Newest Review: ... staircase and lobby. Apparently, the building is a former warehouse and as such comprises a large central staircase, with a number of fl... more
Member Name: plipplop
Britannia Hotel (Manchester)
Advantages: Location, Internet discounts, dining
Disadvantages: Those horrible rooms
A few years ago, I chaired a recognition event in Manchester for a project team. As a number of members of the team had travelled a long way, I also arranged overnight hotel accommodation through my normal travel agent. One of the few hotels that could manage a sizeable group booking was the Britannia.
The Britannia Hotel is situated in an excellent position for most city centre attractions. Half-way down Portland Street, the hotel is close to bars, pubs, theatres and shops, and is as close to "central" as you can probably get. As stated, my main reason for choosing the hotel was the availability of multiple rooms, but in terms of location, this hotel would score top marks. The main entrance opens out onto a busy street, and the building is not as imposing in real life as it looks in the picture. Indeed some guests who were not familiar with the area drove past without realising. The hotel is about five or ten minutes' walk from Piccadilly station and about the same from Oxford Road station. The hotel does not have dedicated car parking, but a large and relatively economical NCP car park is located just behind the hotel. Princess Street is very close by, which houses a number of fine restaurants as well as Canal Street with all its bars and clubs. The newly opened Piccadilly Gardens are just a stone's throw away, with the main shopping centre about ten to fifteen minutes away.
The first thing that strikes you, as you enter the building, is the very grand staircase and lobby. Apparently, the building is a former warehouse and as such comprises a large central staircase, with a number of floors of guestrooms arranged around it. The décor is relatively sumptuous. In the large lobby area, a number of leather sofas are arranged around tables and chairs, and the walls are decorated in rich colours. The staircase is covered in a deep pile, red carpet that would not be out of place in Buckingham Palace and there is plenty of gold painted woodwork and elaborate paintings. Hanging from the ceiling is an enormous gold chandelier that draws all the attention from the rest of the room. It's certainly an entrance quite unlike any other I've seen in a hotel. Each of the floors is decorated according to a different taste (for example, there is an Indian floor and a Chinese floor) and the effect is quite dazzling.
All the individual members of my party checked into the hotel at different times, and we all found the checking in process to be relatively efficient. Despite my meticulous (almost military) planning, the hotel had booked two rooms in my name, and had not booked a room for one of my colleagues, but this was soon rectified. The receptionist was rather quiet and staid. There were a lot of Japanese and Saudi Arabian tourists in the hotel, who didn't speak a word of English, and this clearly frustrated her. Once they had gone, she managed a smile for me and processed my details. When I first entered my room, I was horrified to discover that I had been allocated a single room, which I quickly swapped for a double room. This was to be my biggest mistake.
The hotel has a total of 363 bedrooms, all of which are en-suite. There are six different room types, namely Budget Double; Standard Double; Family Suite; Four Poster Suite; Standard Single; and Twin. Sadly, my room was one of the budget rooms, although I was not made aware of this at reception. The greatest disadvantage that the budget rooms suffer from lies within the basic design and construct of the building. The central staircase occupies an enormous area, and the rooms are arranged in corridors around this central staircase. The drawback of this is that only some of the rooms have windows. Rooms to the sides and to the rear are often completely enclosed by walls. This means that the budget rooms are very unpleasant indeed.
As I unlocked my bedroom door, the first thing that struck me was the heat. Despite the time of year (it was early April) the room was inordinately hot - due mainly to the lack of ventilation. There was a feeble air-conditioning unit that spluttered and whirred into life, but it was hardly able to perform the task. The next item of interest was the far wall. Where there would normally have been a large window, there was in fact a picture wall. I was treated to an enormous photographic representation of the New York City skyline at night. If that sounds horrendously tacky, you should see the real thing. It made Quincy look positively modern. To add insult to injury, the revolting city landscape was peeling and frayed at the ages, where years of inquisition had led to thousand of little fingers picking away at the edges to see what was behind.
The general standard of the furniture and fittings was poor; worn wood, threadbare upholstery and cheap appliances were the order of the day. The dark and gloomy furniture exacerbated the lack of natural light and the whole room was sombre and depressing. The television was cheap, small and on a low trolley, which meant that you had to crook your neck to be able to watch it in bed. The picture reception was also very poor. The bathroom was small and fitted only to a basic standard. The bath was too small to lie in but fortunately the shower was relatively efficient. Sadly, the shower curtain was woefully inadequate and before I knew what was happening, I had a mini-flood on my hands.
One of the hotel bars is also very popular with the public. Bar-roque is decorated out not unlike a Wetherspoon's pub and has a similar ambience. To our amusement, the bar descended downwards into a little alcove, through which there was a dance floor and disco, reminiscent of my days at school. Drinks prices were relatively competitive, although the bar man was as miserable as sin and I had to fight to get a few peanuts in a dish to keep us going until we ate elsewhere. At 8 p.m. it has to be said that the place was dead; we were assured it would liven up, but I wasn't convinced.
There is a choice of places to eat. Cromptons is a French restaurant, with a relatively intimate ambience and a select menu of dishes. Cromptons Bar is a late-opening cocktail bar, with comfy seats and sofas in which to sink after a hearty dinner. We returned here, after our meal, and were surprised at how lively it was, even after midnight. The main restaurant - Jenny's - is more popular than Crompton's and offers more traditional foods as it has much more of a family appeal. This is where breakfast was served, which I must admit was very tasty and contained a good choice of items. The web site also mentions a pizzeria, but I must confess I didn't spot this during my visit. For sure, the Britannia certainly isn't a bad hotel for food and drink, with a good variety of food on offer but I still wanted to go out in the city instead.
The best place to make a booking is online, using the Hot Deals link on the Britannia web site the web site offers some excellent discounts, particularly at weekends. Rates are subject to dates and availability. I would question whether the Britannia is worth the full rates but the discounted rates are reasonably good value.
The Britannia Hotel
Tel: 0161 228 2288
Fax: 0161 236 9154
Online: http://www.britannia-hotels.co.uk/hotels/mancheste r_2.htm
Generally, this hotel is certainly worth considering. Avoid the budget rooms completely - £5 a night would be too much - and make sure you book online to get the best deals. The hotel is quite popular so book with plenty of advance notice - especially when Manchester United are playing.
Summary: Nasty hotel stuck in a time warp
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