The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool is shrugging off it's old image

Fifteen years ago a BBC documentary gave Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel celebrity status – for all the wrong reasons. What's it like today? Mark Gilligan finds out

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Lancashire Life 

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My first visit to The Adelphi Hotel in 1965 was an unforgettable experience. As a football mad eight-year-old, family connections allowed me the enviable privilege of enjoying a lunch there with all the West Ham United players prior to their game with Liverpool at Anfield.

As I sat eating next to Messrs Hurst, Peters and Moore, little did I know just how important they would be the following year as the World Cup approached. And how affable and kind they were to me and my father as we joined them on the team coach en route to the game.

I went back some 47 years later, walking through the same revolving door, this time to be met by general manager, Joe Reilly, who welcomes me in his soft Dublin accent.

As a child, I looked around in wonderment at its grandeur, the decor and size of the Hotel. I am not disappointed today as walking through the lobby, it’s evident this remarkable, iconic ‘old girl’ is still shining, due to a huge outlay by owners Britannia Hotels.

‘This is a Grade II listed building and a significant, multi-million pound investment has meant the Edwardian style is maintained to the high standards you would expect,’ says Joe.

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‘It’s a rolling programme and, with over 400 en suite rooms for guests, we want them to speak of us with a warmth and affection. When I took up the position as general manager it was an honour and challenge. However, with a hotel of this magnitude it comes with history.

‘There have been issues and problems, which we constantly strive to be on top of but considering that approx 1.5 million customers passed through our doors over the past 12 months, it’s inevitable that sometimes we don’t always get it right. But we do listen and always do our utmost to put things right.’

I appreciate his honesty and you do feel that he is a genuine and passionate man who wants nothing but the best for the Adelphi. But recent history is against Joe and his team. The Adelphi shot to fame in 1997 when it became a figure of fun as star of the BBC’s first ‘docu-soap.’

The eight-part series laid bare the trials and traumas of a struggling hotel – from the indoor barbecue which smoked out the banqueting hall to on-screen verbal battles in the kitchens between chefs and managers.

Staff became overnight stars for all the wrong reasons and, after being branded the real-life Fawlty Towers, the series attracted 11 million viewers. Ironically, hotel bookings went up 20 per cent.

Today, they prefert to focus on the future as well as the origins of this iconic Liverpool hotel.‘There were two 18th century town houses on this site which were converted by William and Joseph Ewart to form the first Adelphi Hotel in 1827,’ says Joe. ‘Then, an experienced London hotelier, James Radley, enlarged it further and its fame spread across Europe.’

Radley put The Adelphi on the map with one commentator declaring: ‘The premises were run as efficiently as a Swiss watch. No hurry or bustle was observed in the building; it had about it the calmful atmosphere of a private home.’

Joe and I embark upon a tour of the hotel and that nautical term for a journey is significant as several rooms are replicas from the ill-fated Titanic. The magnificent Sefton Suite is a copy of the first class smoking room found on the ship but today it is regularly and sumptuously dressed for wedding breakfasts.

We’ve all gone back to places we visited as a child and been disappointed in later life at how diminutive it now seems but this is not the case here. The main Hypostyle Hall is good example of this.

It used to be an open courtyard with first class rooms situated around it. Guests could take tea on balconies and watch the comings and goings. Today, there are many people doing just that. It’s busy but nicely relaxed.‘We have our own pastry chefs on site and our afternoon teas are very popular, as they were all those years ago, ‘ adds Joe. ‘This hotel was also famous for its French cuisine and we want to bring that back too.’

As well as the rooms, there are some 22 banqueting and conference suites that are serviced by over 300 staff, some of which have been working here for over 45 years.

‘Since I arrived, I’ve been struck by the loyalty of the team and their dedication to this Hotel. My youngest serving manager has been here for over ten years.’

Over the years, the Adelphi has made more than its fair share of notable guests from royalty to film stars. Roy Rogers famously rode his horse Trigger into the hotel in 1954. It was even rumoured he was so ill with flu that the horse was led into the bedroom to present him with flowers!

Politics have played their part in its history as well with the Labour Party regularly holding conferences here and Harold Wilson having a suite named after him. Sir Winston Churchill was another regular.

As we complete our tour, Joe turns and says: ‘I am very proud that I was given the opportunity to take over this iconic hotel. Very proud indeed.’ You can see he really means it. He and the team hope the Adelphi can be famous for all the right reasons.

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