on July 23, 2008
I’ve walked past the Palace Hotel on a few occasions and it looked a bit smart. Having got a bit more au fait with booking procedures and last minute deals, I rang the hotel direct knowing that I could secure a room and breakfast at "LastMinute.com" for £89. My opening line to the receptionist was "what was the best deal that they could offer" for a single night’s stay. A slight pause and the he came back with the same rate. Being of the firm belief that booking direct is by far the best process and having checked out their cancellation policy I confirmed my agreement. On the hotel’s web site it is described as "a historical grade II listed building dripping in history and character" and having recently undergone a £7 million refurbishment to bring the hotel's 257 bedrooms up to four-star standards I was expecting a decent stay. I’ve actually eaten in The Tempest Bar , the hotel’s restaurant, before and that was quite impressive.The hotel has a dominant position on the corner of the busy Oxford Road and Whitworth Street and is only a stride away from Manchester’s China Town and perhaps a 15-minute walk to the City Centre or Piccadilly Station. It’s impossible to miss the Palace Hotel, as it’s arguably one of Manchester's most distinctive and iconic landmarks on the southern side of the city. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and as was often the case in Victorian England was completed by his son (family businesses were common place) between 1891 and 1910. The red bricks were specially commissioned to complement and match the terra cotta surface decorations and this tall three-storied building has long high windows, a quirky corner turreted gable entrance and a 220-foot tall "campanile" clock tower. Underneath the tower is a covered entrance, the porte cochère, neatly completed with ornate wrought iron and bronze work. These are some of the finishing touches by Paul Waterhouse who designed and completed the second phase. Originally built for the The Refuge Assurance Company this Grade II Listed Building is affectionately referred to, by locals as "The Refuge" Inside the grand entrance hall, with its huge stained glass dome, I was pleased to see that the hotel had retained the period features of the day and I’m now hoping that the rest of the place measures up to the grandeur that I’ve seen so far. Having painlessly checked in, one receptionist did extremely well to manage a building queue, I head for the lift in search of my bedroom for the night. This search for the room is an adventure in itself and despite directions I manage to get lost. My room number is 5116 and the receptionist assures me that it’s on the first floor and the 5 relates to the wing number and can be disregarded once I get out the right lift. I ascend and confidently exit on the first floor and head for the signs to 5116 until the 5 prefix disappears. I remember what the receptionist said and disregard the "5" but the electronic fails to open the door. I try it several times until the door is opened from within. I’m outside the wrong door. I head off descend to the ground floor, walk across to another lift, exit on the first floor and finish outside the same room. I’m less than amused and start my quest again and finally end up on the "5" block and in my room. It’s a large pleasant room with more windows than "you can swing a cat at", but although happy with the room I’m less pleased when I open the bathroom. What a stench! I hesitate only briefly before ringing reception who promises to move me within the next 5 minutes. They are true to their word and a knock on the door heralds the arrival of a manager who escorts me to my new room on the fourth floor. This room is much pleasanter, although and matching oak furniture – a coffee table wardrobe, chest of drawers and a desk. The centrally positioned bed is thankfully much firmer than the one is the previous room and I settle down to relax with a cup of tea and a clotted cream shortbread biscuit. There’s plenty of tea, coffee and drinking chocolate and the room turns out to be real comfortable. Broadband is available at a rate of 50p a minute (quite expensive I thought) and the room facilities also include a hairdryer, fridge, and a trouser press. The bathroom, complete with sunken bath is well provisioned with shampoo and shower gel and this one is odour free!As I walked on the corridors of the Palace Hotel there are plenty of period features and this small hotel chain (Principal Hayley) boasts that your stay will "not only be positive and memorable, it will be exceptional" Now I reckon that’s a bit of an over-statement, but the building is certainly a fascinating place and the rooms of good size with quality furnishings.It’s worth a stay (if you can get a good deal) just for the experience of sleeping in this grand Victorian edifice. I had a great night’s sleep with no noises from in or out side of the hotel and I headed off to the restaurant for my breakfast feeling fully refreshed. Breakfast was self-service other than tea and toast that was delivered to the table. The buffet bar was full of everything that you’d expect to see. There were numerous fruit drinks, a range of cereals, fresh fruit, cheeses, cold meats, nice breads, and of course a full range making up the cooked breakfast including eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, beans, black pudding, mushrooms. It was a great breakfast and I thoroughly enjoyed it taking the "full Monty" and following it up with a croissant or two and toast and marmalade. Unfortunately I had to draw the line at the muffins but the choice of these was magnificent and I only wished I’d spotted them earlier. Just at the point that I was thinking perhaps I was a bit harsh about the hotel I visited the gent’s toilet. It reeked terribly and when asked by the receptionist if I’d enjoyed my stay I just had to tell her of my odour experiences. She was duly apologetic, but I can’t help feeling that this really is NOT what you expect from a four star hotel!
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