I was recently invited to visit a new area of the UK (Manchester) as part of a tour of the North that I was to enjoy throughout my 30th birthday celebrations. I was lucky enough to stay in some magnificent venues throughout my tour, all helping to ease the stress of this big celebration and I most certainly enjoyed my time in this new City, I really must say. This hotel is by far one of my most favourite stays since starting to review hotels and spas across the country and it made for the perfect romantic escape, even if I didn't know I needed it until I got there. I had arrived with no pre-conceptions and I am so glad of this, as it was by far much more than I ever expected from a City hotel. Setting The Scene: The Great John Street is a boutique townhouse hotel with a vintage feel, splashed with themes of the old Victorian school that it once was - pewter furniture, tastefully mixed with various artwork and decor to make it a warm and welcoming "home away from home". You don't feel as though you must keep your pinkies to yourself as you wander from room to room, staircase to landing, you are in fact welcomed to curl up and help yourself to everything on show...and you really can't help but do just that. With over 30 unique bedrooms and suites to choose from, every single bed and bathroom offers it's guest an individual and comfortable experience, no matter how long you intend to stay. The bedrooms and suites are offered in five luxurious styles - Baby Grand Bedroom, Boudoir Grand Bedroom, Classical Grand Junior Suite, Eclectic Grand Suite and Opus Grand Suite. Many of the rooms retain their old features from it's Victorian school days such as exposed steel beams, brickwork and wooden floors and are adorned with more modern features such as carpeted floors and white linens, goose down feather pillows, double pocket sprung handmade mattresses, walk in rain showers and cast iron roll-top baths, there really is no expense spared. The Welcome: We enjoyed a very warm welcome from Natalie on the front desk as we walked through the door, gawping at our surroundings like excitable children. She was very chatty, didn't even take our names, she knew who we were from the get go (fantastic and pleasing customer service, seamless from the moment we walked through the door) and she arranged for the valet to park our car in their underground car park for the duration of our stay. We were a little early for checking into our room, however, Natalie took our bags and would arrange for these to be taken up to our bedroom when it was ready. In the meantime, we had arranged for a celebratory champagne tea to enjoy, so we were promptly whisked away to settle in for some reclining and dining "Duchess Of Bedford" style, a glass of champagne in hand before we could even think about asking for it. We were presented with a stunning tier of handmade cakes and sweet bites, warm fruit scones with bowls of clotted cream and fresh raspberries, along with a slate piled high with perfectly symmetrical finger sandwiches holding various traditional fillings. These were delicious and fresh chunky finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon & cream cheese, beef & mustard, egg mayonnaise, ham & cheese and cucumber & cream cheese. We were in fact asked if we wanted more savoury, however, we had already moved onto our scones, piling them high with homemade strawberry jam, so politely declined between mouthfuls. The teapot that held our Darjeeling was a beautiful silver pourer, with the most beautiful spout I've ever had the pleasure of pouring from. If you are a "tea geek" you will know just how important a good pourer is to avoid splashing your linen tablecloth. The only downside to this particular vessel was that the handle got very hot, so we couldn't handle it past a certain temperature without scalding our pinkies. Lots of fresh fruit was provided to cut through the cake, it not only looked beautiful, but tasted as good as it looked, this was real value for money at just £21.50 for the "ladies afternoon tea" or £27.50 for the champagne tea. Or we learnt that you can opt for a "manlier" offering and pick the "Gentleman Jack" tea complete with a Jack Daniel's inspired cocktail, mini burger & fries, scotch egg, brownie with Bailey's ice cream and cheese & crackers... this sounds amazing. Glitter adorned the clotted cream and some of the delicate cakes and macarons, but as I am fairly girly, I rather liked this little touch of glitz. We weren't told what each of the treats were, but we deduced that there was a layered white chocolate & toffee opera cake, a chocolate Jaffa cake (my personal favourite), two types of macaron (a deep chocolate, almost like a truffle and one with a vanilla cream filling) and Baclava which was very unusual but didn't see us complaining. After all this food, we felt as though we might need to be rolled out of the hotel and onto the City streets to explore them. The Bedroom: Room 32 was an "Eclectic Grand" room and on first walking up to the door, our only issue was that the corridor outside was covered in dust sheets and paint tins where the decorators were painting the adjacent suite, music playing and loud "builder" style conversations going on to boot, this wasn't warned of in checking in and we felt a little uncomfortable at first... that was until we walked into our room. As we tiptoed into the large seating area (perfect for men to sit and wait for their gals to get ready of an evening, so we found) with a sizable flat screen LCD TV and stunning corseted mannequin that I couldn't keep my eyes off for most of our stay, we were greeted with classical music chiming out from the stereo speakers and the most "come to bed now" super king size bed I've ever clapped my eyes on, it was huge and the simplicity of the white headboard worked next to the dramatic floor-to-ceiling drapes covering the window. The bathroom was on a stunning raised mezzanine floor above the bedroom to give the feel of a New York loft apartment, we even discussed how it was most likely as big as our very first bungalow we rented together a few years ago, it was a spacious room to say the very least. Not only