Hotel insider The sleek modernity works well juxtaposed with nearby reminders of the grit on which Manchester and Salford were built.
The Lowry Hotel, Manchester
The light-filled lobby is a pleasant and relaxing space through which to walk after trekking by train and cab from the airport. It made me feel ever-so-slightly important. While not being over-friendly, the receptionist was efficient and asked me if I should like a newspaper delivered to the room in the morning (yes please). Check-in was swift and painless.
This used to be an industrial heartland between Manchester's city centre and the neighbouring suburb of Salford, the haunt of the artist LS Lowry. A lot of the industry has gone and with it many rows of terraced houses and cobbled streets depicted in so many of Lowry's paintings. They have largely been replaced with main roads, roundabouts and supermarkets. The Lowry is an oasis of fashionable design in the middle of all this blandness.
The doorman deserves praise not just for his efficiency but for his manner. It is increasingly hard to find staff willing to engage with guests and feel proud about their roles. He was. The breakfast staff were also very efficient but there was not much smiling or eye contact. I don't know if it is a hotel policy for staff to adopt a serious and demure expression, but I would rather they were warmer.
I had a Deluxe Riverside Bedroom which felt like a chic city centre studio apartment. It had floor-to-ceiling windows offering views over the River Irwell and the sweep of a pedestrian suspension bridge designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. I worked at a long desk with a full range of executive facilities at my fingertips, relaxed on an Olga Chair and admired a metallic sculptured painting over the bedhead.
Which celebrities have stayed in the past month? He answered, cleverly: "Too many to mention, Sir." He was far more forthcoming with information on the excellent Lowry Centre, a collection of galleries housing a large collection of the painter's original works. He also told me that all guests can now request free portable PlayStations, on which they can play games, films, music and surf the web.
The hotel says its clientele is split evenly between executives and leisure guests, but I have a feeling the suits dominate. That's not a problem - they tend not to have room parties, and they eat breakfast early, allowing more time and space for the rest of us to enjoy the dining room at our leisure. The hotel also caters to celebrities in town for a show. Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams have enjoyed the Presidential Suite (on separate occasions, I hasten to add).
The hotel has used its large open spaces and long walls to highlight a number of prints of Lowry paintings. I took myself on a hotel gallery tour around the floors, examining them. I also spent hours at the large windows in my room watching the Irwell flowing elegantly by and people walking over Calatrava's attractive bridge.
Not receiving a newspaper at my door, even though the service was offered to me at check-in, and a charge for it was added to my bill at check-out. I also objected to the fact that it was heavily implied at check-in that this was a courtesy service.
A good example of modern, post-industrial Manchester. The hotel is stylish and unhurried, close enough to walk into the city centre and to Lowry's old stomping grounds in Salford. The sleek modernity of the Lowry works well juxtaposed with nearby reminders of the grit on which Manchester and Salford were built. The Lowry Hotel, 50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH, UK. +44 161 827 4000, www.the lowryhotel.com. Doubles from Dh903.