What is IHG’s new voco brand like? We review voco St David’s in Cardiff to find out

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

This is our review of IHG’s voco St David’s Hotel in Cardiff.

The hotel website is here.

voco is the newest hotel brand from IHG to launch in the UK.  voco St David’s in Cardiff is one of the first voco in the world, but IHG has big plans for the brand and you will soon be seeing it everywhere.

We wanted to take a look at what sort of quality you should expect when you visit a voco and asked IHG for a free night. HFP paid all other expenses. Here is my review:

voco has been set up by IHG as a “conversion brand”, aiming squarely at Hilton’s DoubleTree or Marriott’s Delta brands.  It is designed to make it easier for existing hotels to join IHG since there are no firm specifications for voco hotels.  Unlike, say, Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza hotels you are not guaranteed anything apart from a relatively premium experience.

As an example, as Rob found out when he visited Kimpton Fitzroy recently, all of IHG’s Kimpton hotels have to have flavoured water in the gym as well as plain water.  The level of standardisation runs that high.  There is no such list of requirements to become a voco.  You can read more about voco and what it means to be a conversion brand in Rob’s helpful article here.

review voco st david's hotel cardiff hotel

I think I’ve heard of the St David’s Hotel?

Formerly one of the Principal Hotels properties that IHG recently acquired, the St David’s Hotel sits on the Cardiff Bay waterfront.  It was originally built by Rocco Forte Hotels in 1999 but was sold to Principal in 2007.

The acquisition increases IHG’s presence in Cardiff to five – there are three Holiday Inns (including an Express) and an Indigo, IHG’s slightly more boutiquey 4* leisure offering. The voco St David’s is now IHG’s most premium hotel in the area with a five star rating.

The hotel itself is a little out of the way on Cardiff Bay. It is slightly further around the bay than the Millennium Centre, the Welsh Assembly and the other key attractions in the area.  It is a five minute taxi from Cardiff Central station or a 20-30 minute walk if, like me, you enjoy stretching your legs on sunny days!

voco st davids cardiff reception

Inside voco St David’s

The architects allegedly modelled the hotel on a cruise ship in port, and you certainly get that impression in the atrium.  It stretches the full height of the building – here is the view from the fourth floor down to reception:

voco st davids cardiff atrium
My room was not ready when I arrived so I was given a free drink voucher to use at The Admiral, the restaurant bar in the hotel:

voco st davids cardiff the admiral restaurant

The rooms at voco St David’s

I was given a premium room, with a larger bed and slightly nicer furniture than the entry level ones.  The room comes with a very large desk which is a rare sight these days. With floor to ceiling windows facing either the Penarth Marina or Cardiff Bay, the room was extremely light and airy which I loved. You also have access to a balcony, which is nice for some fresh air.

voco st davids cardiff premium bed

and

voco st davids cardiff premium room

There is also a stocked mini-fridge which is free for use – and comes with some soft-drinks, beer, cider and a Kit-Kat.

However, both standard and premium rooms have the same floor space overall – here is a standard room:

voco st davids cardiff standard room

Premium rooms come with a bidet (!) but otherwise the bathrooms are roughly similar, with a shower/tub configuration:

voco st davids cardiff shower

and

 voco st davids cardiff bathroom

IHG has gone eco-friendly with the toiletries and offers large bottles rather than single-use minis. On the whole this is a good idea since the minis are very wasteful. To combat theft, the bottles have been priced and would presumably be charged to your room if taken …

voco st davids cardiff toiletries

Toiletries are Aveda-branded Rosemary and Mint scented and can be found in both premium and standard rooms.  Using it to wash my face was a bad idea since the strong mint wasn’t so gentle on my eczema!  Whilst the bathroom was very smart, the Aveda packaging and product didn’t feel quite as premium.

Dinner at voco St David’s

The restaurant offers its own menu as well as a smaller bar menu if you are looking for something more casual.  I have to say the service here was excellent, with very attentive staff. The main menu is Asian-fusion, with a focus on local Welsh ingredients – an interesting combination! I went for the Satay Chicken starter (I accidentally started eating before I took a photo as I was so hungry!):

voco st davids cardiff chicken satay

When in Wales, you get the Welsh lamp shank:

voco st davids cardiff welsh lamb

And finally the ‘take’ on apple crumble, which isn’t really apple crumble at all:

voco st davids cardiff apple crumble

I was warned by the waiting staff that this was ‘inspired’ by apple crumble but I thought I’d try it anyway. It appears to be a hold-over from the Christmas menu and I have to say it’s a bit of a gimmick. It’s hard to top a real homely apple crumble …..

voco St David’s spa

The spa is open to hotel guests from 5pm until 10pm, so I made my way down there after dinner.  Just to be clear – you cannot use the spa for free before 5pm because the hotel runs it as a dedicated facility for locals.

