Aside from its convenient location – right in the heart of the bustling downtown area, close to many tourist sites – the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Manchester, England, is adorned with a rich diversity of esoteric artworks.
Walking around the ground floor is like walking through a contemporary gallery, with so many delightful surprises it’s impossible to list them all here. A few, however, will suffice to give some idea of the creativity of the hotel’s owners.
Mere steps inside the lobby to the right of the reception desk and your first meeting is likely to be a giant, colorful cockatoo, with long plant leaves for head feathers and painted metallic strands rising from his back 10 feet into air. Straight ahead stands an oversized glazed Oriental head of a man on a plinth while to its right is a painting of a pair of praying hands with their owners face in marine blue behind it and what looks like two carved African drums or stools beneath. Further along, near the elevators, is a pair of miniature alpacas, ears perked up, their backs consisting of strands of golden threads. Across from them in a corner beside a full-length wall mirror is an elongated, wooden seat shaped like a puma complete with tail and gold metallic head.
Various alabaster statues decorate nooks and crannies throughout, reflecting the hotel’s illustrious history. One is of an orchestra conductor and another of a cinematographer, indicating the period when the hotel housed what was called the Free Trade Hall, a famed arts, concert and meeting venue in the 1900s. That’s just the lobby area.
The owner’s flair for interior décor is also obvious in Opus One, the hotel’s fine- dining restaurant, a lesson in subdued elegance, the word ‘subdued’ also applying to the lighting. While the overall color scheme is neutral – gray, white, beige and black (including giant king and queen chess pieces which stand on counters throughout the room), splashes of crimson grant strong contrasts – in the seating; in the three-tiered, tasseled ceiling lamps; and in the red-gray of a woman’s face in a large wall painting.
Our room, on the 9th floor, featured a floor-to-ceiling window granting aerial views over the cityscape. The floor was a mix of carpet and wood. Contemporary in style, the room’s furnishings included hanging bedside glass lamps; a series of square ceiling lights; two side-by-side, framed black and white photographs of buildings; a black corner armchair; and a round, glass-topped coffee table with curved wood legs. Wardrobe space was more than adequate, located opposite the marble-topped wash-hand basin. Bath and shower were separate, the latter being glass-fronted with a green-tiled floor. Toiletries were by San Francisco-based Essentiel Elements.
Breakfast at the Radisson Blu Edwardian is served in a two-level room opposite ‘Opus One.’ Here a comprehensive buffet is served among standing pillars wallpapered in gray; a biege-colored tiled floor, with smaller versions of the Oriental mask in the lobby, though this time of a woman’s face; and a vivid red painting of hands emerging from a scene crowded with creatures, some human, with strange rubbery faces. A large circular wall hanging is a gold-colored floral arrangement. Two incongruous regal, Medieval-looking high chairs with red velvet backing decorate the room’s upper rear level, which looks on to the convention center opposite. An open terrace adjoins it. By night, this same room is home to ‘Steak & Lobster,’ where 10-ounce rib-eye steaks, whole lobsters and vegetarian options are served up with a range of wines, beers and cocktails, all at a very reasonable price.
The hotel also boasts a spa and gym complex, with steam, sauna, jacuzzi and swimming pool. Spa products are Espa.
The Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester is suitable for business as well as leisure guests, as evidenced by the large group of people wearing Puma-branded sports clothes, employees of a company gathered for a team-building day. As for leisure guests, most have come to enjoy Manchester’s many museums, art galleries and theaters, the cultural collection all the more impressive considering the city was once a gritty, hard-boiled industrial center filled with woolen mills and factories. At the Palace Theatre, a short walk from our hotel, we enjoyed a wonderful production of ‘Avenue Q,’ the puppet musical that has attracted record audiences in New York and London’s West End. Other attractions such as The Cornerhouse bookstore, cinema, bar and restaurant complex is a ten-minute walk away as is the city’s unique People’s History Museum.
Food at the Radisson Blu Edwardian is high-quality. Breakfast features delicious Cheshire-made sausages with black pudding in them, accompanied by tasty bacon and Portobello mushrooms. Healthier eaters can indulge in a wide selection of fresh fruits and nuts. The dinner menu in Opus One offers a generous variety, with first, second, main and desserts featured. The former ranges from Brixham crab salad with mango crème fraiche, broccoli mousse and endives to caramelized foie gras and chicken liver pâté, poached pear with a grape jam and rye bread. Second courses extend the surf and turf theme with Cheshire fillet of lamb, crispy feta bon bons with olive powder, picadila dressing and micro herb salad and hand-dived Scottish scallops with parsnip crisp, succotash and carambola puree. For mains, we chose slow-cooked duck breast with gressingham confit leg, fondant potato and spiced Savoy cabbage and blackberry jus and a deliciously soft fillet steak with pommes Anna potatoes, white onion fondue and café de Paris butter. Desserts attracted much debate and a veritable challenge of choice among banana and chocolate mille feuille, mango tart tatin, pink grapefruit panna cotta and a trio of mousse. Better not to say which choice won. (Or, more accurately, if only one did).
With Manchester being a model northern English city that has transformed itself into a dynamic cultural mecca and with the Radisson Blu Edwardian reflecting this through its impressive interior design and artworks, both places are well worth a visit.