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Nov 27, 2011

Review: Malmaison Manchester hotel, Smoak bar & grill, and Ember Lounge

Manchester Malmaison

Manchester Christmas Markets were on my mind from mid-September and I’m a big fan of staycations, so after a delightful night at the Malmaison hotel in London we decided to stay at the Manchester Malmaison and made the short train journey up north last Thursday.

(N.B. If you don’t fancy doing much reading this lazy Sunday evening there is a video at the end of this post covering most of the same aspects.  It’s my first attempt at vlogging so please be kind!)

The location

The nearest train stations is Piccadilly, the city’s main transport hub with rail links to major towns and cities all over the UK, as well as to Manchester Airport.  The Metrolink (‘Met’, tram system) and free shuttle buses also stop here so even if you arrive at one of the alternative train stations it’s easy to find or if you’d prefer to jump in a cab it shouldn’t cost much as the city centre is relatively small.  If you haven’t much luggage you could even walk to get your bearings (weather permitting!).


On my frequent trips to and from Piccadilly the Malmaison is a building I’ve passed many times but never actually been into.  My impressions of the hotel have always been favourable; with simple white fairy lights at the entrance year-round the hotel looks both welcoming and fun.  The interior is very different, though no less inviting.

As with the London hotel, the lighting in the reception area is subdued with plenty of plush chairs dotted around.  Whilst the area is, of course, busy with a steady stream of visitors and day-guests (to the spa, bar or restaurant) it feels relaxing and cosy.  Our check-in was smooth with the offer of a map and some info about Manchester (which, as a native, I politely declined).  We were then greeted by a friendly duty manager who efficiently whisked us up to our suite, ‘The Best’, before leaving us to explore.


Manchester Malmaison bedroom

Manchester Malmaison - view from the bedroom

The morning after our stay I tweeted that the bed was so comfortable it was “like sleeping inside a giant marshmallow”.  Not only that but we didn’t hear one single peep of noise all night.  Both of things resulted in probably the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel.  I thought the velvet-tasselled headboard was a little bit OTT but whilst it’s not to my taste it’s just a bit of fun.

The bedroom (and lounge) was equipped with a decent-sized flatscreen TV and a DVD player.  Free wifi also runs throughout the hotel, which in my opinion is as necessary as running water nowadays.  High-speed internet is available at an extra charge.

In this shot taken out of the bedroom window you can see just how close Piccadilly is – literally a 2-minute walk, even lugging a case.


Manchester Malmaison Lounge

Manchester Malmaison Lounge

Manchester Malmaison Lounge - desk

Manchester Malmaison Lounge - mini bar

Manchester Malmaison Lounge - magazines

The lounge area was super-spacious and had a theme that, at first, surprised us and then delighted Chris.  We’d presumed that the suite’s name of “The Best” literally meant the best room however it’s actually after footballer George Best (the football-shaped iPod/iPhone dock seen above should make sense now).  The red, black, and white colour-scheme is inspired by Manchester United, the club where George experienced the most success, and there were a couple of pop art-style canvases depicting George on one wall.

I really liked the feel of the lounge, immediately plonking myself on the sofa for a 2-minute recharge before we headed out into the city.

Along with the usual mini bar refreshments the room is also stocked with beauty products such as an eye mask and hand cream, all priced very reasonably at £1.75 or less.  There were also 4 women’s magazines to flick through, as well as Condé Nast Traveller in the bedroom and a complimentary copy of The Independent delivered in the morning.


Manchester Malmaison bathroom

Manchester Malmaison - bathroom products

The bathroom was sleek and stylish with a monochrome colour scheme finished with shiny silvery hardware.  There was both a bath and a walk-in shower (drench!).  I can only wish that I had time for a bath but that luxury unfortunately escaped me.

Malmaison’s like their products, which range from the basics to the more unexpected – massage oil anyone?  No shampoo, which is surprising, but I used the body wash as I find in hotels they’re often labelled as a 2-in-1 product and it did the trick.

For me the major negative point of this bathroom was the layout.  The mirror is directly above the sink and toilet so it’s hard to use without having to lean right over either, which isn’t comfortable and nearly ended in tears after I knocked my cosmetic case down the loo (luckily it wedged itself halfway without falling into the water).  Whilst not a small room I can’t see how this could have been set out any better, however, without sacrificing the separate shower or bath.

