Admittedly, it had been a fair few years since I had last set foot in Liverpool. I’d heard rumours that, since being designated a European Capital of Culture back in 2008, this city in the North West of England had turned into one of the coolest places in the UK. But just how ‘in’ it had become, I had no idea until I ventured up there a few weekends ago and discovered what might be described as “Shoreditch on steroids” (but without all the annoying hipster beards).
Right at the heart of the action, and seeming to represent all that is new and vibrant about Liverpool, is the Hope Street Hotel situated in the upmarket and artsy Georgian quarter. Nestled between two of the city’s most famous landmarks (the old Anglican Cathedral at one end of the street and the new ultra-modernist Metropolitan Cathedral at the other) with the Everyman Theatre nearby and Liverpool Philharmonic for neighbours, there’s no doubt that this smart 147 room hotel is where Merseyside’s smart set come to stay and play. It’s been voted one of the “World’s 50 Coolest Hotels” by Conde Nast Traveller and recent guests include Lady Gaga, Kanye West and honorary-Scouser Yoko Ono.
The interior design is stylish minimalism and pays homage to part of the building’s previous existence as a Victorian warehouse: high ceilings and steel beams, iron pillars and exposed pink Cheshire brick walls on which are displayed the hotel’s collection of modern art. As I check in one busy Friday night, the whole place has a definite “art gallery vibe” about it with a buzzy, well dressed crowd standing around with champagne flutes waiting to get into the Hope Street’s fashionable “destination restaurant” next door, The London Carriage Works, built on the site of a former coach maker for Rolls Royce.
I take the lift to my room (number 636, a corner suite on the top floor) and, as I fling open the door, golden red light floods the room through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows which look out across the city at sunset, from the university down to the docks and out over the Mersey.
The bedroom itself is huge, resembling an upmarket Scandinavian loftspace; think vast expanses of wood flooring with matching blonde furniture — although there’s not so much of the latter, just a slightly undersized (given the room’s gigantic proportions) desk in the corner plus a sleek chrome and black leather Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona chair from which to admire the stunning panoramic views.
There’s complimentary mineral water from San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna as well as a Nespresso machine and free Wi-Fi, Sky and BT Sports. The bathroom is equally cavernous with a huge walk-in shower and a giant square-shaped bathtub big enough to hold a Beatles reunion in. Toiletries by upscale brand REN abound — extra large “steal me” sized bottles, not the stingy portions usually doled out in luxury hotels.
I shower, shave and shift myself into something a bit more dressy for dinner (tip: Liverpudlians glam’ up big time when they go out at night, there’s none of that ‘ath-leisure apparel’ nonsense going on in this city’s dining scene). Shimmying through the cocktail crowd to the restaurant (reservations are not easy to come by at weekends so booking in advance is advised), I take a table between a young, good-looking couple on what looks to be their second or third date and a family celebrating a milestone birthday — this is very much an ‘occasion’ restaurant for the locals with serious food dictating appropriate prices: main courses range from £17.50 to £40 before sides (although there is a Prix Fixe menu from £23.50).
And the dishes certainly do not disappoint. My starter was a scallop served with a de-boned chicken wing that melted luxuriantly like butter on the tongue. To follow came a delicate yet fragrant piece of pollack that was served wrapped in the most beautiful bit of kale I’d ever seen (and it takes a lot to make kale look attractive, even to vegetarians), as well as a side of minted greens infused with truffle.
So far, all so scrummy. I’d normally swerve dessert but I’d heard that one particular item on the menu was so good that it has its very own blog on the hotel’s website: the TLCW Chocolate Orange — a crunchy sweet outer layer giving way to chewy chocolate before floods of indulgently gooey orange sauce ooze out from the ‘egg’ inside. Never mind a blog, this thing is so good it should have it’s own TV show.
Breakfast is also served in the TLCW’s dining room and, once again, it can be a busy affair – especially at the serve-yourself buffet. Beware the edgy glass edifices which are artfully positioned around the room: they’re easy to avoid knocking into at dinnertime but can be a little trickier the following morning when nursing a hangover as you navigate back to your table with a plate full of beans and black pudding in your hand.
After a Liverpool fry-up, it’s just a fifteen minute walk down to Albert Dock where the Tate Liverpool is a must-see – it somehow manages to be even cooler than the South Bank’s Tate Modern, if that were possible (or maybe it’s just that the staff there seem friendlier and bit more eager to talk about the works on show than their southern colleagues).
You should also, whilst here, make time to visit the Cavern Club (birthplace of the Beatles) – sounds tacky but it’s actually great fun and quite endearing to see fans of the ‘Fab Four’ from all over the world make their pilgrimage to sing along to the surprisingly good tribute band. Make time as well for a ferry ‘cross the Mersey — just don’t sing the song on deck or you’ll (justifiably) be thrown overboard!
And a visit to the Royal Liver building’s “360 Experience” is also worth doing, especially if you’re old enough to remember the 70s TV series “The Liver Birds” who took their name from the giant winged creatures (each as large as a double-decker bus) that stand proudly atop this iconic structure. Whatever your age, Liverpool is a fantastic city to spend a weekend, and the Hope Street Hotel is arguably the most stylish and glamorous place to do it, and be seen doing it, in.
Room rates at Hope Street Hotel start from £92 per night.
Address: 40 Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9DA
Phone: +44 (0)151 709 3000
For more information on Liverpool’s attractions, visit visitliverpool.com.