Although I always approach reviews with an open mind and an open heart I must confess that I was a big fan of Hotel Gotham before I came to stay.
It was back in March when I went on a hard hat tour of a building site that was to become the hotel. Snow was beating down on Manchester as an external builders’ lift took me to the top of the half-constructed building. Man, that was cold. Yes, I suffer for my art. Then, in April, I attended the grand opening, giving me a good idea of what to expect ahead of an overnight visit. I wasn’t disappointed.
To say that owners Bespoke Hotels have adopted the gothic theme of the former Midland Bank building and run with it is an understatement. But it’s less Batman and more serious old school New York glamour, the only nod to the caped crusader being the ridiculously tasty Batman-shaped cookies you receive as part of the turn-down service.
Designed by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (a visionary described as ‘Britain’s greatest architect) and completed in 1935, this Grade II* edifice is one of the city’s greatest buildings. The basement is home to Jamie’s, part of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Italian chain, itself situated in majestic surroundings. If you’re familiar with King Street then you’ll know that this historic avenue used to be the hub of the North West banking industry and is now home to boutique shops and a slew of stylish restaurants and bars housed in stunning and sympathetically adapted spaces. In fact, in King Street there are 11 buildings listed Grade II, two listed Grade II* and one Grade I.
Bespoke Hotels, meanwhile, has invented an entire world to compliment the hotel’s design, complete with characters such as Barry the Bellboy from Bolton and Lady Didsbury. Their influences are everywhere, from guest information (an ingenious Gotham Bugle newspaper) to the coasters which are postcards sent by various characters. “The attention to detail is massive,” says managing director of Hotel Gotham, Jeff Ward. “We have gone to a lot of trouble. Manhattan has come to Manchester.”
But Hotel Gotham manages to stay on the right side of tacky. The receptionist put it perfectly when I checked in: “Work is a long way away now.”
The hotel is upside down in approach. Even though all the blurb says that Hotel Gotham is at the top of King Street, guests enter from Spring Gardens. Thankfully the superbly friendly concierge is on hand to point you in the right direction. Reception is on the sixth floor and, once you have checked in, you are presented with a welcome drink (a Pina Colada in my case) and it’s down to whichever floor you are staying on.
My sleeping quarters were fabulous. Gotham doesn’t have the biggest hotel rooms in Manchester but it more than makes up for it with a profound sense of history. When you enter your room and see the original lead-lined windows and super high ceilings, you can imagine bankers working away more than a century ago.
The room is kitted out with everything you could possibly need – and then some. There’s a large wardrobe which, among other things, contains a safe and an iron; a fridge with champagne, beer, spirits, mixers and a bottle (yes a bottle) of milk; there’s a Kimbo espresso machine as well as a regular kettle (as a brew junkie I am in heaven) and all manner of kits including a travel charger (handy), hangover recovery (very handy) and intimacy kit (er…no comment).
The bank theme rolls on with a hairdryer hidden in an old money bag. There’s even a swag bag should you wish to take anything home: simply fill the swag bag and present it at reception who will then charge you for the items.
The bathroom was huge and done to perfection with grey tiles and black surfaces. I could have stayed in the walk-in monsoon shower for a good couple of days if work hadn’t reared its ugly head.
As with any hotel there are different grades of rooms. For example, the Inner Sanctum suites have more than a whiff of 50 Shades of Grey – huge spaces with leather-lined walls and no natural light. Instead, a massive video screen projects Manchester’s skyline, although I was reliably informed that anything can be screened.
Bar Brass is definitely worth a visit. A private members’ club limited to 700 guests and all hotel residents, it’s a beautiful bar on the top floor with breathtaking views of the city. I would recommend going out onto the roof terrace. While it might be a bit claustrophobic on a busy night, when I stayed it was empty and I enjoyed the uninterrupted views across Manchester and beyond. With cocktails at £15 a time, it’s clearly a venue for a long drink. But I threw caution to the wind and can report that Lady Didsbury’s Daiquiri was delicious.
Ward is particularly proud of the terraces and is letting his imagination run riot. “We currently have pick your own strawberries out there,” he says. Gotham seems to be a world of possibilities for the hotelier but I wondered where they place themselves in the Manchester market. “Our primary focus from Sunday to Thursday is corporate,” he explains.“Then at the weekend it’s leisure.”
Breakfast the next morning in the Honey restaurant is marvellous. The two waiters have everything under control and viewing the city through the circular windows is a wonderful start to anyone’s day (admittedly it was a rare sunny morning in Manchester). The continental buffet was adequate but wouldn’t set the world on fire. However the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs were the best I have ever tasted.
With rates starting at £160 for standard rooms and £400 for the Inner Sanctum suites, Hotel Gotham is definitely at the top end of the Manchester hotel scene. But staying in the King of King Street is a quirky, luxurious experience that, for the moment at least, has no equal in the city centre.
By Chris Park