The sexiest hotel in Europe?

Artfully placed furnishings, money bag included, are a feature of Manchester’s Hotel Gotham. Photo: SuppliedGotham. The word tends to conjure up images of caped crusaders and grotesque villains; of eerie, crime-riddled skyscraper-scapes and frantic flurries of Sock! Bam! Pow! Yet anyone expecting a bombastic, kitschy Batman-themed bolthole,  with staff masquerading as Bruce Wayne’s alter ego and Catwoman clambering up the walls, will be slightly underwhelmed by Hotel Gotham.
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Punters, however, looking for an upmarket city centre retreat sprinkled with glitz and glamour (and some subtle, and not-so-subtle, references to the Dark Knight) are likely to be impressed, inside and out. While many of Manchester’s newest hotels and eateries occupy restored Victorian warehouses, spruced up Georgian and Edwardian mansions and gleaming modern high rises, Hotel Gotham has mushroomed over seven storeys of the former Midland Bank, a majestic Art Deco-cum-neoclassical affair designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens​ (the architect behind the Cenotaph in Whitehall and much of imperial New Delhi).

Now nestled in one of Manchester’s most refined dining and shopping districts, this white Portland stone landmark was (partially) revitalised in 2012, when Jamie Oliver opened a branch of his Italian restaurant empire in its north-eastern wing (replete with a private venue in its retired basement safe deposit vaults). Though Gotham shares the same address – 100 King Street – the hotel’s discreet black and gold entrance is round the corner on Spring Gardens, where a smartly-attired bellboy and concierge usher me into a lift and up to the intimate sixth-floor reception of an establishment which has designs on being “the sexiest hotel in Europe”.

As I tap into the free Wi-Fi, and sip my complimentary welcome drink – a raspberry-tinged gin – the cheerful Mancunian receptionist informs me that guests can order a personalised Martini trolley service to the 60 swish double rooms and suites scattered across this Grade II listed gem, which has retained and restored many of its period architectural flourishes while adding decorations that evoke its banking past and boom years (think: swag bag door stoppers and laundry bags, fake gold bars and vintage travel trunks).

Eye-catching artwork pervades the hotel, including cardboard sculptures of Alfred Pennyworth-esque butlers and illustrations of magnificent Manchester buildings. Boasting a geometric zig-zag carpet (which makes me think of bats), my ‘club room’ (506) is partitioned in two: the lower half features a plush purple armchair, wardrobe, mini-bar and tea, coffee and espresso making facilities, and a spacious bathroom with a walk-in monsoon shower, fluffy towels and bespoke toiletries. The slightly elevated upper section contains a flat-screen TV, comfy king-size bed, with an Egyptian duvet, pillows, roll cushions and faux fur throw.

A dressing table is laden with binoculars, an antique globe, travel magazines, books (F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Charles Schumann’s American Bar: The Artistry of Mixing Drinks), and ‘The Gotham Bugle’ (a newspaper that mixes tongue-in-cheek stories about fictional local socialites, footballers and fashionistas, with a guest directory, sightseeing map and the hotel’s diverse food and drink options, which number succulent seafood dishes, like oysters and lobsters, and hearty Lancashire favourites, such as lamb hotpot and ‘posh’ fish and chips). Attractive by day – when light floods in through the original windows – rooms look even swankier following the turn-down service, when the curtains are drawn, a dimly-lit decadence takes hold and complimentary Batman-shaped cookies are delivered. If you’d like a permanently seductive environment – and don’t mind forking out between £375-1000/$780-$2082 for the pleasure – book one of the hotel’s five lavish ‘inner sanctum suites’.

Shorn of natural light, they have leather-clad walls and a dramatic ‘wonderwall’, a giant screen that plays a quirky video of Manchester re-imagined as 1930s Manhattan, plus live shots of present-day Manchester. Other showstopping suites are named after iconic Mancunians like Morrissey, Ian Curtis and Anthony Burgess, while the Harden suite (dubbed the bank manager’s suite) has a striking steel bathtub. Hotel guests are free to enter the vault-like doors of Brass, a private rooftop members’ bar perched above Honey (a bistro-restaurant beside reception with bowler-hatted, bow-tied waiters, and typewriters stuck to the walls).

Relax in Brass’ snug booths with quirkily-titled cocktails like Lady Didsbury’s Daiquiri (apricot-flavoured Bacardi, Yellow Chartreuse and fresh citrus) and Oswald ‘Cobbler’ Pot (a boozy nod to the Penguin of Gotham City). If it’s dry – it’s known to rain in Manchester from time to time – head out onto the outdoor terraces and ogle views of the rapidly-evolving skyline. It’s absolutely fantastic up here. The only thing lacking is a Bat-Signal.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

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GETTING THERE

Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines fly from Sydney to Manchester via Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Singapore respectively.

STAYING THERE

Part of the Bespoke Hotels group, Hotel Gotham has rooms from £125 ($260); hotelgotham.co.uk

Steve McKenna was a guest of Hotel Gotham, Visit Manchester and Visit Britain

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