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

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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.)

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Comments

  1. A determined thief brings their own bottles

  2. Vasco says:

    That “apple crumble” gave me a good laugh as I started my day.

  3. Jimbob says:

    Wasn’t overwhelmed when I went there, and service was poor.
    Our restaurant bill had someone else’s bar order on it, and took a while to get taken off, and the breakfast buffet was poorly stocked, and had run out of some basic items with nearly an hour of serving left.

    The only redeeming feature was that Tom Jones was at the table next to us

  4. OT: Best travel pushchair and travel cot?

    Thanks

    • Shoestring says:

      any variant on this type is much of a muchness ie the same design principle and perfectly good
      https://direct.asda.com/george/baby/travel-cots/red-kite-sleeptight-travel-cot-black/002641074,default,pd.html

      same price on Amazon if you get the 10-13.5% discount that a lot of us here use

      • Thanks

        I wish I got Tesco coupons – haven’t had any like that for years, even the “25 extra points when you buy X” happen less than once a year

      • Nick_C says:

        @Harry. Buyng GCs at Tesco with a MOC. Do you / can you do this at self check out? If not, then how do you manage it, as the MOCs say they can’t be used on GCs?

        • Shoestring says:

          I don’t use self checkout tills. The ladies on the tills in my Tesco don’t care but I always buy some milk or something at the end, maybe that helps.

        • Shoestring says:

          Don’t forget the £4 off coupon at Amazon I mentioned a few days ago – it’s about setting up a Wish List on Amazon & they send you a £4 off voucher when you but £25 of stuff from Amazon. So google wish list on headforpoints & you should find the link.

          Used it twice yesterday for some basic stuff, added to the 15% off I get for my Amazon giftcards, I guess on £25 I am getting £4 off (so £21) plus 15% off = total £17.85 instead of £25 🙂

        • Can only buy GCs at self-checkout with Morrisons (use the ones that don’t have the scales to make it easier).

          For Tesco I’ve never had an issue but always put the GCs at the start of my shopping and never buy them by themselves.

    • Louise says:

      Babyzen yo-yo, but lots of others now on market that fold down as small for travel push chair

    • New Card says:

      I honestly can’t recommend the Doona travel pushchair enough. It converts straight into a car seat (without taking baby out of the seat), which is invaluable when getting in and out of taxis/cars, etc. It doesn’t have such a high profile in the UK but it’s literally the only pushchair you see around New York, for this reason.
      https://simpleparenting.co/car-seat/

  5. TGLoyalty says:

    “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 hotel.”

    I feel like this isn’t quite true. There must be some brand standards around colour schemes, linens, amenities etc as the look and toiletries are very similar or the same as what’s going on at St. John’s Solihull

  6. Nate1309 says:

    OT sorry. @Rob what is the name of the kid friendly hotel you like in the alps? I can’t find the article as I can’t remember the name.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Are you thinking of Cavallino Blanco (in the Dolomites, not Alps) he mentioned a few weeks ago?

      • Nate1309 says:

        Yes. Thank you.

      • The Alps one is Elmauhof in Hinterglemm. We were back there a fortnight ago, met a couple of other readers too!

        It isn’t super luxury, more homely, but great if you have young kids. No reason to go there without kids, and I suspect they won’t let you anyway.

  7. John O’Sullivan says:

    As posted earlier we are here for our second stay. Upgraded to a Premium room again with two drinks vouchers for the bar. To start with the fridge was empty. My wife rang to ask if this was correct. The guy from housekeeping who came up to stock up said the reason was that from today only the suites would have a stocked fridge. Seems to me that bookings already made should be honoured with the conditions outlined at the time of booking. Not necessarily upgrades but people who have paid for a room with a stocked fridge should get it. The Smart Tv also has a feature that allows casting from your phone. This is the modern world

  8. Well, I’ve shelled out the 50,000 points for this, on the night of the Wales – Ireland Six Nations match. It does seem like a lot of points but less so when one considers the cash rate was over £400 – pretty typical for Cardiff on a big rugby night.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      That’s why I collect points

      Great value when you need to be somewhere on a date and everyone is charging an arm and a leg.

  9. nick66 says:

    Stayed here a couple of years ago. I think I was the butt of the “Who gets Room 109” game played by bored staff. It is a ground floor room theoretically overlooking the bay but it has some kind of ramp access to the roof area. The ramp has screening, rather like cricket screens which almost completely blocked any view. Basically the whole point of the hotel was negated. Protests at reception proved fruitless but luckily it was only one night. Saw a couple of reports on TripAdvisor too ate, saying the same thing – anyway, do not accept Room 109.

  10. Oh my! I stayed at this hotel in 2006, when it was simply known as St David’s Hotel and Spa but had 5* back then. We were put there by organisers of our press trip (the Welsh govt). It was my second ever 5* hotel to stay at and it did have smoked salmon at breakfast back then! Though, Rhys, I think they can be forgiven for not serving at – they are not Scottish after all!

    Thanks for this impromptu trip down the memory lane! I also remember that there was some kind of bird sanctuary in the vicinity of the hotel and the location overall was so supreme!

  11. Phillip says:

    If visiting ask for one of the corner rooms facing the water , huge windows floor to ceiling , panoramic view albeit of the city and water , they are much more substantial , you can section off the bedroom from the lounge so can be quite useful .

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