I have just returned from a very enjoyable break in Leeds visiting relatives and friends. I was part of a coach party booked in to stay at the Merrion Hotel for three nights.
Before setting off I took time to read some reviews about the hotel. Things did not look very promising - it appeared to have more bad points than good ones. One person said to avoid room 202 at all costs.
On arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was in the heart of the city centre and next to the Merrion shopping centre.
Reception was busy but there were plenty of staff there to complete check ins. I was promptly given my room key which was 422(great it was not 202). The lift was quick and smooth. My room was bright and airy as was the bathroom. There was everything you could want in the room tea/coffee, trouser press, hairdryer, two large mirrors, lcd tv with sky and a great shower over the bath. No complaints at all.
The prices vary depending what days and time of year you stay.
I paid £55 for my room per night and breakfast was £11.95 per person. Not bad when you consider you are staying in the centre of a large city.
Then came breakfast----Managed to find a table and sat down.
Went to the chilled area for some fruit juice and there were people waiting for more to be brought out. Out came the waiter with one large jug of juice which he told us was grapefruit and there was no orange juice left. Got my juice and sat down.
There were now plenty of waiters around but none of them appeared to be working to any system. I asked for coffee and had to wait for 10 minutes for it. I also had to make my own toast as no-one appeared to be doing this. Cooked breakfasts were also available but the queue was very long.
The second morning was better if only because I knew what to expect. I collected my own coffee, toast and fruit juice. I then managed to get a cooked breakfast without waiting.
I had it sussed-as long as you are prepared to help yourself there is not a problem.
All the staff were very amicable but there appeared to be a lack of organisational skills by the management.
Despite this I had a great time in Leeds but would need assurance that the dining room has been organised properly before returning to this hotel.
Incidently I did make my feeling known to one of the hotel managers.
Those of you who have read my review of the Le Meridien Albert and Victoria Hotel in Manchester will be aware of my enthusiasm for the conversion that has been carried out there. It's that sort of development that makes staying in a hotel a real pleasure.
On this occasion I had a need to stay in the Leeds area on business and so needed a hotel, as the reason for my visit was a seminar at which I was presenting, which was to start at around 9.00am in nearby Batley. On the basis of my experience in Manchester I chose the Le Meridien hotel in Leeds City Centre.
The Queens is a monumental edifice right next to the Leeds Central mainline station. Built, I would guess, in the twenties or thirties, it looks to have changed very little in the intervening years. Unfortunately, this is not intended as a complement. It looks every bit its age!
A short lay-by is in front of the entrance, where you may leave your car for a short time whilst you unload your baggage. The Concierge will arrange for the car to be taken to the hotel car park overnight for a fee.
Entering Reception, what a contrast! The first impression is uninspiring. Not the staff, who are friendly and helpful; the décor and ambiance. The whole feeling is of a tired and worn environment. This is carried right through to your room. All the way the carpets are worn and marked, as are the walls and paintwork.
This is a hotel long, long overdue for a major refit. My room, if typical, was large, consisting of a bed area and a separate lounge area. I had two TVs, one in each! A double bed plus a double sofa and a separate armchair in the lounge area.
In a very old style of plumbing, the two radiators were both located beneath the windows and behind long curtains. Close the curtains to keep out the light and noise and you keep the heat out of the room as well! Very intelligent!
Wanting something to eat and drink I set out to explore what the hotel had to offer. The initial search proved uninspiring, indeed unfruitful. Many of the signposted facilities are simply not in use at least, not for regular guests; maybe for functions.
I found one bar, the Piano Bar, open for use but the immediate impression was a cold and unwelcoming environment. The room was more or less round with the bar itself is set in a "well" the centre of the room. The wooden floor echoed to every footstep, the ceiling was high, the beer was the usual rubbish like John Smiths. The impression was obviously shared by most guests as there were very few customers.
I had a look at the restaurant, located just off of Reception. The menu was reasonable and the prices not too outrageous however, by this time very little would have persuaded me to eat in.
Now, there's one thing you can be virtually sure of and that's, if you wander around a city centre for long enough you are bound to find a friendly hostellery or restaurant, and that usually turns out to be a J. D. Weatherspoon. Leeds is no exception.
It took me 45 minutes, passing on the way pubs with no (decent) beer, pubs advertising food available but having none ("Yeh, sorry about that. We keep trying to get them to change the sign! We never do food in the evening!" - The Guildford). Pubs with various animal leanings (The Toad, The Slug and Lettuce!), none of which offer anything worth the effort of even opening the door.
Finally, salvation, the Weatherspoons was located (opposite the aforementioned Slug and Lettuce) on the corner of Greek Street.
Now, if there?s one thing you can be sure of at Weatherspoons it's a good selection of excellent beers in impeccable condition and at a reasonable price plus a range of very palatable food of acceptable quality and adequate quantity and exceptional price.
Furthermore, no TV, no music, no pool just peace and (relative) quiet in which to enjoy your drink, food and a good book or, in my case, a presentation which I had to learn for the following day.
A couple of hours later, a few pints of Black Sheep plus a plate of Gammon, Egg, Chips and Peas to the better, I returned to the hotel knowing I had made the right choice.
I did have a restful night. The bed was comfortable, the room adequately warm (once I'd hooked the curtains out of the way to allow the heat from the radiators to permeate the room.
In the end I couldn't be bothered to go down for breakfast in the morning so I showered (clean bathroom at least and an adequate supply of decent towels), dressed, packed and left.
The night's stay had cost (the company) £85 (room only, no dinner, no breakfast and no morning paper, even though I had ordered one and at a company discount rate as well!). I'm sorry but I've had far better at half the price.
Should I need to stay in the area again it will not be at The Queens, not until the whole place is totally renovated, whenever that may be. With competition from Hilton, Marriott, Radisson SAS and many others besides, there is far too much choice of quality to be had.
UPDATED - May 2008
Though I haven't been back since, I learn that as a part of the Le Meridian company reorganisation, The Queens has been disposed of to QHotels Group. They state on their website that the hotel has "recently" undergone a £10M refit. Boy did it need it.
As a result, my comments may now no longer apply. I cannot confirm this myself. You may wish to re-investigate.
42 The Calls used to be a canal side warehouse, however it has been wonderfully converted into a hotel with character. The luxury bedrooms have extra touches including CD players. The hotel reception stocks a wide range of CD's but I chose to take some of my own. I took a splendid bath whilst listening to my favourite music.
Included in the unusual coffees provided in the room were amaretto, Irish cream, java and double chocolate truffle!
Breakfast may be taken in the breakfast room which overlooks the canal or continental breakfast can be taken in your room. Each room has a dumb waiter and if you choose the latter you will find your breakfast here at your requested time.
The hotel doesn't have a restaurant but guests can dine at the restaurant next doot (Brasserie Forty Four) at a reduced price if booked through the hotel.
Finally when checking out we were given a selection of goodies including jars of chutney and jam bearing the hotel's logo. A nice touch we thought!