Short break - Stock Exchange Hotel, Manchester
- Credit: Archant
Get loved up in Manchester, at the most exciting new venue in town...
The first time I stepped foot inside the Stock Exchange hotel, it was eight weeks away from opening and still very much an empire of dust - an army of workmen scaling scaffolding, sawing, hammering; working on everything from skirting boards to ceilings. Sure, I marvelled at the building. But mainly I marvelled at the notion they'd ever be finished to open on time.
Yet open on time they did. Gary Neville's much-anticipated Stock Exchange hotel, a gamechanger for Manchester city centre, arrived with all the fanfare it deserved. It is the first Relais & Châteaux hotel - part of the world-renowned luxury boutique group - in the region. And, in terms of everything you want from a city centre boutique hotel, it is perfect. And it's almost magical to see the transformation.
Its magic is in the attention to detail and commitment to restore the building to its former glory. From the moment you walk through the modest front door (only those who know to seek it out will find it) the aesthetic is slightly old-school gentleman's club, a masculine romance of a bygone era. Partly that's due to the painstaking efforts that have gone into salvaging much of the old building, back when it was a place dominated by the businessmen of their day. The marble chequerboard floors of the original stock exchange have been polished to perfection, the unexpected industrial spiral staircase beyond the lifts to the upper floors of the 39-bedroom hotel remains and the stained glass detailing and magnificent dining hall dome are restored to their former glories. The décor complements it all - dark woods with sumptuous fabrics in deep greens and natural, earthy tones, unapologetically gold accessories your little luxe reminder.
There may be a £1,750-a-night penthouse on the top floor, but that seems a little excessive for a romantic night away for two, so we are in the Norfolk Suite on the first floor. Sleek and spacious with a slim terrace where you could sip morning coffee or evening champagne should you so wish, it is, according to The Husband, 'one of the best hotel rooms we've been in for a long time'.
There's a super-king-sized bed furnished with more pillows than is decent and, to ensure there's no good reason to leave your plumped-up nest, a giant television built into the end of the bed that appears with the press of a button. It's sheer indulgence. As is the free-standing bath that's just big enough for two.
Thanks to Tom Kerridge's Bull & Bear restaurant and bar on the ground floor you may be tempted beyond the room. It is a great date place. Grab a cocktail at the bar and then, if you can get one, snuggle down into one of the giant booths. Or stick with the bar theme and grab a stool at the kitchen bar, watching the chefs at work while you nibble
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Kerridge pops in from time to time but, in the main, executive chef Dan Scott and his team cook in his image; contemporary takes on classic British cooking. We feasted on mussels marinière with warm stout and brown bread - almost like a veloute with the de-shelled mussels hiding at the bottom of the dish - chicken kiev with maple glazed butternut squash and, from the specials, a £48 fillet steak; punchy in price but impeccable in taste and tenderness. The only thing slightly working against romance are the questionably placed TV screens on the walls - it's not great to have someone's eyes wandering to Sky Sports when you'd like them staring into yours.
But putting those to one side this is the perfect place to celebrate Valentine's for those far too cool to admit to celebrating Valentine's.