King Street Townhouse, the latest hotel in the Eclectic portfolio, recently opened its doors in Manchester. Rosalind Mullen reports
Need to know
King Street Townhouse opened its doors just before Christmas. It's the latest luxury offering from Manchester-based Eclectic Hotels, which is owned by husband and wife team Eamonn and Sally O'Loughlin.
The 40-bedroom hotel is the largest in the group, which includes Great John Street in the city centre and, five miles away, Didsbury House and Eleven Didsbury Park. The company also operates On The 7th members' club bar at Salford's MediaCityUK.
At £8m, King Street is also the most expensive in the group. Financed from retained profit, the investment covered a rooftop extension and the conversion of the grade II-listed Italian Renaissance-style building.
Work was carried out by AEW Architects. Its location in the Upper King Street conservation area, close to Albert Square, targets shoppers and business people midweek, but there has been a surprisingly strong local leisure presence at weekends.
"Manchester draws people for the football season, concerts and good shopping and has a good choice of restaurants. The huge student population draws families together, too," says Eamonn.
The hotel has a wedding licence and events spaces. Two private hire rooms on the first floor are ideal for meetings and conferences, but can also host weddings and dinners.
The small and large hubs can be combined by opening the double doors to accommodate up to 40 guests.
Sally masterminded the design. Her aim was to create a luxurious "baby grand hotel", while not drawing business from sister hotel Great John Street.
Another challenge was to create a modern British design yet retain the beauty of the period property. The building was built by Edward Salomons and opened in 1872 as the Manchester and Salford Trustees Bank.
A later conversion to offices, however, meant that it was stripped of nearly all its original internal features.
"The former bank had been gutted and we wanted to bring it back to life," she says. "In fact, people think we have kept it as it was because we have been respectful."
Sally, who has designed all the hotels in the group, trained as a make-up artist for Granada TV and quips that she has simply moved from "making up faces to making up bedrooms".
There are some bespoke pieces in the hotel, but Sally has also collected furniture from around the world. Over the past two or three years, she has also been busy picking up art and artefacts from antique markets and costumier fairs in the city's bohemian Northern Quarter and Manchester Craft and Design Centre. She also commissioned local artists to create artwork, including Adam Gilbertson, Michelle Topping and Dorothy (see panel).
"The biggest thing with our design was that we wanted luxurious and eclectic at the same time - to have our own identity," says Sally. "We set ourselves apart from the crowd by creating a unique product with the highest of standards."
King Street Tavern
Situated on the ground floor next to reception, the restaurant and bar is finished in dark wood, red leather bar seats and banquettes, and a beehive-style tiled floor. The O'Loughlins designed the bar with Neil Masters from London firm Cantor Masters. The menu at the intimate 50-seat restaurant offers a no-fuss choice that includes shepherd's pie (£13), steaks (£18) and potato-crusted cod fillet (£16).
The Afternoon Tea Lounge
Leading off the Tavern is the tearoom, which continues up a spiral staircase onto a mezzanine level. The space tends to get more business than the restaurant - probably courtesy of shoppers. It's furnished with designer fabrics and velvet, including Mulberry's Flying Ducks design on the banquettes for a touch of quirkiness.
The eclectic feel is emphasised with bold cushions, mismatched china collected from various sources, atmospheric lighting and art from local artists. In another twist, it serves a choice of ladies' afternoon teas (think finger sandwiches and scones) or gents' afternoon teas (mini burgers and scotch eggs).
There are five types of bedroom - Snug, Cosy, Comfy, Luxe JS (Junior Suite), and Suite. The Hypnos beds are finished in white South African linen. There are a range of styles for each room - four-poster beds; soft, covered headboards; and wooden headboards.
Fabrics and wallcoverings are from the likes of Mulberry and Harlequin. The colourways for each room were inspired by kilim rugs. "I love the way the colours work, so I based my colour scheme on how they are put together," says Sally.
The three junior suites have a rich, darktaupe carpet but different coloured walls - blue, taupe, biscuit. The suites are richer, with velvet curtains and the 15 snug and 13 cosy rooms are white, blue or wallpapered with white and orange patterns. There are rain showers and freestanding baths throughout.
Finishing touches were still under way to the seventh floor spa as The Caterer went to press. It includes Eclectic's first infinity pool, a Helos steam room and a relaxation room with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the town hall - and this is Eamonn's baby.
"The pool is 4mx4m and 1.4m deep. It's not a huge space," says Eamonn. "I was inspired by a fab hotel in Ireland we visited, the Park Hotel in Kenmare. Its spa overlooks the estuary and trees and I thought 'I could put a town hall in front of ours'."
Eamonn's aim is to increase the niche events business. To that end, he is developing space in an adjacent building to provide a private room for 16 in the basement and a presentation room for up to 25 people. "Nothing on a massive scale. We like to be small," says Eamonn.
And while he says there is no new project on the horizon, he adds: "I never turn my eye from an opportunity."
It's less than two months into operations, but starting rack rates are £250 for a snug rooms and up to £420 for a suite; Sunday and Monday rates start at £145 and occupancy has been between 50%-70%, but building steadily.
Curtains Ena Shaw
Fabrics and wallpaper Mulberry
Bar area and sixth floor Neil Masters of Cantor Masters
Bathroom fittings CP Hart
Bespoke restaurant tables Style Matters
Bespoke bars Diamond Shop Fitting
Lewis & Wood
Baker Lifestyle's Exbury Star
Baker Lifestyle's Madira
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