What’s it like? This new four star-plus hotel is on the banks of the River Wear in the centre of Durham. The entrance is from the large car park (charged at £6.50 per day for guests) at the rear of the hotel via a large revolving door – this doesn’t work properly if more than a couple of people with luggage try to use it at once, though at least you have plenty of time to watch the staff stare at you as you wait to be freed. The hotel is designed around a central atrium. To your left is an open bar area with a large flatscreen TV and a more sheltered seating area to the rear, while reception is on the right. Further on, to the left, is the Filini bar and restaurant, while to the right are meeting rooms and the PACE fitness club, spa and pool. All Radisson SAS hotels are gradually being rebranded to Radisson Blu (see online news story, February 5), but since this one opened only in November 2008 it may be some time before it takes the new name.
Where is it? Driving into Durham from the junction of the A1M along the A690, you cross the River Wear, take a left and then another left back under the bridge on to Framwellgate Waterside. A new iron footbridge allows access across the River Wear to a swimming pool/leisure centre, Premier Inn hotel and, via some steps, the new Gate Theatre and within five minutes Durham’s historic marketplace.
Room facilities The 207 rooms come in a number of categories – Standard, Business Class, suites and a Presidential suite – and are on floors one to four, four being the top. All rooms are external facing, some towards the river, and some towards the car park at the rear. Standard rooms are approximately 25 sqm and have flatscreen TVs with satellite channels, tea and coffee-making facilities, minibar, laptop-sized safe, iron and ironing board and toiletries by Anne Sémonin. There is a workdesk with plenty of plugs, free wifi (throughout the hotel, a Radisson SAS brand standard), though if you take the key card from the slot in the door, it cuts the power to the plug on the desk, so anything you are charging will be flat when you come back. New hotels usually recognise this problem and have the power on a separate circuit. The Business Class rooms are slightly larger, at 28 sqm, and have Nespresso coffee machines, free buffet breakfast and mineral water, and a turn-down service in the evening. The suites are all on the top floor and have good views across the river to Durham Castle and Cathedral, as well as a separate shower and bath. The typical size of 55 sqm could take two adults and two children.
Restaurants and bars As well as the lobby bar, which serves lunchtime snacks such as burger and chips (£11.50), fish and chips (£13.95) and pizza (£10.50) and afternoon tea for £9.95, the Italian-style Filini is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is a Radisson-branded restaurant concept, with a good choice of affordable food and wine. As with the rest of the hotel, the staff in Filini were young, friendly and willing to help.
Meeting and business facilities For local business the Radisson has come at the right time, with highly versatile and attractive meeting spaces – 11 in total, many with floor-to-ceiling windows and natural light with views of the river (though there are black-out blinds available for presentations). The business centre has a dedicated registration area around the corner from reception, and there is a total of 1,100 sqm of conference facilities that can accommodate up to 600 people. There are eight business centre rooms ranging in size from 12 delegates boardroom-style up to 70 delegates theatre-style, all with LCD projector and screen, intelligent lighting to allow maximum flexibility for meetings and private dining, and a breakout area with Nespresso coffee machines. There are three rooms on the other side of the lobby for large conferences, events and exhibitions – a large meeting room of 270 sqm that can be divided in two and seats more than 320 for dinner, a pre-event area with a dedicated event bar, cloakroom and toilets, and an additional meeting room measuring 90 sqm.
Leisure facilities The Pace fitness club is run as a private members’ club and has good facilities including a 15-metre swimming pool, spa bath, steam room and sauna, as well as a fully equipped gym and five spa treatment rooms.
Room highlights The hotel has a curved frontage making the most of its position on the river, so ask for a river-facing room on the third or fourth floor and wake to a view of the hills of Durham, the cathedral or the castle. The free wifi is a bonus, and Business Class rooms also have Nespresso machines for coffee junkies.
Price A Standard room is £99 room-only for a weekday stay in May. To see what excellent value this is, compare it with the £63 room-only at the Premier Inn across the river. At the weekend, as a result of promotional offers, the differential drops to £75 and £63.
Contact Radisson SAS Hotel, Framwellgate Waterside, City of Durham; tel +44 (0)191 372 7200; radissonsas.com
Verdict An excellent hotel in a great position that offers superb value for money.