* Prices may differ from that shown
Manchester's Mercure Hotel may not be one of the city's most exciting accommodation options but it can certainly boast a great location if you need to be close to transport connections. We were travelling after work from Newcastle to Manchester, with a flight early the following afternoon from Manchester Airport. We wouldn't arrive in Manchester until around 8.30pm so we didn't want to stay too far from Piccadilly and there were a few things I wanted to buy the next morning before flying so a location close to the main shopping area was essential.
I wouldn't describe myself as a particular fan of the Accor Group but I frequently find myself booking accommodation in Etap, Ibis or Mercure hotels (just three of the chains that fall under the Accor umbrella) when there are promotions on, and a usually excellent rate of cash-back through topcashback.co.uk, plus points accrued through the Accor loyalty scheme, tends to persuade me that they're a good deal. I could have paid less on this particular occasion by staying in one of two central Ibis hotels but I find that the cheaper chain tends to attract noisy party crowds at weekends so we splashed out a whole £10 more to stay in the three star Mercure on Portland Street just behind Piccadilly Gardens. If you know Manchester and the location seems familiar, that may be because this was a Jarvis hotel until just a couple of years ago.
Very little has changed with only the rooms really getting a revamp as well as the public areas getting bedecked in the corporate colour scheme. The names of the restaurant and function rooms remain unchanged. There is pedestrian access from the street but the reception is two floors up and has to be accessed by lift. Visitors arriving by car can park up and enter the reception area directly from the car park. I recently learned that when the buildings behind Piccadilly Gardens were designed it was envisaged that in the future everything would go on above the ground and that a series of elevated walkways would like the different buildings. This was never realised but the buildings are still mostly arranged so that the reception areas are not on street level.
This is why the ground floor entrance of the Mercure looks rather sparse, almost empty but for a concierge desk which is almost never in use. Probably due to our later arrival, we didn't have to wait to check in which was a welcome relief as when we'd stayed in the Jarvis Hotel here we'd waited for what seemed like forever to check in. When I say that check in was swift I mean only that the actual process of acquiring a swipe card for the room was fast. The young lady who served us was very smiley and pleasant and enquired as to whether we would like breakfast (our promotional room rate had not included it) but did not mention any of the hotel's other facilities such as the restaurant; I was surprised by this as I am sure that many visitors arriving later in the evening would happily take the option of eating in the hotel for the sake of convenience.
Our room was on the ninth floor and directly opposite the lifts, much to my dismay. However, although I had expected to hear the ping of the lift all through the night, this was not the case, though on two occasions in the early hours some inconsiderate neighbours on the same corridor did make a lot of noise coming in.
The room was reasonably spacious, more so than when we'd previously stayed. There was plenty of room on either side of the bed and enough space to put bags out of the way. The room had a comfortable king-size bed and the television on the wall directly in front of the bed provided a luxury I feel too guilty to enjoy at home.
We dumped the bags and went out for dinner and I felt so stuffed when we returned that I'd happily have jumped straight into bed, however, the discovery of feather pillows stopped me in my tracks and I had to wait until one was brought to the room. I had anticipated not being able to get one at the late hour; usually if I ask any time after about five o'clock I am told that there are no housekeeping staff to help but on this occasion a polite young man arrived with synthetic pillows no more than five minutes later.
The bathroom was slightly shabby compared with the sleeping area. The grouting was starting to look black in places and a couple of tiles were cracked. The side of the bath was very high and it was a bit of a struggle for my little legs to climb in to shower. On the other hand the bathroom was spacious, unlike the Ibis rooms a grade down. The hard to regulate shower offered an opportunity for some minor swearing though I tried not to let it spoil the first day proper of my holiday.
Another swearing incident occurred when, a little earlier than I'd have wanted, ours and all the other televisions in the rooms of the hotel, broke into a dawn chorus to alert guests to an illegally parked car that needed to be moved. Surely it's possible to i) omit those guests who have said they didn't park a car in the hotel carpark or ii) take the registration number when guests do come by car and contact the room directly instead of waking everyone.
We didn't breakfast at the hotel and weren't even tempted when, at check in, the receptionist told it was on special offer priced at £7.50 each. If you prefer not to take breakfast at the hotel there are plenty of options in the area; we headed over to the Wetherspoons pub on the other side of the square. If your start to the day consists only of tea or coffee and you're not fussy what it's like, you could always just knock up a cuppa from the in room hospitality tray.
We paid around £54 for our standard double. This grade of room comes with chargeable high speed internet and movies on demand. These features are complimentary when booking a superior room. The hotel has payable private parking. There are two restaurants and two bars though we used none of these facilities on this occasion.
I wasn't expected to be blown away by this hotel and I certainly wasn't but it was perfectly fine for our needs and when we made a request, it was sorted quickly and efficiently. It's not somewhere for a special occasion but for a weekend city break when you expect to be out most of the time, it's absolutely fine.