These photos were from when it was still light during the day:

voco st davids cardiff spa

There is a sauna concealed behind these showers:

voco st davids cardiff spa

I tried it out in the evening and whilst it must have been during the peak time for hotel guests, it certainly wasn’t crowded. The spa also comes with treatment rooms at an extra cost as well as a lounge and gym:

voco st davids cardiff spa lounge

and

voco st davids cardiff gym

The spa offers a pleasant way to relax in the evenings but the interior design is a little plain.  It’s a shame they don’t really make use of the view since this is on the ground floor.

Breakfast

Breakfast is hosted in The Admiral, with both a continental and hot breakfast served. All the standard items, of course, though unfortunately no smoked salmon.  Is that odd for a five star hotel?

voco st davids cardiff breakfast

and

voco st davids cardiff breakfast

Conclusion

I suspect one of the reasons that St Davids Hotel joined the voco brand, as opposed to InterContinental or Crowne Plaza, is its unique proposition.  I can imagine that the Welsh Assembly is a little disappointed not to get a more flagship brand into the city, as this is theoretically the highest rated city hotel in Wales.

The voco feels like a cross between a business and leisure hotel.  Its location and proximity to the waterfront make this a good choice if you’re staying in the area but there are more central hotels if you are here to shop or catch the rugby, including IHG’s Hotel Indigo.

The hotel does have some conference facilities and I was told it was possible to book the entire property for an event. It certainly feels a little more ‘conferency’ than leisure despite its location on the waterfront.  That said, if you are looking to spend some time in Cardiff then this is a very smart hotel with great views.

As voco is a conversion brand, there is nothing specific about this hotel which you can rely on seeing at any other voco. There wasn’t even much yellow around, which I had thought from the voco brand website – see here – was going to be a common feature.  What I can say is that, if the quality of hotels continues to be as high as this, you can be assured of a premium experience.

A weeknight stay in March at voco St David’s can be had for around £90 for a standard room, which seems very good value for money.  The same room can be redeemed for 50,000 IHG Rewards Club points which I can’t recommend.  Given Rob’s valuation of 0.4p for an IHG Rewards Club point, it makes little sense unless cash rates are nearer to £200.

Thanks to IHG and the voco St David’s team for letting me stay and showing me around the hotel.  You can find out more, and book, here on the official website.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

No more Avios points from Shell as Shell Drivers Club is axed. The shake-up in petrol loyalty continues.
ENDS TODAY! Get an extra Hotels.com Rewards free night credit on your next stay

Click here to join the 15,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Mr Dee says:

    “There is also a stocked mini-fridge which is free for use” – Do you mean everything in the mini fridge is free?

    • Looking at TA it would appear that the complimentary mini bar might be subject to room choice as one reviews confirmed it and another, both a few weeks ago, states there wasn’t even a fridge. I would expect if they’ve given or a free room for a review they’re going to give you the best. I didn’t like when clicking on the pics to have a closet look, it was a hyperlink to the IHG booking page for the hotel. The article then becomes a promo.

    • Yes all free, though I did have a ‘premium’ room. No spirits, though.

  2. Richard says:

    Staying at the new Voco in Solihull this weekend.
    It’s been a steal at 43 pounds a night opening offer.
    I think we’ll find with this brand if it gets going that it will end up being patchy as will partly depend on property quality prior to conversion. That said I like the styling and homely touches.

    • Dr Tom says:

      I stayed there (Voco Solihull) on Friday night and was upgraded to one of their higher categories of rooms.

      Good hotel, nice bed, no fridge with drinks though, so that must depend on the Solihull (there were small glass bottles of still and sparkling water). They provided coffee bags with the kettle, which I thought was a nice touch.

      Everyone gets a brown bag with a small piece of cake in (or a “little treat” as the lady in check in referred to it). I did wonder if that would be the brand standard, rather how Doubletree has their cookie.

  3. Mark2 says:

    Surely that is a lamb shank rather than chop?

  4. pablo says:

    Did they remove the bulb before chopping up the lamp?

  5. Andrew says:

    I stayed there for a 2 night work trip last month as IHG were running the promotion of a free night certificate at any IHG hotel worldwide. I had booked Indigo but switched it to Voco for the free night certificate, not caring how good or bad it might be, but was blown away by how nice the hotel was. Having a balcony looking over the bay at a “business hotel” was very welcome, the spa was very nice and I was very impressed by the restaurant for dinner and breakfast. I would certainly book again, even without the lure of a free night certificate.

