shabby chic. I have to say none of it was “offensive” and it wasn’t too hard to look through the shabbiness and just appreciate the decadent splendour of that impressive reception. Perhaps I’m being too kind. It was tatty, run down and I could clearly understand why the price for a night was so competitive (I mean cheap)!The hotel is extremely well-placed - close to the tram terminus, bus station, Piccadilly station, China Town and Manchester’s Arndale Shopping Centre and although this makes it “handy” it also makes it very noisy. Indeed my room overlooked the bus station and I just knew that the noise of the buses would not abate until the wee small hours. Indeed the “paper thin” bedroom walls and inadequate secondary double-glazing ensured that I had one of my worst night’s sleep in a British hotel. At one point in the early hours of the morning I was convinced that the next room were holding a rave and when the clock reached 1.30 a.m I did ring reception to ask them to intervene. They responded quickly and effectively and soon a silence descended on the room – although I did hear a lot of chuntering and the slamming of doors before some of the occupants left the room and the silence followed. Well, not quite as the predicted noise for the street outside prevailed. I reckon this place will be even noisier when the universities are back from their holidays and the students start their partying.However, after my poor night’s sleep on a fairly lumpy single bed (with a posh, albeit very well worn “art noveau” headboard) I made my way down to the basement restaurant. Although the tables offered limited space (a bit too close to fellow diners for my comfort) the breakfast itself was superb. There was a great selection of fresh fruits, cold meats, salads and cereals (including a pot of porridge) for starters followed by an appetizing range of hot food. Making up my cooked breakfast was a challenge as I didn’t want to over-indulge (how wrong can I be) with fried bread, eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and fried sliced potatoes. But I still left room for croissants (rather than toast) with lashings of marmalade. Do I forgive them my sleepless night? No! But it was a great breakfast!Will I return to the Britannia Hotel – not in a month of Sundays!
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