This is our review of Principal Manchester, now rebranded as the Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel.
One of the joys of parenthood is, of course, having to attend concerts with your tweenager. And so I found myself in Manchester last Saturday to watch ‘The Next Step’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t feel the need to look it up) at the O2. Needing somewhere to stay, I thought I’d try the Principal.
When IHG bought the Principal hotel chain, it outlined plans to rebrand each hotel. London has already become Kimpton Fitzroy (see this article) which may be the best IHG hotel in the city. Cardiff has become voco St David’s, revewed here. Edinburgh has gained an InterContinental and a Kimpton, Glasgow has gained a Kimpton. Oxford has gained two voco’s eg this one.
Principal Manchester was meant to switch to Kimpton in September 2019 and this is what I was expecting when I booked. This is not the case. It is still running as a Principal although, to be fair, the hotel FEELS like a Kimpton. When the deal was announced I thought Manchester deserved at InterContinental – I still do – but now I’ve been here I agree that this is not the right property.
It is not a full review because we didn’t spend much time there. However, I was impressed by much of what I found and I recommend it.
Where is Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower?
Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower, opposite Oxford Road station and the Palace Theatre, is a conversion of the Refuge Assurance building. If you can picture an ornate Victorian office block, built to persuade people of your financial strength and stability, you will get the idea.
This is the hugely impressive lobby:
This is a PR picture which really shows the detail:
I had booked a twin room and, due to my IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite status, was upgraded to a ‘double double’. I was also offered some bonus points or a free drink – with two of us, the free drinks were easily the best deal (especially as I drank them both). As often happens, the 500 bonus points posted anyway.
The room was a very good size:
…. although the bathroom was not:
…. and if you wanted to contact reception:
There was a bit of a love / hate relationship with the room. We loved:
- the size
- the artwork
- the furnishings and the quality of bed and bedding
- the fact it had a desk
- the mini bottle of real milk in the fridge
- the free popcorn, crisps and Green & Blacks chocolate in the ‘tuck box’
- the many plug and USB sockets
- the decent wif-fi
- the room service meal we ordered, which came promptly and was decent quality (there is a £5 tray charge but the overall meal was fairly priced)
I didn’t like:
- the lighting – there simply wasn’t enough of it (this is a hotel-wide issue)
- the fact that the desk came with a stool, not a chair
- the lack of a table – we had to eat our room service dinner on the sofa
- the fact that the water took some time to run hot
- the view, overlooking the internal atrium which was hosting a private Saturday night party and which created a lot of background noise – although not enough to stop us sleeping
There are some spectacular elements. I couldn’t get a decent photo of the stained glass windows in the main staircase, but this picture shows some of the grandeur:
The hotel bar is an exceptional achievement. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a bigger one. It feels very Kimpton – classy but laid back, including a few table football tables. This is the view from above:
Breakfast was in the dining room here:
Breakfast was £16 per person. The quality was very good – a noticeable step up from, say, the Hampton Exeter Airport where I also was last week, even though the actual products on offer were very similar.
There was a steep charge for ‘cooked to order’ items, on top of the £16 breakfast bill, which was a little galling. I might have paid £5 extra for a cooked to order item but not the £10 that the hotel was asking. The room was also – and this is a familiar theme – underlit.
I didn’t see the gym and there is no pool. We didn’t eat in the main restaurant in the evening.
Conclusion – is Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower worth a visit?
Even with the imminent defection of the new Crowne Plaza Oxford Road and Staybridge Suites Oxford Road to Hyatt (see our article here), you are not short of IHG options in Manchester. In fact, there is a Holiday Inn Express almost directly opposite the Principal. If you are only planning to be in the hotel for a short period of time then the HIX – which has free breakfast too – will do the job.
There is a definite ‘wow factor’ about the Principal, however, and if you’re looking to impress someone then it will definitely reach the parts that a Holiday Inn Express cannot! (I suppose you could stay at the HIX and eat and drink in the Principal which would have much the same effect ….)
As an IHG Rewards Club redemption, Principal Manchester is 45,000 points per night. This is fairly good given my standard value of 0.4p per IHG Rewards Club point and the typical £200+ room cost. It is worth noting that, due to football matches, Manchester hotels are often more expensive – rather than cheaper – at weekends.
IHG One Rewards update – February 2023:
New to IHG One Rewards? Read our overview of IHG One Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG One Rewards points worth?’ is here.
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