  6. John O'Sullivan says:

    We stayed there recently and are staying again tonight having registered for the stay twice get a free night at any IHG hotel. 80 odd pound for a Sunday has been the cheapest price I’ve seen. We were upgraded to a premium room when we stayed which is actually a multiple upgrade as they have four grades of room. We also had a drinks voucher for the bar. We’ve eaten in the restaurant a couple of times recently as there were some very good deals on Groupon. We’ve enjoyed everything that was served. Nice informal atmosphere in the restaurant and drinks not too pricey. There are also many restaurants and bars within a few minutes walk including a Spoons 2 minutes away. You can walk along the river into town, catch a waterbus or bus or the train (shuttle) so the attractions of the city centre are within easy reach. The football stadium is not too far away. There is also a 6 mile circular walk around the Bay that passes in front of the hotel. You can detour off that route up a steep longish hill into Penarth. We used the Spa on the Sunday night and found it a very pleasant experience. It’s not an amazingly luxurious hotel but it is very nice indeed and a great base for Cardiff Bay and City

    • Freddy says:

      Spoons….Groupon…good god! This is a sophisticated website for sophisticated people!

      • Groupon is an excellent website for saving money *and* picking up Avios, so I think the sophisticated people of HfP shouldn’t turn their noses up too quickly!

      • Spoons (if it means Wetherspoons in this context) is unfortunately a no-go these days as they actively support Brexit

      • Lady London says:

        Some people are now telling Tesco “every Lidl helps”

  7. Nice hotel – stayed a few years ago and really enjoyed it!

    Talking about Hotel brands, I was disappointed to hear that Crowne Plaza Five Lakes, Colchester has dropped the C.P. brand, and is now known as Five Lakes Resort. Stay there a lot with work so be interesting to see how that works out!! Spoke to the hotel last week when making my next booking (as wasn’t appearing on IHG app when I went to book) so wanted to find out what was going on. Was told they are no longer CP and the owners pulled out and have gone independent as they weren’t getting much support from the group on various things.

    Dissapointed not to be earning points, upgrades, free drink vouchers etc. Wonder how they will treat their loyal and frequent guests now……let’s see!

  8. LewisB says:

    As a local I would be hesitant to call this a 5 star. And you’re right that it does get used for conferences a lot and is the hotel of choice for AM’s. Cardiff has a lack of hotels, although there are plenty currently being built.

    Staybridge suites is opening soon in Cardiff Bay. Qatar Airways are to open a 5 star somewhere in the city centre once they’ve found a location, heavily hinted to be the massive House Of Fraser. The owner of the nearby Celtic Manor also wants to open a 5 star in the city center.

    • Never been, but based on the review I think it looks like a very nice 4*.

      • Peter K says:

        My sister went earlier this year and I thought it looked and sounded like a nice 4* from her photos and comments. She really enjoyed the stay and the staff did seem to go that bit further for you than is usual at hotels, but it did not really seem 5*.

        NB. you can get gluten free sausages at breakfast for those who are interested

  9. rotundo says:

    Looks very nice but I can’t get past the bidet, in a hotel built as recently as 1999… is it just me?

    • Kfitzat says:

      It’s called being civilised

      • Shoestring says:

        Brits don’t (and won’t ever) get it. I must say that our one out at our place in the sun gets more use cleaning dirty shoes than its intended purpose 🙂

        • I don’t get why the British think that washing your bum after a poo is an alien and weird activity!

        • Peter K says:

          A friend of mine who has stayed in Pakistan a few times reckons a combo of water and toilet paper is best.
          I’m surprised no one has done a research paper on the relative merits of each 😁

        • Errr…. 3 or 4 generations ago the Brits didnt have paper and a bidet would have been a luxury.

        • In the Middle East and many parts of Asia it’s normal to have a shower head type attachment next to the toilet to give yourself a quick squirt.

          I must say that’s the best solution I’ve experienced, I’m yet to try out a proper Japanese toilet though.

        • It definitely is, especially if you have hair “in there”

  10. Bagoly says:

    Excellent review – answers all the questions I can think of.

    • +1 Rhys does a great review and I always find they cover everything I could/would/should want to know. Well done again Rhys.

      • Shoestring says:

        +2 great review there, Rhys.

        A bit disappointed you didn’t drink the fridge dry

        • Unfortunately I didn’t realise that the fridge was complimentary until about 10pm when I called reception to check…but I did try my best!

        • Shoestring says:

          Well I think it’s up to Raffles to send you to another hotel review where there’s another free drinks fridge, then!

  11. Worzel says:

    rotundo 08:28: Not just you. The bidet takes up unnecessary space-I manage to get things sorted whilst performing a handstand in the shower! 🙂 .

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.