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Rock Stars and the Rocco Star
Lowry Hotel (Manchester)
Member Name: sarajackson
Lowry Hotel (Manchester)
Date: 24/11/02, updated on 27/11/02 (527 review reads)
Advantages: Stunning building, Stylish Bedrooms, First Class Food
Disadvantages: Environs Still in Process of Regeneration, Cocktails disappointing, That I can't stay forever
We were really looking forward to our stay at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester, being full of optimism about the Rocco Forte chain. Maybe, just maybe this chain could offer the answer to the terminal problem of finding a decent chain of luxury hotels in the U.K., that actually deliver the goods. Never mind that they are only in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester so far!! After a really enjoyable stay at the St David's in Cardiff, I wrote with a few very trivial queries about our stay, (most of which turned out to be mistakes on my part!), but the hotel group offered us an upgrade to a Deluxe Riverside Suite during our next stay at the Lowry in Manchester. This was far in excess on what we deserved, and only compounded my feelings that the Rocco Forte chain valued customers. Paying £150, the price for a standard room, (the real rack rate for the suite is £450, although weekend offers bring it down to £330) we were full of expectation and excitement.
The Lowry Hotel is actually on the Salford side of the River Irwell, but only a short walk away from Deansgate and the City Centre. The approach along the Salford side is pretty bleak and you can easily miss the small turning to the hotel, but once the hotel is in view, the contrast is stark. The large modern building with sparkling glass and crisp white façade is striking. The Trinity footbridge behind only adds to the artistic effect of the whole scene.
We expected the valet parking to be more definite than it actually was, and in the end we just parked our car in the car park ourselves. The car park is so close to the hotel anyway, and the doormen so willing to offer help, that this was no inconvenience. Car parking costs £7 per night. The lobby though relatively small is pleasantly minimalist, with a few surprisingly comfortable trendy chairs. The sparkling glass contained stairs up to the restaurant floor rise from the centre of the space, with the elevators directly opposite the check in
desks. The whole area is bright and modern, with another entrance from the Riverside at the rear. We were greeted very professionally by the check in clerk, who swiftly found our reservation, offered to make a dinner reservation for us or arrange wake-up calls and newspapers. No mention was made of our room being a Suite, and what appeared an oversight at the time must have been in reality a diplomatic omission. We came to realise the kind of guests who stay in such a suite, don't want their business shouted around the lobby. We were asked if we needed any help with our bags, but travelling light, refused this. The Rocco Forte brochure states that guests will always be shown to their rooms, and although we were given this opportunity at St David's, it was not mentioned at the Lowry. This was not a problem, and we may have refused anyway, but possibly with a Suite it may have been useful to have been shown where everything was!
On the way to our room on the 4th floor, we were struck on exiting the elevators by the vast spaces in the public areas. As the hotel is not a standard oblong shape, the lift lobby opens out onto a large central space that a meaner hotel chain would have monopolised for profitable use. At the Lowry the space contained a large chaise longue affair and nothing else. The corridors were wide and airy with small touches being given a lot of thought - doors with two-colour wood, smart glass etched door numbers.
Our room was at the far right side of the hotel, looking out over the River Irwell. This room was large, very LARGE. Entering through the main door, on one side of the lobby was a guest cloakroom with a washroom leading off. On the opposite side was a servery (or small kitchen) with wall and base units in stylish brushed steel and a sink, along with the tea and coffee making facilities, but alas nowhere in the suite was there cold fresh milk for the drinks. This servery was presumably meant for staff t
o serve hospitality to your guests! Entering the main space of the room, the first area on the right was the sitting area - on the left a long set of black drawer units with sleek brushed steel handles hold the DVD/CD Player and large Bang & Olufsen TV. On the right was a fashionable sofa and two chairs with glass topped coffee table. Straight ahead and all the way along the length of the room are floor to ceiling windows, complete with electric blinds. With this amount of glass, you really need good air conditioning here, and that is what you get - two separate controls for the bed and sitting area. The carpets are in a light stone colour - thank goodness for no increasingly un-trendy wood flooring! The soft furnishings are in various neutral earthy tones that are very fashionable at the moment. Odd chairs in bright orange tones punctuate the space. The whole image could have come straight out of a marketing brochure for some trendy condo. Walking along the length of the room, you have a desk with speakerphone next to the window, with minibar underneath and on the left a large dining table with three places. This main living space can be separated from the bedroom area by large wooden doors. Inside the bedroom, which would be deemed spacious as a suite in itself, was another sofa and chair with table on the left and a dressing table with adjustable mirror on top, another minibar unit and TV - this time a standard hotel TV but far superior quality to the Bang & Olufsen. At the far end of the room was the 2m wide bed topped with bright cushions, alongside the bedside tables, and a bright red 'Olga' chair - a trendy chaise longue affair offering another striking splash of colour. To the left of the bedroom area was another entrance lobby, with huge walk-in wardrobe complete with full-length mirror, hanging and drawer space and a safe. Opposite was the 5-piece bathroom, stylishly tiled with a sprinkling of mosaic tiling. The bath had a hand held
shower in addition to the walk in shower, which sadly needed a better seal to avoid rivers of shower water. Both bathrooms have the TV sound piped into them. The whole suite would be a fantastic apartment
that most people would aspire to be able to afford. The views from the many windows were pleasant, and overlooked the rejuvenated River area.
