BACKGROUND The Radisson Edwardian Manchester hotel is housed in what used to be the Free Trade Hall, a striking Grade II-listed sandstone building constructed in the 1850s, and partially rebuilt following the Blitz. The Free Trade Hall was a public hall and hosted many high profile events, political speeches and concerts, ranging from the Halle Orchestra to Pink Floyd.
WHAT'S IT LIKE? I entered the lobby via the Peter Street entrance on a Thursday evening and the area was dark and buzzing with the after work crowd in the adjacent Opus bar. The long reception desk is on the left and has quick check-in consoles.
There were two members of staff on duty when I arrived and I was checked in and informed of my dinner and breakfast options. The fittings are dark with antique rocking horses, a chandelier and large sofas to give what is quite a modern, glass-fronted space its eponymous Edwardian feel. There is a large glass tank of drinking water with slices of lemon and lime at one end of the reception desk, which I thought was a nice touch.
There is another entrance to the side, with large revolving doors, a large sculpture of a cockerel and floor-to-ceiling windows, giving a brighter welcome to the hotel.
WHERE IS IT? On Peter Street, near St Peter’s Square metro stop (two stops from Manchester Piccadilly) and adjacent to the Manchester International Convention Centre (formerly Manchester Central train station).
ROOM FACILITIES I was in a Penine suite. These are located on the 14th floor and are all named after famous performers who have played at the venue during its days as the Free Trade Hall, namely: Fitzgerald, Valentino, Bassey and Dylan (mine). There was a portrait of the American songwriter on my wall and the personalised stationary had a mini-biography of Dylan printed on the bottom.
These suites have city views and a separate bedroom, bathroom and living area. The suites have luxury bathroom amenities from Molton Brown, including hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, bath and shower gel, a shaving kit, dental kit and moisturising lotion. Deluxe room amenities are by the White Company. There were lots of fluffy white towels and two bathrobes. There is also a safety deposit box and an ironing board and iron.
The living area had a dining table and chairs with a complimentary bottle of wine, wine glasses, some savoury nuts and two newspapers (FT and The Times) on it. There is a Nespresso machine and a kettle with a wide selection of teas and a small fridge with two bottles of water and some fresh milk. There was also an iPod docking station and phone here.
The living room offered great views of the city centre. There was a large sofa and coffee table with some candles, history books related to the Free Trade Hall, glossy magazines, and a large flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. The colour scheme was brown and cream with turquoise furniture and plush new carpets.
The bedroom had the same views of the city centre through floor-to-ceiling windows and wooden blinds, which kept all light out effectively. There were bedside tables with reading lights and another, smaller flat-screen TV in the bedroom on top of a large chest of drawers.
All rooms have complimentary wifi upon entering an email address. Check-in is from 1400 and check-out is before 1100.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS There are two restaurants. One - Alto, which specialises in Steak and Lobster for £15 - was packed when I arrived at 2030 on a Thursday. The main bar and restaurant Opus is also just off the lobby and was recently redesigned in the style of a Manhattan bar/steak house, with dark wood, black leather booths and lots of red. Opus was similarly heaving when I arrived, so much so that I wouldn’t have been comfortable dining alone.
Therefore, I ordered room service. There was a small selection of salads, sandwiches and main courses so I went for the seemingly safe option of a club sandwich with fries and a small side salad with a diet coke. The food took 30 minutes to arrive and was disappointing. I ordered brown bread but was served white and it had already gone soggy, the chicken was dry and there was a lack of mayonnaise and salad with a cold greasy fried egg on top.
Breakfast is served in Alto and there is a large buffet selection of hot English breakfast items, breads, cereals, ham, cheese, fruit, yoghurt and jams and spreads. There is also an a-la-carte menu which reads: Toast, porridge, Omelettes, eggs any style, kippers, smoked haddock with a poached egg, smoked salmon bagel, pancakes with maple syrup, minute steak and eggs, cheese and ham muffin and eggs Benedict.
I grabbed a copy of The Times on walking in and was shown a table in the busy dining room before being served coffee and orange juice straight away. I ordered the smoked salmon bagel from the a-la-carte options and requested a poached egg on top, which wasn’t a problem and the dish was well presented and delicious.
Breakfast is served between 0700 and 1030 Monday to Saturday, and 0800-1200 on Sundays. It is charged at £18.95 per person.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILTIES There are 18 meeting rooms and a ballroom available, with the Halle Suite capable of accommodating up to 550 guests and the Walters Suite 70, theatre style. There is a dedicated conferencing team to help organise events ranging from meetings to weddings to private dining. The meeting rooms are located just up from the main lobby, on the first floor, and have good natural light and the latest technology. There is also a small business centre with wireless printing, fax and some computers available, as well as break-out space.
LEISURE FACILITIES There is a good-sized gym, spa, sauna, hot tub and small indoor swimming pool (12x9m) all located on floor -1. You are welcomed by reception and there are towels and drinking water, with the changing rooms found by walking through the gym. The gym has dumbbells weighing up to 20kg, two exercise bikes, five cross trainers, five treadmills and various weights machines.
The gym is open between 0630-2100 Monday to Friday and between 0800 and 2000 at weekends.
VERDICT A really good, lively city centre hotel. The service isn’t quite top notch but the facilities and rooms are excellent.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 263 rooms and suites broken up as follows: 61 twin deluxe bedrooms; 145 king deluxe bedrooms; three twin deluxe city bedrooms; 30 king deluxe city bedrooms; five junior suites; 15 al-fresco suites (with balcony); two one-bedroom suites; two two-bedrooms suites and ten accessible bedrooms.
HIGHLIGHTS City centre location and a very good breakfast
PRICE Flexible internet rates for a midweek room-only stay in July started from £135 for a Deluxe room and £660 for a Penine Suite.
CONTACT Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5GP; tel + 44 (0)161 835 9929; radissonblu-edwardian.com