When we booked our mistake fare to Manchester we wanted to pick our hotel very carefully. After living in the city for several years, we didn’t have much opportunity to try out area hotels. The Radisson Blu Edwardian in Manchester’s city center was well located for our purposes and was one of just two we wanted to try for many years. Would the Edwardian live up to the expectations I had built for it?
In the heart of the city, the Radisson Blu Edwardian is easy to get find and right where we wanted to be. If you’re taking the train into the city switch at Piccadilly to the Metro tram and head to St. Peter’s Square, a short two blocks from the city. By taxi, most mornings, you can expect about a £30 ride in a black cab, slightly less with a pre-booked car which you can arrange upon landing.
Most importantly, this is perhaps one of the most walkable locations in the city. Just half a block away is St. Albert’s Square, the main site of the Manchester Christmas Markets, and close to most of the major office buildings in the city.
Address: “Free Trade Hall” Peter street, Manchester M2 5GP, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 161 835 9929
Why We Chose The Property
On the list for hotels we wanted to try in the second (some say third) largest metro in Britain was the Radisson Blu Edwardian and the Hilton Deansgate. We initially secured both, however, the Hilton property was far too expensive for points and we are rarely presented with an opportunity to spend our cache of Club Carlson points on a truly premium product. We will add the Principal Hotel to our list for next time (formerly the Palace Hotel) which is owned and owned by Starwood Capital not to be confused with Starwood Hotels. Using points, we secured the four nights for free (Club Carlson even covers applicable taxes) at a cost of 50,000 points per night.
The hotel was also very Mancunian. Formerly the Free Trade Hall, the classic building kept the solid bones, high ceilings, smooth stone Victorian facade – but also updated and modernized. The property seemed very much like Manchester itself; a sturdy, classic British city with industrial roots going through its own renaissance.
Al Fresco Suite
At checkin we were given an upgrade due to our status (given with the free version of the Club Carlson card) from a standard room to the Al Fresco suite. The suite has a deck space that does not actually face outside but rather an interior space with a glass roof that allows natural light but is not exposed to the elements. There were several no smoking signs which I am sure was confusing to guests because it does appear to be outside but is not.
The room was very large by European standards (we’ve had hotel rooms where the door hit the bed when it opened). There was closet space, a desk, a large sitting area and even space for a rollaway which the hotel provided without us requesting it.
The room was not originally ready when we arrived due to a standard trans-Atlantic morning arrival. They took to Lucy during checkin and when we got into the suite there was a welcome gift waiting with her name on it.
The bed was comfortable and was a true King. In fact the bed was excellent and we had trouble getting out of it – though some of that could have been down to the limited jet lag. We enjoyed the extra space for our luggage, and it still felt spacious even with the rollaway.
One of the most impressive aspects of the room was the bathroom. The vanity was outside of the bathroom itself and opposite of a reasonably sized closet that featured a safe and a pair of robes waiting for us. The robes themselves were nice enough, and while most hotels charge high prices for the robes if you choose to “adopt” them, I am not sure I have seen a £95 charge for a used robe before. The Conrad Hong Kong suggests that if you like the robe and want to take it home they will package a new one for you from downstairs.
The hotel utilizes shampoo, soap and conditioner attached to the wall which is less wasteful and more environmentally conscious (the little bottles are such a waste). The downside to not having little bottles is that if you decide that you like the products you can’t take them with you. I have purchased body wash and shampoo after being able to try them out in a hotel and over time. I would have to consult Brad for his preference on little bottles vs attached but environmentally conscious.
This bathroom featured both a shower and a bath separately. We had an issue with the sprayer in the tub, the nozzle was not attached properly, we notified the staff and it was corrected. The shower was hot and having both was helpful. The bathroom made the hotel feel premium.
The hotel has two restaurants, one is Steak and Lobster and this is the standard hotel restaurant and where breakfast is served. Opus One is the showpiece. We didn’t have a chance to try it out while we were in the city, but it’s a well-known power lunch spot for nearby offices.
The restaurant was busy on weekend nights and for lunch frequently. Their unique approach to the archways, bringing a formerly outdoor space indoors but still allowing for the appreciation of the street side cafe is picturesque and helpful in often rainy Manchester.
Alex at the front desk was very helpful and personable. He was able to reconcile our three reservations for four nights (availability on points for the entire stay was not an option but we picked up nights as it freed up and collated them into a continuous stay). He welcomed us to the hotel and made us feel right at home.
Equally, the concierge staff was generous and helpful. They assisted us when we arrived with our bags and advised where we might be able to occupy ourselves until the room was ready. One in particular, Kris, was helping us as we left the hotel. Our friends were circling the block looking for parking and we spotted their vehicle but they drove to the other side of the building. Kris went out with our luggage to our friend’s waiting car which he was quick to identify as it passed initially.
In Europe, there is ice, but it’s not readily available. While Britain may not consider themselves European (this was the case long before Brexit) they do share a limited use of ice policy with their continental neighbors. With a bucket in the room we decided to indulge ourselves and ice brought up when requested. We kept an irregular schedule while in residence and that meant some days we were out before 9AM and others we occupied the room until after noon. Regardless, it was made up each day when requested, regardless of time we made the request by switching a button near the door.
I highlighted a small issue with the tub and there was another with the phone. It wouldn’t quite hang up and was located on the bedside table next to my head. I unplugged it the first night of our stay and mentioned it to Alex. Both the tub and the phone were fixed the same day while we were out. I don’t expect a flawless experience, but it does speak volumes about the hotel that they handled it quickly and without inconveniencing the guest.
