I absolutely love to travel – and with places such as Fiji, The Maldives, Thailand, China and LA on my bucket list, I’d definitely consider myself filled with wanderlust. However often, where your budget doesn’t permit a round the world trip, it can be just as lovely to experiment with being a tourist in your own country too. Despite being such a small island, the UK has so many hidden gems to explore and there are so many cities, towns and villages (in the thousands) that I’ve never seen before. Manchester, happened to be one of those cities, as despite visiting for a University open day years previously, I’d never really gotten to know the city or had a chance to explore what it has to offer.
So, when I was invited to stay at the stunning Radisson Blu Edwardian in Manchester, which is housed in the old Free Trade Hall on Peter Street, formerly a concert venue which saw the likes of Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and even The Sex Pistols give speeches here or perform – my immediate answer was yes. Almost 5 hours on a train from Bournemouth, we headed up for an early festive weekend away – and loved every single minute.
In the perfect location to explore the various Christmas markets (which are excellent and in my opinion far surpass any other cities markets), we were swiftly checked in and taken up to our new home for the night – a gorgeously modern ‘business class’ bedroom with all the luxurious amenities you’d expect, yet still maintaining a rather hard-to-come-by homely and welcoming feel that saw us collapse onto the huge bed (which was possibly the comfiest I’ve ever experienced, with a memory foam mattress) and recover from our travelling expedition so far.
A short while later, having regained a little more energy, we decided to find the Christmas markets we’d been shown on the map and spend the next couple of hours tasting all the delicious offerings a festive market contains. After tucking into a chocolate slice, mini dutch pancakes and Nutella and sweets, we suddenly remembered we had a dinner reservation for 7.30 and whizzed back to the hotel to change (a little worried we’d spoiled our appetites – me, more than Sion).
We were to dine at Opus One, the hotel’s ‘finer’ restaurant, with luxurious decor, high ceilings and mood lighting. With an extensive cocktail selection and a festive menu to trial, we had a fantastic evening with incredible food and a really lovely chilled (but formal enough to justify dressing up) dinner. Due to the dark red lighting throughout the restaurant, I was unable to capture the food on my camera (as it doesn’t have flash and works off natural lighting) but I did manage to take a few snaps which don’t quite do justice to how lovely it was, but give a little indication. The main festive menu had some fantastic offerings for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, with 2 courses for £25 and 3 courses for £30, which is really great value for money!
I had the garlic mushrooms and asparagus to start, while Sion opted for the slow cooked duck – which he said was exceptional. The main course for me was sea bass, scallops and veg in a citrus sauce and Sion’s was the rib eye steak, with potato, crispy bacon and savoy cabbage. Despite feeling sufficiently satisfied (portions aren’t huge, but deceptively filling) we both couldn’t resist the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce, before heading back to the lift and up to our room for a well earned rest. We had lots planned for the following day.
With our train home scheduled for 2.30pm, we wanted to fit lots into a small portion of time so woke up early (despite not wanting to leave the gorgeously comfy bed) and headed down to breakfast. Usually buffet breakfasts can leave you feeling largely underwhelmed with the same old boring selection, but this one was slightly different. The usual toast selection didn’t just contain one generic brand, but a whole rack full of different crust types, bread sizes and flavours. The hot breakfast selection was full of favourites, but with a few extra additions – such as small crispy potatoes and mushrooms. The pastries section was ever better – and I couldn’t resist a poppy seed muffin to last me until lunch.
With no time to spare, next up was my spa treatment – hosted on the lower ground floor of the hotel in the luxurious Sienna Spa. With a pool, gym and sauna facilities, the spa offers everything you could possibly wish for in terms of relaxation and makes for a fantastic location for a festive treat (mother and daughter spa packages would make a really unique and special gift) as well as the perfect retreat for couples. I was to review the ‘Top to Toe’ festive package which features an express facial, manicure and body scrub – however at the last minute I opted to swap my body scrub for a pedicure, which they welcomingly accommodated – and enjoyed 60 minutes of pure bliss. My therapist (Kayleigh, I think) was so lovely and friendly, opting not to chat for the facial and pedicure (which I enjoyed still laying down on a heated bed), allowing me to completely drift off, before having a lovely little conversation over my manicure!
Luckily, the hotel allowed us to keep our room until 1pm, which meant we could get ready for the final (and personal favourite) part of the trip, afternoon tea. If you’re a long term reader of my blog, you’ll probably know that I’ve had a few bad experiences with afternoon tea. It can be a rather expensive treat, so for that – I’ve come to expect a lot from it. The Radisson’s version was absolutely incredible.
Giving you the choice between traditional afternoon tea (with added champagne if you wish) and gentlemen’s afternoon tea (which comes laden with mini pork pies, fish and chips and the like rather than sandwiches and scones – in addition to a beer), they really have thought of everything in terms of their guests. Usually afternoon tea guests are largely one ‘guest type’ however here – I saw young stylish women catching up over a champagne tea, groups of older ladies, men, women and couples. Presented beautifully and with a slight festive touch (such as the chocolate yule log slice) it’s a really wonderful occasion that I’m sure would make a perfect gift or birthday treat.
Overall, we had a really memorable time at the Radisson Blu Edwardian and would return in a heartbeat. The staff were extremely friendly, ringing up to our room to check it was okay and accommodating all of our needs (however picky), the location was excellent for exploring the city and the food was absolutely incredible. Whether you’re looking for a festive getaway, a spa weekend away or simply a spot of afternoon tea, this is definitely worth making your first choice.
Have you ever visited the Radisson Blu Edwardian – what did you think? Have you had a chance to wander round Manchester’s Christmas markets?