Inside Manchester’s Grade II listed Refuge Assurance Company building is The Principal Hotel, where it has become a hive for private dining and business meetings. Jade Burke heads to the landmark hotel to check out what facilities it has to offer in the North.
What once was the head office for the Refuge Assurance Company in Manchester, now sits the stunning Principal Hotel. Following a £20m refurbishment back in November 2016, the former Palace Hotel, now renamed The Principal, has firmly cemented itself as an iconic brand in the vibrant city.
Upon arrival I am greeted by a huge bronze statue of a horse made by artist Sophie Dickens, which now occupies the former turning circle for the horses and carriages from when the building was used as the Refuge. Meanwhile, throughout the hotel the symbol of Manchester – the worker bee – has been incorporated into Alfred Waterhouse’s architecture and design, from the former bronze Directors’ staircase to the bedroom’s cushions. It’s fantastic to see this emblem splashed around the hotel.
Inside this Grade II listed building are a staggering 270 loft-style bedrooms and suites, which all feature some of the original period features, as well as double and triple height ceilings. During my stay I spent the night in room number 251 – the receptionist told me it is ‘her favourite’ of all the suites available and I can see why.
The door to the room stands out against the green and cream tiles, thanks to its mahogany colouring and domineering size. However, it’s what’s behind the door that’s truly breath-taking. The first room you step into is the living room, where its triple height ceiling and central window command the entire room. A separate double bedroom provides some extra space for guests, while a classic GPO red telephone has been set next to the bed – something I am told every room has. In fact, across the whole of the hotel there are a staggering 746 red telephones altogether.
What impressed me was the inclusion of a free tuck box of treats in the room, as well as free bottled water and fresh milk – so long carton or powdered milk. Plus, throughout the hotel free wifi is available, which performs quickly and efficiently, something I didn’t think would be possible due to the building’s enormous size.
“With Manchester Oxford Road situated over the road and Manchester Piccadilly a short ten-minute walk away, The Principal isn’t just convenient, it’s practical too.”
On-site The Principal really has everything you need under one roof, from a 24-hour gym, a florist, a corner shop with every amenity a guest could need and a bar, as well as 17 conference, meeting and private dining rooms. These include the Clock Tower Meeting Rooms, the Directors’ Rooms, Oak Rooms and the Whitworth, all of which are capable of hosting a variety of sizes, from intimate business meetings of 16 people to extravagant parties of up to 650 guests.
However, the real standout room has to be the Ballroom, which can host up to 1,000 people reception style. This room comes complete with its own stage, a bar, private entrance and boasts natural daylight. Meanwhile its art deco style interior provides some effortless glamour for any occasion.
This building resembles a maze, and despite being shown around I still manage to get lost when I venture back to my room after dinner in the Refuge, it’s on-site restaurant. Inside, diners can tuck into tapas-style dishes from the pan-fried sea bass to the duck breast, which should all be washed down with one of the Refuge’s signature cocktails – I chose to try Scarlet Fever. I was gutted to hear that the Massaman ox cheek had sold out, it just means I’ll have to return for a second stay.
With Manchester Oxford Road Station situated just over the road from the hotel and Manchester Piccadilly Station a short ten-minute walk away, The Principal isn’t just convenient, it’s practical too. Plus, Manchester Airport is only 15 minutes away via car, so there are plenty of travel options available for larger parties and single guests to get to this glorious landmark in the centre of the city.
Manchester certainly is a hive of activity, from is variety of restaurants and bars to its iconic sporting arena, making it the ideal city to conduct business. So, why not head to The Principal for a one-of-a-kind hospitality experience? I know I’ll be returning.
0161 288 1111 | phcompany.com/principal/manchester-hotel/
Versatile meeting spaces | Private dining | Aspiring architects