Walking in to the grand entrance of The Principal hotel in Manchester, I honestly felt totally blown away. I’ve stayed in some beautiful hotels before, but this Grade II listed building, complete with Victorian architecture, stone archways and giant clock tower has so much character to it you feel like you’re in another world as soon as you step in. I was down in Manchester for the Northern Blog Awards event that would be held in the Principal Hotel that night, and it was suddenly very obvious why the organisers picked this venue – it’s gorgeous!
When planning my stay in Manchester I had a look at the Principal hotel website, as I’d previously never heard of them.
A collection of city-centre hotels based in landmark buildings in exceptional locations across Great Britain.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a quirky, boutique hotel with a difference, so when I was offered a complimentary room for the evening I was very excited. And there was the added bonus that I’d be able to get ready for the event, and head to bed after it without even leaving the venue.
The Principal Manchester – Location
The hotel is located in the centre of the city, on Oxford Street opposite Oxford Street station. There isn’t parking at the hotel itself but there is an NCP car park located on the street next to it, literally a few minutes walk away. Manchester Piccadilly is less than ten minutes away, and Deansgate and city centre shops aren’t far away either. This is my very limited knowledge of Manchester, having only really visited for specific occasions and never really had chance to explore the city fully. To be honest a visit to Manchester is worth it alone just to experience the hotel, and I would love to venture back to spend more time there with the Principal as a base.
Welcome to The Principal Manchester
I hadn’t even stepped inside when a friendly concierge took my case and bag off me outside, and escorted me past a very cute looking floral display into the main lobby. It’s so vast and old fashioned, with huge stone archways, stairways sweeping off, glass windows from the level above on one side and a huge dome overhead letting the light in. There’s also the unmissable giant horse statue stood elegantly in the middle of the room.
It really doesn’t feel like a hotel, and instead more of a grand public building like an old library, or museum. Actually if I’m honest it felt like the Beauty and the Beast castle and I felt like a princess. Hotel goals or what! The check in desks are the last thing you notice really, but I was taken right up by the concierge before he wished me a pleasant stay and disappeared.
The check in process was very quick, with more staff appearing as guests arrived to keep the queue down. I was staying on a bed and breakfast basis and was offered the usual wake up call and newspaper options before being given directions to find the lift.
I went up the stone stairs, and got a glimpse of an outside courtyard through the doors to the right, and what looked like the bar through a tall archway to my left. This definitely felt like I was exploring a castle rather than a hotel, and the attention to luxurious detail through the entire place was incredible.
The rooms were well signed, and it wasn’t until I was actually in the corridor of my room that it felt more like a hotel. This newly renovated part of the hotel was crisp, clean and modern and I found my room easily.
My room was a superior room, which felt very spacious and modern, with a hint of old fashioned Victorian era in the decor. The dresser unit and coffee making facilities were built into an old giant leather luggage chest, similar to those that dotted about the lobby, and the lights were copper with naked bulbs.
Quirks like an old bright red phone were on the bedside table, but my favourite part of the room was the huge full length chunky mirror propped up against the wall, right next to a plug. Perfect!
The room completely mixed the modern with the old fashioned feel so prominent downstairs, and there were two big double beds, two luggage racks, a table and seat and big TV in there too. The bathroom was very chic, white and black with a rain shower and a full set of toiletries, bath robe and fluffy white towels.
Despite only staying for the one night I felt I had to make use of such a fabulous room, and all the space so I fully unpacked everything I brought with me. There were plugs everywhere which for me with watches, phones, laptop, cameras and all manor of electrical beauty tools to plug in I was very impressed. There is nothing more stressful than getting ready and not having enough power!
When I arrived I had planned on relaxing with the TV before I got ready, but having seen a brief glimpse of the bar area I wanted to go and discover what other delights the hotel had to offer.
The Refuge Bar and Dining Room
Coming out of my room to find the lift I came across a stairway, beautifully tiled with a stone arch over it, and a fabulous stained glass window. Deciding to embrace my inner ‘Belle’ I took the stairs instead of the lift, which is really not something I would usually do (being the type of person that has dreamed of a stair lift since I was about ten), but this secret staircase made me want to follow it. I came out right in the bar and dining room area, at the opposite end to the lobby.
The Refuge bar is pretty special, filling an entire wall down one side, with brown leather bar stools to enjoy a sociable or two right at the bar. The rest of the room is a mix of high tables to stand at while enjoying one of the craft beers on offer, or perhaps a cocktail or two, and comfortable chairs around low tables. During the day people were sat with a coffee, in the relaxed weekend atmosphere, but when I walked through later on in the evening the place had a real buzz to it that can only be found on a Saturday night in a very cool bar.