On at least one occasion, a front desk agent, was unpleasant and treated us as though we were cheap, over-staying guests because we had not checked out within 15 minutes of checkout time (though we had a connected booking). Once we brought this to her attention, the onus was put back on me for not making a continuous booking. I attempted to explain to her the matter but after some trying I ended the call. If someone needs more time checking out, I can understand the hotel reception’s need to be firm, but once the matter has resolved, end it there, I don’t need a lecture about how to book a room or to spend time explaining why that wasn’t possible at the time. I am the guest.
One “feature” of our stay was a text message was sent at checkin as a digital concierge to arrange anything we might need. That kind of service can be helpful, and on the second to last day of our stay I received a text message stating that there were some openings at the Spa and that if I was interested I should reply with SPA and we could set something up. Perfect! Lucy and I could go out and eat some Nutella covered waffles at the Manchester Christmas Markets while my wife could be treated to a relaxing massage.
They never responded to the text. Firstly, it’s absolutely pointless to employ technology that either doesn’t work, or the employees don’t have training to execute. Secondly, when I started thinking about the gift I was giving my wife and the time I would have with my daughter, I was more upset that they never came back to us than I would have been if they had never reached out at all. The technology or lack of execution was a detractor from an otherwise good experience.
We were together when I received the message so I couldn’t really surprise her by calling the hotel and arranging it after they didn’t respond and remember, this was their outgoing marketing text, not the other way around. Lastly, if I was hotel management I would be frustrated to lose the revenue. After some effort and cost a paying guest was happy to take the appointment (otherwise lost time) and responded to what is likely an expensive digital marketing effort. Yet the staff didn’t bother to respond even if just to say, “Sorry another guest has just booked.” That’s lack of effort. Thus, I also am not including a review of the Spa because we weren’t able to make it there.
One last item, the Lovers Intimacy Kit on the minibar for £22.50 is: 1) Steep, and 2) Should be found in or near the mini bar. While we were reviewing charges on the minibar (see below section) we came across it and wanted to know what all was in the “kit” – in Thailand its common to find a package of condoms available in the room for a price. Can you imagine reaching the point where you are prepared to spend north of $30 for an Intimacy Kit and then have to call down to the front desk or worse, go get it yourself? Eek!
The minibar is a booby-trap and even slightly grazing a bottle will trigger an automatic charge on your bill. I would like to watch the straight face of a person representing the hotel chain describing how connecting separate reservations (even with a paper note at the checkin desk) is too technologically complex, but a stiff breeze in the fridge and they can not only charge my room before I have popped down to the desk, but they know which item was grazed.
I have encountered these types of triggered fridges before and I understand that it makes the maid’s job easier, but I have to imagine that there is more incidental brushes with expense than actual time-saving, legitimate charges. At the Hyatt Centric in Houston they had a hair-trigger minibar as well, however, there was a separate column to the right for your personal items which made it less awkward to keep things cool.
After I could tell I set the alarms on a few items (we also have a toddler who came close to billing us £100 just having fun rearranging things) I called down immediately. I lived in Manchester for three years, I know how this could go.
“Hello, I’ve just accidentally set off a few charges in the mini bar, can you please send someone up to account for everything and remove it from my bill?”
“We’ll take your word for it Mr. Stewart, no problem.”
Uh huh. I guess I will take their word for it that the charges have been absolved. Next morning, different person at the front desk where we had to checkout of one reservation and checkin to our next reservation in the same room.
“We just need to sort out your charges from the minibar.”
“No mate, we already talked about this last night. Are there notes on the account?”
Looking, looking. Computer says no.
“We called down and offered for them to come take a look, but we haven’t used anything.”
“No problem we will take your word for it.”
I have heard that one before. If you had taken our word for it, it would already be off the bill. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that we never buy a water or box of Pringles from the minibar, afterall our stay was 100% free thanks to points. But if we offer for them to come inspect and they decline, they keep saying they will take our word for it but don’t remove it from the bill – it just doesn’t match up. I would have rather they came up the night before and handled it then.
“I’ll just have to get this over to the manager.” He disappeared and we left for the day.
This is one thing I loathe about the UK and love about the States – front line employees are able to make decisions to the benefit of the guest, especially ones which management would quickly and easily make anyway. In all fairness, the front desk employee already made that decision the night before, so why make it next to impossible for a reception employee to wipe the charges away in fact instead of just verbally?
Will We Be Back?
We would probably try our hand at some other hotels first before making our way back. Manchester is an odd city when it comes to hotels, there are few premium options and very few from chain hotels. Neither SPG, nor Hyatt offer rooms in the second (or third) largest city in the UK (depending on who you ask). Hilton bought a city center property and converted it to a Double Tree, they already have one of the most iconic in the city in their Hilton Deansgate property in Beetham tower, the city’s lone high-rise. Marriott has a very tired full-service property on the edge of Market Street close to great shopping from the Arndale and surrounding stores (Harvey Nichols, Selfridge’s Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ted Baker, etc). IHG offers a few locations and a Crowne Plaza which is not very premium as far as I could tell.
It really is a city of independent properties. We did not review the infamous Palace Hotel when we visited December of 2013 (my wife was eight months pregnant at the time), it has now reinvented itself as the Principal hotel on Oxford, opened by the conspicuously named Starwood Capital which is not related to SPG; we would like to stay there again. The Lowry in Salford Quays is highly reputed and may earn our business in the future.
After making our way through that list, we would come back to the Radisson but sadly, the room was just ok by US standards (Olympic-sized by UK standards). Given the very basic challenges the hotel had (inability to manager married reservations, the booby-trapped mini-fridge, getting Theresa May to personally waive the accidental charges, the small maintenance issues, issue regarding spa options) and the struggles with dealing with them we just can’t put it at the top of the list.
Do you struggle with the same types of issues when you travel to Europe or the UK? Do you just suck it up or does it bother you?