Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter

26 Mar 2016 by Mark Caswell
BACKGROUND The opening of the Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter in September last year means that IHG now has properties across five of its brands in the city – Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites. The hotel forms part of the Stephenson Quarter regeneration project close to the city's Central Station, and is so called because it encompasses the site where engineer Robert Stephenson built the Rocket locomotive. That historic building still stands and is now The Boiler Room, a mixed use culture, arts and events venue. The Stephenson Quarter currently comprises the Crowne Plaza hotel, a block of high-end office space, and a new multi-storey car park - the project will eventually see residential and retail space added opposite the hotel. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter WHERE IS IT? Behind Newcastle Central Station - you can see the property as you pull in on the line from London. Unfortunately there is currently no exit to the back of the station, so guests will need to come out of the main exit, then turn left and left again, or right and right again. I am told though that there are plans for a new entry / exit to the station to serve the Stephenson Quarter as it develops. Central Station is also on Newcastle 's Metro line, with direct access to the city’s airport. Level 10 of the nearby multi-storey car park is at the same level as the hotel - rates are £6 for up to 12 hours and £12 for up to 24 hours. You can also read our review of the recently opened Hampton By Hilton Newcastle (located opposite the entrance to Central station) here. WHAT'S IT LIKE? As you walk into this new-build property there is a chandelier installation of 156 poly-carbon globes hanging down from the hotel’s seven-storey atrium - it's easy to miss as you head towards the reception area, but you'll see it again as you take the glass-sided lifts which run up alongside it. During my stay there were always at least two or three staff members on reception when I passed, and at no stage did I have to wait to check-in/out or to ask a question. Decor throughout the public spaces, rooms and club lounge is one of teals, greys and dark woods, and the owner has commissioned interesting photographs of local landmarks and scenes - for instance long exposure shots of ferries leaving Newcastle for Amsterdam, and unusual photographs of the city’s iconic bridges. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter ROOM FACILITIES All rooms feature separate bathtubs and showers (except for a handful which have showers only), and rates include complimentary water and wifi, and the brand’s Sleep Advantage programme with small bottles containing aromatherapy oils. Other standard facilities include 40-inch smart TVs, workdesk, armchair and coffee table, safe, iron, stocked mini bars (guests can ask for these to be emptied if they wish to store their own items in them), and Eco Boutique bathroom amenities. The heads of the beds feature plug sockets and USB ports, both of which are on a separate electrics circuit to the rest of the room, meaning that the keycard can be removed when guests go out, and devices will continue to charge. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter Club rooms are all located on the sixth floor along with the club lounge - apart from lounge access these rooms feature upgraded amenities including Nespresso machines and White Company 'Noir' toiletries (which are also used in suites and in the changing rooms of the Mineral House, see below). The only other thing which gives away you are in a Club room is the use of purple accents in the bed runner and cushions. The Club Lounge is accessed by key card - there is a small reception desk but it was unmanned when I visited. The L-shaped lounge offers a mixture of dining and sofa seating, with two TV screens (showing football and the news when I visited, both on silent) and there are a number of board games including Cluedo and Scrabble. Continental breakfast is served in the lounge during the same hours as the main breakfast service below, and alcoholic drinks and canapes are served daily between 1700 and 2100. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter RESTAURANTS AND BARS In an attempt to attract visitors to what is still very much an emerging area of Newcastle, the hotel is pitching its ground floor restaurant and bar as stand-alone destinations, with their own websites and social media pages. The Gin Bar (theginbar-ncl.com) allows guests to “engineer” their martini from dozens of gin, vermouth and garnish options – apparently there are around 27,000 combinations. Gin-making classes are available for corporate / team-building events, and customers can even choose to have their gin served in a branded hip flask to take away with them. Decor is industrial urban, with copper tables and geometric tiling, and the bar was busy on the Friday evening when we arrived. Hawthorns (hawthorns-ncl.com) is an all-day dining restaurant where breakfast is served. Executive chef Chris Wood prides himself on the use of local produce (so much so that when you turn on the TV in guest rooms the welcome channel features a video of Chris explaining his philosophy). Suppliers include family butchers Turnbull’s of Alnwick, the Northumberland Cheese Company, and Doddington Dairy. The restaurant features several teal-coloured semi-circular booths, and in the morning sunlight streams in through the windows providing a bright and airy feel. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter There was an excellent choice of buffet breakfast options from cereals, fresh fruit, pastries, yoghurts and cold meats to hot dishes and porridge with local honey. The hotel also makes its own smoothies, served in Innocent-like plastic bottles – when I visited there were choices including berries, and apple and kale. Guests can also order from the a la carte menu with options including omelettes, smoke salmon bagels, eggs Benedict and kippers. My partner is vegetarian, and although Eggs Florentine was not on the menu, it was made to request. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The hotel offers a total of nine meeting rooms across the ground and first floors of the property, ranging in capacity from 12 to around 400 people. The largest room – The Stephenson Suite –is designed in a pillarless dodecahedron shape, with the same acoustic panels used in the Royal Albert Hall. I stood in the centre of the room and could hear my voice carry very well. All of the rooms except for the Stephenson Suite and the Victory boardroom have natural daylight, and all rooms have video conferencing equipment. There is a 24-hour business corner on the first floor, consisting of a few PCs and offering printing facilities. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter LEISURE FACILITIES Again these are marketed as a separate entity to the hotel, under the name Mineral House,to encourage non-guests to visit the spa facilities (more details on which can be found at mineralhouse-ncl.com). There’s a gym with Technogym equipment, a steam room, spa bath and ten-metre swimming pool, all of which are open to all guests. The pool is lined with black tiles, which gives it a cavernous feel – it was well used each time I visited but never felt overcrowded, although it could do with a few more loungers, as the three there were always seemed to be taken. Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter VERDICT A modern hotel with excellent in-room and public facilities, particularly the swimming pool. The location does feel a little isolated at present (although it’s only a few minutes’ walk from Central station), but this will change as the regeneration project continues. PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in April started from £125 for a Deluxe Queen bed room CONTACT Crowne Plaza Newcastle Stephenson Quarter, Hawthorn Square, Forth Street; tel + (0)191 562 3333; ihg.com Mark Caswell
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