Dinner at Smoak Bar & Grill

Smoak dinner

Malmaison peach melba

Smoak Bar & Grill is reminiscent of an upmarket American diner, with meat taking up most of the focus on the menu.  After a delicious starter of a three sausage sampler and goats cheese and apple hush puppies (something I’d never heard of before but absolutely loved), we both opted for steaks, myself onglet steak frite with garlic butter.  I really enjoyed mine but Chris had asked for his medium to well-done and parts of it were quite burnt.

We had to leave just before 9pm to be at an event at Emporio Armani (more on that later) so we asked if it’d be possible to order dessert and have it delivered up to our room later; a very odd request but one the staff were more than happy to oblige.  So I enjoyed my first ever peach melba in bed and it was superb, by far my favourite of the 3 courses.

Cocktails at Ember Lounge

Ember Lounge cocktails

It was immediately obvious that our bartender, Nathan, knew exactly what he was doing (although he did mention that he’s only been at the hotel for a week).  After asking us what we liked to drink he rustled up a ‘BBC’ for me, which contained, amongst other things bramley apple sauce (really) and basil – super-refreshing.  Chris had a delicious berry and whiskey combination.


Malmaison breakfast

After begrudgingly dragging ourselves out of bed Chris and I sampled the Big Mal Breakfast, essentially a fry-up.  I have to say considering the name and the price (£14.50) we were expecting more food.  However the continental breakfast is free with lots of choice (pastries, fruit, cereal, bagels, etc.) so we also helped ourselves to some of that too.

We’d organised a late check-out so we headed back to the room to relax for a while, and I also made this video showing you round our suite.  It’s my first foray into vlogging  (sorry for all the ‘ers’ and the fact it’s in portrait rather than landscape!), I hope it’s ok …


Thanks so much to the staff at Malmaison Manchester for a wonderful staycation!  I’ll post a photo diary featuring the aforementioned Christmas Markets soon, in the meantime (in case you missed it) I also did a little post documenting my day

Malmaison Manchester

Gore St, Manchester, M1 3AQ

+44(0)161 278 1000

Disclaimer: Chris and I were very happy guests of the Malmaison Manchester.


Nov 26, 2011

1 photo, 1 hour, 1 day

Since I am now completely addicted to Instagram and came across this lovely post on busy bee lauren a few weeks ago I thought it might be fun to do my own ‘photo an hour’-type post.  Obviously I chose to do it on one of my more interesting days (my average day would consist mainly of shots of me watching Grey’s Anatomy repeats in my PJs …).


Starting the day with a mug of tea whilst doing the last bits of packing for a trip home to Manchester, including narrowing down my beautifying bits and bobs to the bare essentials.


No time to take a photo at 11.30am as Chris and I were rushing to Euston!  Lunch and some reading material on the train (presume the 1.30pm photo is the same).  We pulled into Manchester Piccadilly just before 2.30pm following an easy and flawless journey.


After checking into our hotel, the Malmaison (I’ll be posting my review soon!), we headed to the Manchester Arndale for some serious retail therapy.  It was so refreshing to be able to shop semi-peacefully – it’s never quiet in central London.  I also found I particularly enjoyed revisiting Manchester after a short break.  It had started to feel a bit stale as it’s not a huge city and I felt I’d seen it all but this weekend has opened my eyes to it again and I’ll be going away with nothing but happy thoughts.


We briefly escaped the growing Christmas Market crowds in the stunning Victorian gothic Town Hall, which has recently started operating clock tower tours.  After a quick spruce-up back at the suite we moved on to the hotel restaurant, Smoak Bar & Grill.


As the restaurant is a grill we of course ordered meat (I’ll post all about the meal in my review of the hotel)!  At 9pm we headed to the last hour of Emporio Armani Live, which took place at the striking new(ish) store in Spinningfields; it looks even more uber-modern when compared to next door neighbour the John Rylands Library, which dates from 1900.  It was a pretty amazing event which, again, I’ll post about soon!


After the event we visited the hotel’s lounge, Ember, for cocktails.  We hadn’t had time for dessert following our dinner so the hotel were kind enough to fulfil our weird request of sending it up to our room.  Peach melba in bed is something I can highly recommend.

If you’ve done one of these ‘photo an hour’ posts (or decide to do one after reading this) please leave a link below, I’d love to see it!

