It’s the first week of relaxed lockdown restrictions, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap to freedom, and, despite the odd speed bump in Bolton and Blackburn, we’re allowed to eat indoors (with certain restrictions) and even stay in a hotel.
So, it was with great anticipation that I walked down to the newly opened Qbic Hotel and Motley’s Restaurant on the corner of Manchester’s John Dalton Street and Deansgate. Due to affairs of State, Helen, our Editor-in-Chief, had passed the reviewing duties on to me. I was booked in for dinner and an overnight stop. After a year staying in, it was somewhat surreal to be carrying my overnight bag to my first night away from home. This was enhanced by the rather bizarre sight of a queue outside a Wetherspoon’s pub.
Qbic Manchester is the fourth hotel in the Qbic chain with other outlets in London, Brussels and Amsterdam. There are 261 rooms ranging in price from £58 for a modest double to £150 for a sprawling room. For the ever-expanding weekend visitors to the equally expanding Deansgate hospitality corridor, this provides an affordable and trendy place to lay their weary heads after a night on the town. To fuel their appetites there is also a bar/restaurant/hang out space called Motley’s for grub, cocktails and the ubiquitous bottles of Prosecco for the high-heeled hoards. I must apologise for allowing my inner Frasier voice out, but one of the joys of lockdown as a resident of the Deansgate area was the lack of pre-pandemic Prosecco obsessives. But I must also accept their return for the sake of the economy and the survival of the hospitality sector.
As it happens, Qbic is tastefully done. The interior is Manc-themed with a focus on Alan Turing, Emmeline Pankhurst and the Reverend William Cowherd, one of the founders of The Vegetarian Society (what a great name for a vegetarian). The music is equally Manc, running through bands including Oasis and The Smiths. All in all, I found the combination of wall coverings, lighting and fabrics hugely artistic and entertaining. The Qbic design team worked closely with local artist Bobo1325 to make an environment that is immediately iconic and will make Motley’s a destination location and Qbic a place to stay.
Meanwhile, the menu is described as ‘antipodean’ and ‘kind to the environment’. The ethos of the Qbic is sustainability and to be as carbon neutral as possible. The food is wide-ranging and pan-global, with dishes like fish and chips and Moroccan chicken made with local ingredients. The huge flat breads are particularly impressive. I chose from the small plate menu with tasty Korean fried cauliflower and 12-hour cooked beef tacos followed by Spanish churros with a sweet salted caramel and chocolate sauce.
After a filling dinner and more than my fair share of cocktails and wine, I retired to my room slightly ‘tired and emotional’, to use old Private Eye coinage. In all honesty I found being in a group of people, as lovely as they were, slightly uneasy, and my conversational skills were somewhat rusty after the largely silent year we’ve all had. As time goes by, things will return to something like normality. My first night out at Qbic helped me to start that process.
For more information or to book, visit the website.