This review of Hope Street Hotel in Liverpool is taken from our latest guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection – UK/Ireland Volume 2.
When pondering new minibreak options, I’ve never previously found myself saying, ‘Ooh, Liverpool’. But that was before we discovered the chic boutique treat of staying at the Hope Street Hotel. When we find out that it’s just a quick walk from Lime Street Station, it seems daft to do anything but travel from London by train. The journey from Euston is surprisingly swift, marred only slightly by a post-10-pints passenger who joins at the penultimate stop.
At the station, milliseconds pass before a guy drops everything to give us directions. ‘Go up this road until you see a bombed-out church,’ he begins, before mapping out the 15-minute route. Picturing bleak ruins, we wonder if our destination is quite right for Mr & Mrs Smith-style romance. But, when we get to our HQ for the weekend, we apologise to Merseyside and all who sail in her. Billed as Liverpool’s ‘first boutique hotel’, the Hope Street Hotel is within the city’s cultural quarter, where you’ll find many restaurants and theatres, as well as the art deco Philharmonic Hall. The hotel building dates from 1860, but it is all modern minimalism inside, with a softly lit reception and low sofas in the lounge.
Mercifully, the receptionist who shows us to our suite forgoes the typical fastidious room tour (‘That’s the phone – really? And that’s the door?’), leaving the fun exploration stuff to us. Mr Smith starts playing with the Bang & Olufsen TV and sound system. I manage to hold back from jumping on the Egyptian-cotton-sheeted bed, but admire the room’s USPs: huge wooden beams, touch-on light switches, open-plan X-factor bathroom on an upper level. ‘I want that bath,’ I announce. ‘Where can I get that bath?’ I’m transfixed by the huge, freestanding wooden tub, accessorised with fluffy towels and REN products. The thing is clearly big enough for two, but there’s a plush leather armchair opposite, so you can quibble over who soaks and who gets to watch. For soakaphobes, there’s a huge glass-fronted shower, and double basins, complete with mist-free mirrors.
We dine in the hotel’s renowned restaurant, the London Carriage Works. The atmosphere is nicely busy and buzzy, the wine list never-ending, and the food incredible: all delicious, fresh, local and organic produce. It doesn’t hurt that chef Paul Askew’s cosmopolitan flavours are served in a grand property built at the end of the 19th century in the style of a Venetian palazzo. A private party means the hotel bar is off-limits, but it isn’t exactly a hardship sloping off to our suite to enjoy a couple of brandies there.
The bed – big enough to lose yourself in for a week – is tough to leave the next morning, particularly when the smoked salmon and scrambled egg breakfast arrives. But we finally haul ourselves up and out for an explore. Shopping-wise, Liverpool’s city centre has all the usual high-street favourites and so on, as well as independent and designer boutiques: Cricket at the Cavern centre, and Flannels at the Met Quarter. You may not be a celeb mag reader, but you have to have been in media exile not to have seen them swinging in bag-form at some point from a Wag’s arms in the ubiquitous paparazzi shots. And the atmosphere in town is chirpy – 10 times friendlier than what we’re used to down in the capital. ‘That looks lovely,’ says one woman, as I step out of a changing room cubicle – and she is another shopper, not the retail assistant selling me Vivienne Westwood I can’t afford.
Tate Liverpool in the Albert Dock is a new Tate for us, and well worth our time. Sadly our visit wasn’t timed to catch the Turner Prize exhibition, held here as a curtain-raiser for Liverpool’s status as European Capital of Culture 2008. The area in general is an agreeable place to wander around; we even get to enjoy our first outdoor drink of the year. Then it’s back home – aka Bang & Olufsen plus bed, for an afternoon movie and a snooze – perfect.
Evening meanders its way down the Mersey and we’re pleased to learn that Hope Street is packed with restaurants, including the recommended 60 Hope Street and the Side Door – but, we stumble across Valparaiso, just around the corner on Hardman Street. Liverpool’s only Chilean restaurant, it does a mean steak, and their traditional corn and mince pie is delicious, too.
After dinner we check out the hotel bar, where a pianist bashes out requests – Coldplay, not show tunes – on her Steinway Grand. We’re seduced by its big squishy sofas and delicious champagne cocktails; the atmosphere is energised yet relaxed, with a clientele that we guess is a mixture of locals and Hope Street guests.
You can have breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but we’re now utterly addicted to our suite, which I have, by this point, decided I’ll be replicating as the ultimate one-bed back home. We summon a trayful of toasted bagels in bed. ‘Room 406? Is that… Ms X?’ I’m asked, on calling room service. No, I tell them. ‘I know that name,’ I say to Mr Smith. ‘Isn’t she a fashion designer?’ He looks puzzled, then it clicks. We’re sharing the Hope Street Hotel with a much-photographed British pop minx. I have to admit, I quite like being mistaken for a pop star. And looking around the suite, I feel a bit like one, too.