Happy weekend kittens! :)


Oct 9, 2011

Best of British

Me at the British Museum

Wearing: printed skirt c/o Marks and Spencer, chunky heart necklace from Marks and Spencer, grey t-shirt from H&M (mens’ dept.), grey blazer from Zara, cashmere scarf from street market in Florence, white ToyWatch c/o Selfridges, black tights from Primark, chelsea boots from Topshop, 17 lipstick in ‘Mulled Wine’ from Boots

On Friday evening I visited the British Museum for the first time. My theory was that going on a Friday evening, the one night the museum is open late, would mean a slightly quieter experience – I wasn’t counting on the throngs of tourists that descend on London for a long weekend.

Whilst we spent less time exploring than we’d planned to it was still nice to be able to absorb the atmosphere and take a stroll around the enormous Great Court in the central section of the building. The relatively-new glass ceiling makes the former garden the largest covered public square in Europe, and the stark geometric pattern only enhances the age of the architecture and objects underneath.

We couldn’t stay for long as we had tickets for a comedy gig in Camden later that evening; we ended up sat on the table right in front of the stage so were both bullied at some point, all part of the fun though! I’ll definitely revisit the museum at some point, like the tourist I am. What’s your favourite ‘tourist-y’ thing to do in London?

British Museum

British Museum

British Museum


Aug 11, 2011

Guest post: Ibiza style by Jason Gardiner

This is a guest post written by celebrity stylist and TV judge Jason Gardiner (as seen on programmes like This Morning and Dancing on Ice). Thanks so much to Jason for taking the time to write this – enjoy!

Ibiza is one of my favourite destinations for a beach holiday and it’s where I’ll be spending the rest of my summer (except when I’m on Born To Shine on Sunday nights…such a great show for such a great cause)!  Here are some tips and tricks for how to stay in style on this fashionable island!

Sub 0 G luggage blackLuggage

The first thing to think about is your luggage.  For a weekend getaway, many opt to use hand baggage, but each airline has different restrictions for baggage allowance in the hold.  Start with the lightest suitcase possible.  I like the Sub-0-G, which is the lightest suitcase on the market.  For guys, a leather weekender is always a chic bet.

Fashion: women

For Ibiza style, anything goes. This is not the south of France.  People are really unpretentious here so you can really experiment and have fun with fashion. Give your look a holiday and use your break to get out of a style rut! If you want to get some great beachwear when you are on the island make sure to check out Sluiz.  They have a great selection of items that are quintessentially Ibiza.

My must have for women is the Fatal tube dress from Wolford. It is super lightweight and can be worn as a long dress, ruched up to make a mini dress, pulled down to make a maxi skirt or scrunched up to make a top…It really couldn’t be more versatile! It also comes in a range of colours so by all means get a black one but also look to the key colours this season like burn orange, turquoise, blue and citrus.

Opt for loose floaty fabrics, as skin tight absolutely does not work in Ibiza! The romantic style we’ve seen this season is great as it’s naturally floaty and moves with you.  Tribal, animal, and Ikat prints are also great for Ibiza and don’t be afraid to mix patterns and colours. Think Sex and the City 2 when they come over the dunes…very desert chic! If you’re afraid of colour embrace it here…everyone does!

SATC Movie 2 desert Morocco

Pack sandals in metallic shades as they go with everything and add a bit of glamour to a basic outfit. You must, must have statement jewellery …a gorgeous necklace, beaded bangles or a fab cocktail ring. This will instantly give your look a bit of style. Hair accessories are also really fun and don’t forget a wide brimmed hat to protect you from the sun.

Ibiza Style swimwear and dresses

AnthropologieFrench Connection, Linea at House of Fraser, Karen MillenToast

Fashion: men

Guys, you absolutely cannot wear anything that looks like sports wear. Football jerseys and tracksuit bottoms simply are not allowed.  Instead, opt for 3/4-length trousers with a polo shirt. Linen is also the perfect material for the weather on Ibiza and works as either trousers or a shirt. Keep things loose and casual…looking too pulled together or formal is another no-no for men.  Flip-flops, plimsolls, and deck shoes are all great footwear…whatever you do leave the trainers at home! Finally, make sure you stay sun smart by wearing a great woven trilby.

Ibiza Style Collage Menswear

Ted Baker, ASOS

All images provided by Jason Gardiner



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