It was busy, but plenty room for everyone so it didn’t feel cramped, and under the fabulous high ceiling, it was like no bar I’ve been in before. It certainly didn’t feel like a hotel bar, more like a film set. I’m pretty sure there were locals in there too enjoying the atmosphere, which is when you know it’s good.
Open daily, until midnight Mon – Wed, and later Thurs – Sun you can reserve a spot, and I can definitely see a girly shopping trip to Manchester would be rounded off nicely with a cocktail or two in the Refuge environment, or a midweek coffee meeting extended into lunch!
The Winter Garden
Being a hotel with a surprise around every corner, I came across what I now know to be the winter garden. In the middle of the bar, and restaurant set behind glass walls is the Winter Garden. An atrium right in the centre of the room, with huge leafy trees, fairy lights, a stunning tiled floor and low level plush seating the winter garden is almost like a conservatory, bright and airy in summer yet cosy and almost secretive in winter.
I bet you could easily lose track of time in there, especially if you take up the option of afternoon tea. I wish I’d had time to do that, everyone knows that part of the fun of afternoon tea is the setting, and the Winter Garden would be the perfect setting for nibbling on sandwiches and a cream scone while sipping on a Northern tea!
Next to the winter garden there was a games room, and adjacent to that was the outside area, again in keeping with the decor the fairy lights were strung up across the courtyard, and the high tables dotted among the trees.
The Ballroom & Four Course Meal
The Refuge restaurant, serving a really mouth watering array of dishes looked lovely as I passed on my way to the Northern Blog Event, and the smells filtering their way through only convinced me further that the food would be incredible.
The event I was attending was in the ballroom, and included a four course meal. I’m not totally sure if the chefs were the same for our meal, but regardless the food was amazing. I’ll come to that in a bit though, because first let me show you how beautiful the ballroom is…
Located in the lower floors of the hotel, the carpeted reception rooms served perfectly as places to gather, and mingle with a glass of champagne, before we were led into the ballroom itself. For a wedding, or a function it really is stunning, not just a typical square room with a load of tables thrown together. The ballroom has it’s own character, with tall pillars, a big stage and dance floor, and high panelled ceilings similar to the rest of the hotel.
The meal we had was the highlight of my evening, I thoroughly enjoyed it. For starter we had a beetroot carpaccio, with goats cheese and hazelnuts. It was light and refreshing which was perfect when in a fancy frock! Main course was a twenty four hour slow cooked beef, with mash, air dried tomatoes and red wine.
The courses were served efficiently, and the staff were attentive to keeping all our wine topped up and dishes cleared quickly. Desert was my least favourite course, as it was a bit too heavy for me, but if you like choux pastry, praline cream and chocolate and honeycomb then I’m sure you would love it. We rounded it all off with tea, coffee and more prosecco.
If you ever need a function or wedding location in Manchester then I really would seriously consider the Principal, and it was even better after my event that I could just go straight up to my lovely room without even leaving the venue.
A Good Night Sleep & Breakfast
I’m sure it wasn’t just the wine, but I got a good night’s sleep in the comfortable room, and was only woken once by a bit of noise outside. It was Saturday night in central Manchester after all. I woke up feeling refreshed and I’m not sure how but ready for more food at breakfast.
Breakfast was served in the dining room, and I was shown to my table and offered tea, coffee and toast by a very nice waitress. I was slightly disappointed not to be sat in the winter garden, and in hindsight I actually wish I’d been brave enough to request a table there. Never mind, my table was absolutely fine and I was actually nearer to the breakfast buffet so I can’t complain.
The buffet included a selection of fresh fruit juices, cereals, yoghurts, pastries, and hot food. Gluten free available on request if you need it. I love hotel breakfasts, so helped myself to quite a lot, both hot and cold. I had quite the spread in front of me when the toast arrived too, but it really was lovely and finished off what was a very luxurious and comfortable stay at the Principal.
Check out was quick and easy, a simple case of handing in the room key, and I was given a bottle of water from the ‘corner shop’ in the lobby too. On my way out I had a closer look at the florist shop that sits at the front of the hotel under one of the grand arches.
I really loved staying at the Principal, it was one of the most unique and beautiful hotels I’ve stayed at in the UK, and for any future trips to Manchester I would find it very difficult to stay anywhere else. The Principal also have hotels in London, York and Edinburgh to name just a few, so I’ll definitely be looking up those locations too.
The Principal Manchester isn’t that cheap, my room rate for that night would have been £270, but this can obviously vary depending on dates and availability.
Disclaimer: I was lucky enough to be given the room and breakfast complimentary for the evening, and I really can’t thank them enough. I feel like I’ve discovered a new gem of a hotel range and will undoubtedly be staying with them again in future, even with the price tag as it would be worth every penny.
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