BACKGROUND Launched in Edinburgh in 1994, boutique hotel brand Malmaison now occupies 12 UK properties: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Reading. Owned by the MWB group, Malmaison is the sister hotel chain to Hotel Du Vin, with both brands housing their hotels within renovated buildings, retaining the original architecture and basing the theme of the properties on the buildings’ histories.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Malmaison Birmingham is located in Mailbox, a former Royal Mail sorting office, and is the largest of all the Malmaison properties at 189 rooms. The size of the building means it not only houses the Malmaison hotel, but also an indoor, upmarket shopping mall, as well as bars and restaurants beside Birmingham’s canal network (including Cote Brasserie, see below).
Just a ten-minute walk away from Birmingham New Street station, Mailbox is buzzing with young professionals who flock there for after work drinks and retail therapy. Entering Malmaison Birmingham’s lobby is like walking into a sultry French boudoir, with its scarlet velvet upholstery and dark walls.
Paintings and sketches of the original Parisian chateau Malmaison after which the brand is named hang from these walls, and a spotlit, red-carpeted staircase spirals up from the lobby and leads you to the hotel’s bar and brasserie. The décor combines a Parisian influence with hints of a Royal Mail theme, with its rich red colours and the names of its suites including Post Box and Mail Room.
ROOM FACILITIES The hotel’s seven floors hold 189 rooms that fall into four categories: Standard Double, Standard Twin, Superior Double and Deluxe Double Double. There are also ten suites which include King suites, Open Plan Luxury suites and the Executive suite, named Penny Black.
Room sizes vary due to the build of the hotel. I stayed in a Deluxe Double Double room, which boasted two king-sized beds separated by a dark wooden partition with a blind. The décor is more neutral than the lobby, with various shades of brown and white, furnished with a chocolate coloured chaise long and plush bed cushions of the same colour. The bed is extremely comfortable and fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets. The sleek, black granite bathroom has a bath and separate shower and disabled access, and comes with the hotel’s own-brand “Mal Ingredients” toiletries.
My room had a medium-sized flat screen television with a DVD player, a desk with plug in internet and plug sockets nearby, and a minibar. Bottled water costs £1.50, but tea and coffee making facilities are complimentary, and there is a hair dryer, safe and magazines available. Internet access in the rooms is free for those who have negotiated a corporate rate, or for Club Mal members. Otherwise, it is free for the first 30 minutes, after which you may want to opt for an eight-hour fee (£7.50) or 24-hour fee (£10.00).
The view of a car park from my room was uninspiring, but enabled a very tranquil night’s sleep – elsewhere in the hotel, certain views look into the area surrounding the Mailbox. The Open Plan suites come with a separate office with a desk and bookcase, as well as a separate lounge with a dining table and an iPod dock. The extravagant Penny Black suite (where Beyoncé has laid her head) comes with its own private cinema, spa treatment room and steam room, and is available for £495 a night.
RESTAURANT AND BARS The hotel’s Brasserie and Mal Bar are located on the second floor. The Brasserie is the hotel’s only restaurant, which is open for breakfast from 7am-10pm on weekdays, and for dinner, 6pm-10.30pm. Stylistically it is keeping with the rest of the hotel, with brown leather wall seating and dark furnishings, and it is a large space with a relaxed atmosphere. In the morning, you can opt for a cooked breakfast for £15 or choose the complimentary continental breakfast, which includes a buffet with a bounty of pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, juice and condiments.
I did not dine there in the evening or the afternoon, but the menu offers French cuisine as an à la carte or fixed menu, with main courses for around £15. There is the option of dining in a private room that can hold 16 people or hiring a central partitioned area of the brasserie that can hold 30 people, which would be ideal for conferences. Mal Bar opens out onto decked street entrance that attracts some of its evening bustle from Wharf Street. The actual bar is huge, and with a large projector screen positioned above it that shows sports matches and Fashion TV during the day. In the centre of the space are the Mailbox’s original pillars, furnished with leather and mini framed pictures, which give the bar a grand yet contemporary feel. Malmaison’s cocktail list is extensive, with traditional flavours as well as Mal’s own creations. There is also a separate wine tasting room where guests can sample the wines on offer at Mal, which could be an incentive for corporate groups.
BUSINESS AND MEETINGS FACILITIES Located on the mezzanine floor are the Malmaison Birmingham’s five meeting rooms, two of which can be combined to accommodate 110 people theatre style. The rooms all have natural daylight and are very chic. They are all equipped with minibars, air conditioning, the option of a flat screen TV and are linked by a lounge area, Chateau Mal. This space is furnished with dark, inviting suede sofas, and could be used for breakout sessions or drinks and canapés (which include the “mini mal burger.”) There is free, high-speed wireless internet in all the meeting rooms as well as all public areas of the hotel.
LEISURE FACILITIES Le Petit Spa at Malmaison Birmingham offers five treatment rooms with heated beds as well as a tempting spa pool and a sauna, steam room and relaxation room. The hotel’s gym is open 6am-10pm and access is complementary with a hotel stay.
VERDICT A luxuriously modern hotel in an excellent location, with a sophisticated corporate space and a vibrant feel.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 189 rooms that fall into four main categories: Standard Double, Standard Twin, Superior Double and Deluxe Double Double, plus there are King Suites, Open Plan Luxury suites and the Executive Suite (Penny Black).
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The extremely comfortable bed and the amount of space.
PRICE A Standard Double room costs £160 at the Mal Birmingham Internet Rate, which includes VAT.
CONTACT Mailbox, 1 Wharfside St, Birmingham, B1 1RD; malmaison.com
WHERE TO EAT IN BIRMINGHAM
Cote Brasserie combines a peaceful atmosphere with authentic French cuisine. Its décor is refined with Parisian design features and warm, earthy colours. Although its situation in the corner of the Mailbox means that the view of the canal is slightly limited, the French doors open onto a candlelit outdoor terrace with greenery on the walls, which would be ideal on a warm evening. The service is excellent, and there is a wide selection of affordable gourmet dishes (mains are around £12), with both specials and à la carte menu that change every two weeks. The Lemon sole meunière was buttery and tender, and paired nicely with the crisp, cream potato dauphinoise, which was recommended as a side. Whether dining alone or entertaining a group, Cote Brassierie’s politely buzzing ambience would make it a great place to unwind at any time of day.
- The Mailbox, 120,122 Wharfside Street; tel +44(0)121 631 1587; cote-restaurants.co.uk
Handmade Burger Company
Located in the desirable Brindleyplace and facing onto the canal network, Handmade Burger Company offers a surprisingly large variety of gourmet burgers. As well as traditional options, the restaurant chain’s menu includes worldly flavours such as Tikka Masala and Thai, which may suit those looking to try something new. The chips are cooked to perfection, an important consideration with any burger restaurant. Mains cost around £8 and sides, including chips, cost roughly £3.The interior is modern and classy, and the atmosphere bustles with groups of friends and colleagues. The service was also efficient and friendly. A good option if you’re after freshly made, filling food.
- 4 Brindleyplace; tel +44(0)121 665 6542; handmadeburger.co.uk