CitySuites II, Manchester – Hotel Review
By Helen Johnston, January 2024
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in the heart of a big city in one of those shiny blocks of apartments which seem to have sprung up in the past few decades, then a stay in an aparthotel could be the best way to find out.
The clue is in the name – it’s a hotel made up of apartments, providing you with a ‘home from home’ where you can relax, cook, entertain – but with the facilities of a 5- star hotel on hand. And that includes a swimming pool and gym.
CitySuites is next to the River Irwell, a stone’s throw from Manchester Cathedral and a short walk from those temples to consumerism, Selfridges and Harvey Nicks.
The Irwell provides a border between Manchester and its smaller neighbour Salford, and we passed a sign welcoming us to Salford as we walked to CitySuites II, on New Kings Head Yard. There has been a lot of development in this area in recent years, with new apartment blocks and offices a sign of the investment which continues to flow into Manchester and Salford.
CitySuites is made up of two luxury blocks, with CitySuites I on Chapel Street, the first to be built in 2017, followed by CitySuites II in 2021, which must have been a challenge given the pandemic restrictions at the time.
“Smart and stylish”
That all seems like a distant memory now though, strolling across the smart and stylish pedestrianised area leading into the towering 17-floor CitySuites II with its 142 apartments and five penthouses. The layout is all minimalist clean lines, and the modern décor is various shades of grey (but not quite 50).
Our two-bedroom apartment was on the tenth floor and was fabulous. The kind of place you imagine glamorous city highflyers come home to. The grey and white colour scheme continued, a theme of understated, neutral tones no one can be offended by. The only colour came from the cushions on the sofas, dark green and rose pink. Personally, I prefer more colour in a room to brighten things up, maybe a throw or two to add some warm tones.
The apartment still had a kind of ‘new’ smell about it and was spotless. The kitchen area was unbelievably well-stocked with a fridge and freezer, oven and microwave, dishwasher and washing machine. Along with a toaster and all the usual pots and pans and cutlery. There was also a tea towel, sponge and washing-up liquid to keep everything clean and tidy.
A tray of tea bags, coffee pods and biscuits lay next to the kettle. That’s the beauty of the hotel part, you don’t have to remember your own tea bags for that all-important cuppa when you first arrive.
There is an en-suite shower room in one bedroom, plus another bathroom next door to the other bedroom, perfect for making sure everyone can get ready in time. Towels and toiletries are provided. The kitchen area has a decent-sized table and four chairs and there are TVs in the bedrooms as well as the lounge.
On a cold but bright January day, it would have been easy to stay in the warm (the heating was set at a toasty 21C) and watch the world go by from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living area. But there was no time for that, we had tickets to see smash hit Hamilton at the Palace Theatre, on Oxford Street.
A 20-minute walk later we were joining the throng of people queuing to get in to see this five-star rated musical about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, which has already wowed audiences in the West End and on Broadway.
Manchester is the first stop on its UK tour and its four-month run here will finish on February 24. It won’t be visiting Yorkshire (Bradford) for another year and it’s worth the trip to Manchester if you can’t wait. It was a full house and the show has gathered a cult following, with lots of people who had obviously seen it before clapping and cheering when certain characters appear on stage, notably the very funny King George and Thomas Jefferson.
Manchester has a multitude of places to eat but CitySuites can match any of them with its Embankment Kitchen restaurant headed up by Josh Singleton, so that was the destination for dinner. The friendly head waiter Dean described the menu as British with French and Italian twists and there certainly seemed to be something for all tastes, including grilled pork chop, butternut squash, sage and wild mushroom risotto, and braised short rib bourguignon. The pan-fried sea bass fillet (£21) was probably the best I’ve ever tasted, sitting on a bed of crushed new potatoes, tender broccoli spears and salad.
“A reassuring sign”
Starters and small plates included spicy chicken lollipops, garlic pizza bread, and tempura king prawns. Dean said all the pizza dough was made in-house, which made it hugely popular. It’s an open kitchen, always a reassuring sign, and it was remarkable how calm the kitchen staff seemed given the number of diners. The ambience in the restaurant was relaxed and there were even small tables outside, with blankets for the hardy (or the vapers?) who can withstand wintry fresh air.
There was no lemon tart available but the Biscoff and chocolate cheesecake, recommended by the cheerful waitress Ella, made up for it. There’s a special offer of 40% off meals in the restaurant throughout January, so if you’re in Manchester give this place a go whether or not you’re staying at CitySuites. The prices seemed reasonable to me for the quality of the food and I noticed on the menu a Coke was £3.50, which was cheaper than the £3.80 charged at the Palace Theatre.
The following day started with a swim in the pool, which we had to ourselves for most of the time we were in it. Towels are provided in the changing room and there’s a jacuzzi and a steam room as well as the pool, which was just the right temperature and not the cold of outdoor pools abroad which take your breath away. It’s the same depth throughout so no worries about suddenly having to tread water or go under (which I hate), and it’s true what they say, a swim really does energise you for the rest of the day. I didn’t go anywhere near the gym though, why break the habit of a lifetime?
“Work of art”
Then it was back to the Embankment Kitchen for breakfast which was all ordered by menu and not the usual self-service buffet which so many hotels have now. At first this seemed strange but I saw the value in it when I realised that it prevents people from overloading their plates and then leaving half of it to be thrown away. A bowl of granola, fresh fruit salad, and a pain au raisin was more than ample but there’s an extensive range of cooked options as well.
As we headed out, Manchester Cathedral’s bells were ringing out in celebration of the feast of the Epiphany and the three kings had been added to the large crib outside the front door. We decided to look inside and received a warm welcome from parishioners, and the music from the service which was going on was uplifting.
Then it was off to check out Manchester’s thriving shopping scene and a tour of Selfridges, open-mouthed at the prices. A cardigan for £300, a pair of slingbacks for £990. The Jimmy Choo shoes didn’t have any prices on and if you need to ask, you obviously can’t afford them. There are only four branches of Selfridges and Manchester has two of them (the other being at the Trafford Centre), which must say something about the prosperity of the city and its environs. The other two are in London and Birmingham, if you’re wondering.
“The freedom to do as you wish”
In stark contrast we then wound our way to the Northern Quarter and Afflecks indoor market, described as an ‘emporium of eclecticism’ of more than 60 independent traders across several floors, selling everything from posters to plants. You can even get a tattoo. The building itself is a work of art, with murals on the inside stair walls and a tribute to Tony Wilson, founder of the Hacienda nightclub and co-founder of Factory Records. He was the man behind some of Manchester’s most successful bands such as New Order, Happy Mondays and Joy Division.
CitySuites II is in easy walking distance of these very different shopping experiences, as well as the Arndale Centre with all the High Street favourites and eating places. It’s about a 25-minute walk from Piccadilly station, which was fine for us with light rucksacks, but if you’re carrying heavier luggage there’s the option of taking the tram to the Arndale and then it’s just a short walk across the river.
CitySuites has studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, premium one-bedroom, family apartments and Penthouse SuperSuites, so it can be a base for work or leisure. There’s a Sainsbury’s Express store just around the corner for shopping supplies for anyone wanting to self-cater. There’s definitely a plus side to being able to make your own tea and toast for breakfast in your pyjamas.
Having your own apartment gives you the freedom to do as you wish, at a time you prefer. Sit and watch the world go by below you, or get out there and join in. You’re part of the smart city crowd now.
For more information and prices go to citysuites.com