We tried to make the most of our all too short stay, before we had to go out in the evening to see the Foo Fighters, glowing with the recognition that the band were also in the same hotel. With a room like ours we felt like we were having our own small part of the rock star lifestyle!! I like the way Rocco Forte Hotels do not confuse guests with a multitude of different room types. There are standard rooms (either at the back of the hotel or having a River View), a handful of Deluxe Riverside Suites and one Charles Forte Suite. This only adds to the feeling that there is not so much difference between guests who stay here - and you certainly are made to feel as though everyone is equally important, a compliment that is often exclusive to North American properties.
Before we went to the MEN Arena, we had a cocktail and a snack in the bar. The bar is on the River side of the building with the terrace outside which would be lovely and sheltered for a meal in the Summer. The bar is separated into smaller sections by light wooden trellis style screens, which creates a more intimate environment. The tables are small and fairly low, and so it is an idea to choose your bar meals fairly carefully, so you can eat comfortably, although additional tables will be brought to you by the helpful waiting staff. The only disappointing part of the stay were the cocktails, which compared to the St David's left a bit to be desired. The long island iced tea was drowned by far too much lemon, and the cosmopolitan was also very heavy on the cranberry. These, at £7.50 each were also more expensive than at the S
t David's. We decided to follow them by a couple of beers. We ordered two light meals from the bar menu, a Mushroom Risotto for my husband and Tiger Prawns with Asian Greens and Sweet Chilli Sauce for mysel
f. Both meals were perfect, and although on face value may have appeared expensive at about £15 each, they really were restaurant quality, and the kind of food you look back on with happy thoughts. The service was just right, sufficiently friendly without being over familiar. We commented the staff were professional enough to know when a customer wanted to strike up a conversation and who didn't.
For breakfast we decided to order it in our room, which costs no more if you are on a breakfast inclusive rate, apart from the tip that you will inevitably feel is deserved. You choose the 15 minute window that you want the breakfast delivered, by filling in the card supplied in your room, and two guests can individually select the specific items they want; juices, fruit, danishes, toast, muffins, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cooked ite
ms - everything very specific and precise, down to hot or cold milk and butter or margarine. It made a change from a lot of hotels where no thought has been put into the ordering of breakfasts and the cards you complete mean as a couple you both have to order the same breakfast items. When the breakfast was delivered, bang on time, the cold breakfast items were laid out for us, in our case on the very convenient dining table, with the hot items left in the hot trolley. Waking up to this kind of service, I commented this is what breakfast should always be like.
Even apart from the room (which was predictably first rate) I cannot fault the Lowry. The service is great and the quality of the interior spaces takes some beating. It offers just about the right amount of trendy minimalism, without ever appearing stark. It seems like minimalism for grown ups who travel. The food is startling in its s
implicity and appeal, and the whole hotel is somewhere to escape to. To top it all after checking out, we waited for the Foo Fighters to leave, and passing by the mighty Dave Grohl was a fitting end to a memorable an
d hopefully repeatable weekend. For the regular guests of a suite like ours, the £300 to £450 cost probably would not be an issue, but even as a guest who wants to stay for a treat or a special occasion, for this standard of accommodation it would be money well spent, especially when you consider you can pay upwards of £200 for standard rooms in 4-star hotels in various North American destinations.
Deciding at the last minute, shortly before our trip, to extend our stay by one night in Manchester, we stupidly booked a Travel Inn for the second night. We must have underestimated just how hard it would be to leave the Lowry, and were jaded by many trips to so called luxury hotels in England that we have ended desperate to leave. Having stayed at some great hotels this year, and especially after the Lowry, to return to a Travel Inn was just too much of a culture shock. Even if we had only been in a standard room, in hindsight the £100 extra cost would have been well worth it to spend an extra night in this fantastic hotel. In Manchester there are a couple of 4 star + hotels ? Crowne Plaza, Le Meridien. From my experience of these chains, I would not consider staying at one of them when the Lowry is an option. The only incentive would be because of their landmark hotel style, but as in this country this is often overrated, I would opt for the ultra modern Lowry every time. As for the other options, such as the terrible Jarvis and deseprately-needing-takeover Brittania Hotel, I would avoid these 3 star monstrosities as if my life depended on it. Stay once at the Lowry instead of three or four times anywhere else.
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