Words by Benjamin Russell
In the golden age of newspapers, the Coventry Evening Telegraph sold almost 100,000 copies a day. The likes of Jeremy Vine cut their teeth as reporters in its busy newsroom and its sprawling headquarters even boasted its own printing presses that ran four editions a day.
As times changed and more journalism inevitably ended up being consumed online, dropping circulation saw the print operation move off site and the paper relocate to smaller premises at the nearby canal basin.
But this is a hotel review, not a history lesson, so what’s with all the nostalgia?
Well, the vacated headquarters aren’t just some dreary old office block. In fact, the striking building was purpose built for the paper in the 50s and its wood panelled walls and marbled floors drip with Mad Men glamour. So when the paper moved out there was understandable concern over what was to become of the building in an age of steel and glass uniformity.
Thankfully, things have worked out better than could ever have been hoped for. Its heritage has not only been preserved, but celebrated by its new owners, and what’s more, you can enjoy it all with cocktails, fine dining, and an overnight stay.
As part of the building’s £20million refurbishment, an incredible job has been done to convert the expanse of the building’s former editorial floor and advertising offices into an impressive 88 rooms of different types, all of them oozing retro style.
There are two sizes of standard rooms – big and bigger – but as you walk down the twisting corridors, you’ll also see signs for ‘darkrooms’. These aren’t just decorative hangovers from the paper’s picture desk. Darkrooms are situated in the centre of the building, and as the name suggests, they have no windows, but instead use creative lighting to set the mood.
Visitors looking for a little more space can opt for duplex rooms which are split over two levels and give the feeling of a small suite. Some are arranged around the Winter Garden, a shared central atrium lined with plants and with tables and chairs to give the feeling of outside space.
There are also two full size suites on offer; Compositors and the Lord Iliffe suite, which is named after the paper’s founder. While both sizeable, the latter is the best room in the house, boasting its own hot tub terrace with views over Belgrade Square, home to the city’s biggest theatre.
Food and drink
Boozy lunches, wining and dining contacts and drinking into the wee hours are all staples of the reporter’s world, and you can do all three in style without leaving the building.
What was the paper’s former lobby has been put to good use. The reception desk now serves as a chic bar which is the perfect place to enjoy an aperitif. Beyond the bar sits the restaurant, which has been built on the site of what was a former courtyard and is now topped with a pitched glass roof which gives the dining experience a light and fresh feel, while rich art deco furnishings continue the thread of vintage luxury that runs through the entire property.
The food is excellent and the pork tomahawk was a standout, while the pomegranate molasses roasted butternut squash shouldn’t be missed by those looking for a vegetarian option. However, be sure to leave room for the baked Alaska.
After dinner head to the roof. On the way you’ll pass a huge printing control panel with flashing lights, and buttons – including one that says ‘stop’. One can’t help but imagine how many times the shout to stop the presses went out within these walls.
Once upstairs you’ll find yourself in what was the engine room of the paper, providing the power to keep those presses running. A huge, blue engine which has been converted into a table pays homage to this and helps give some clue as to the heritage of the bar’s name, Generators. Now an elegant rooftop cocktail bar, the roar of engines has been replaced by the hum of conversation. There’s a range of cocktails on offer, but a good recommendation comes from a mural by local artist and designer CovKid, which shows one customer enjoying a ‘Covmopolitan’, the bar’s twist on the classic.
Thanks to its central location, visitors to the Telegraph Hotel will have plenty to enjoy this year, as Coventry celebrates being City of Culture 2021, without ever having to order a taxi.
The hotel is over the road from the Grade II listed Belgrade theatre which is served by a strip of bars and restaurants for pre and post show refreshments. If you’re a beer lover though, don’t miss Hops d’Amour. It’s a newly opened Micropub that has a great selection of interesting brews on tap.
There’s plenty of other stuff to explore in the centre, and a good place to start is the city’s two cathedrals. The older of the two was famously bombed during the Blitz, its ruins left to stand as testament to the futility of war. Miraculously, the medieval streets surrounding the cathedral were undamaged by the bombing, and are home to the stunning 13th century St Mary’s Guildhall as well as Coventry’s oldest pub, the timber-framed Golden Cross that was built circa 1583.
In 1956, the Queen, or Princess Elizabeth as she was then, laid the foundation stone for the new cathedral designed by Sir Basil Spence and it opened its doors in 1962. If modernism isn’t your thing, don’t let its façade put you off. It’s a masterpiece. A gigantic tapestry of Christ by Graham Sutherland dominates the back wall, while concrete columns, beautiful stained glass and wooden vaulted ceiling make for a truly breath-taking piece of architecture. The combination of new and old is poignant, showing both the destruction humanity is capable of, and it’s intrinsic ability to heal and rebuild.
The city centre has two museums on offer. Just over the road from the cathedral is the Herbert Art Gallery, which has a range of contemporary and classic exhibitions and less than a five minute stroll away is Coventry Transport Museum.
When it’s time for lunch, head to the central square, Broadgate. It’s home to a statue of arguably Coventry’s most famous resident, Lady Godiva, who rode naked through the streets in protest at her husband’s high taxation of the city’s inhabitants Take a table on the balcony of the Botanist or Cosy Club, which overlook the square and on the hour you’ll be treated to the story of Godiva – and the voyeuristic Peeping Tom – courtesy of one of the most eccentric clocks you’ve ever seen.
With so much on the doorstep of the hotel combined with the City of Culture events, you won’t be short of things to do. However, if you do fancy getting out of the city, the rolling Warwickshire countryside is a short drive away, with plenty of winding hedge-lined lanes, unspoilt undulating pastures and cosy country pubs. Jewels include the nearby towns of Kenilworth and Warwick, both home to impressive castles, and of course William Shakespeare’s old stomping ground of Stratford-upon-Avon is just down the road too.
Coventry is under an hour on the train from London Euston, under two hours from Manchester Piccadilly, and is less than 20 minutes from Birmingham International airport by road or rail. Coventry station is a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and there’s ample parking in the city centre. The NCP across the road from the hotel offers a discount to hotel residents.
In a nutshell
A chic hotel with genuine newspaper heritage smack bang in the middle of the city of culture with beautiful countryside beyond.
Darkrooms can be booked from £88 per night. Prices for the Lord Iliffe Suite start from £189 per night.