was the a double bath and large shower with built-in steam room for two, we were also greeted with "his and hers" sinks to brush our teeth in unison - this was one romantic boudoir. Temple SPA toiletries and fluffy white bathrobes draped over another wire shaped mannequin were waiting to be used, as well as large bath sheets warming on the heated towel rail, ready to be used, the little thoughts are really put in here. The suite was air conditioned, however until we woke up the next morning in a sweltering hot situation, we didn't need to adapt the ambience at all. There was a mini bar and butler tray with fresh milk - it was actually refreshing to not have to sip on tea made with UHT milk. We were provided with some freshly baked and prepared sweet treats as a welcome, which was a very thoughtful touch again - strawberry's dipped in chocolate with a happy birthday message piped onto the slate, as well as some melt-in-the-mouth homemade cookies and a chocolate tiffin- not that we could manage those until breakfast the next day! Room 32 overlooks the old "Coronation Street" set, we could see Rita's newsagents from our bedroom window, a real dream for any Corrie fan. We were sold, simply by looking out of the window we wanted to walk on those famous cobbles that evening, but at £16.50 for an adult, the tour doesn't come cheap. The Restaurant: We didn't dine here on the evening of our stay, as there were too many other temptations outside of the hotel, however we did enjoy some cheeky pre-dinner cocktails after noting the "school tuck shop" inspired cherry cola and sour apple themed creations that were calling our names. You can find a seat within many of the informal, sophisticated and more intimate communal areas within the hotel, all following the old school house theme throughout. We spent hours enjoying the peaceful surroundings of each area within this hotel and given more time, I would have curled up into many different nooks with a good book, which gives me the perfect excuse to come back to do just this for myself. Choose from the Oyster Bar with a cocktail in hand, The Library & Terrace, Roof Garden Playground (complete with sun decks and heated hot tub for a sun-drenched summer cocktail) & Rooftop Lounge as well as the Kitchen & Mezzanine where you can sit to eat and drink throughout your stay. The Breakfast: Breakfast was faultless, in fact, I have to say this may have been the very best hotel breakfast I have sampled so far. French toast was my hot choice of the day, it tasted heavily of cinnamon and vanilla, topped with a fresh berry compote which was tart enough to cut through the toast. The Mister opted for the Irish breakfast with the most delicious bacon, sausage and mushrooms to name but a few ingredients, all very simple components, but cooked perfectly. We were also provided with fresh toast and beautiful fruit platters as well as plenty of other choices at the continental bar including nuts, berries, yoghurts, muffins, mini croissants, cereals and freshly brewed loose leaf tea and filter coffee. Milk was placed on our breakfast table in cute glass bottles and the butter in the dinkiest cloche I've ever seen - it looked like a school bell and it made me smile as I watched my dining partner trying to ding it for attention, the wally. We weren't rushed and a leisurely breakfast helped set us up for the rest of the day, enjoying it at a fairly decent time also allowed us to go back to our suite and enjoy the steam shower and a relaxed packing ritual before we headed off to our next destination. If there was anything else we had wanted, a waitress was never far away and a refresh of our tea and coffee pots was no bother at all. Staff spoke quietly and professionally to each other and they all respected the guest around them I noted, no matter what time of day or night, the staff were always seen, but not heard as a guest and yet they were always there when you needed them, their team is fantastic. What To Do: I had a minor melt down on the eve of my 30th birthday (just me, being me), I hated my make up, was having a bad hair day and was feeling, well, generally, "old". So after a hissy fit in the privacy of our suite, as you do, we hit the streets of Manchester and picked a random restaurant with no frills or fuss for a relaxed and informal dinner. In fact, I even left my phone at the hotel to ensure I didn't snap my plates of food, just enjoyed them... and I really did. We enjoyed a cocktail and relaxed meal at Artisan Kitchen & Bar in Spinningfields and would go back again in a heart beat. It's made to look like a converted loft space, very much like our suite did at the hotel and the pizza base we had was cooked and then the filling piled high on top, instead of cooked on and flattened... best pizza we'd ever eaten we have agreed. We of course, enjoyed the Corrie tour opposite the Great John Street Hotel, with tours running all day, sometimes up to 7pm onwards, so you shouldn't need to miss it if you have a packed day ahead of you whilst visiting. Shopping by foot, we hopped over to the Arndale Shopping Centre, which just a ten minute walk from the hotel and we enjoyed a coffee in Annies, which is a cosy dining and tearoom owned by Jennie McAlpine, better known as Fizz from our favourite Northern soap... Parking & Getting There: We drove to Manchester, so took them up on the valet car parking option at £25 per night in their secure underground car park. You can park on the street adjacent to the hotel at the cost of £2.70 per hour between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, with Bank holidays being free. There is also an NCP car park a 5 minute walk away from the hotel, all details and directions listed on their website, complete with a handy hand-drawn map to help you locate the hotel. Our Sat Nav doesn't go by postcode, only street (frustratingly), so this was super handy for our journey, not knowing Manchester at all on arriving. The Little Extras: There is a small gym here, windows will open to allow for a natural breeze to flow through as you sweat off some cocktails and cakes during your stay. It's equipped with a treadmill, exercise bike and weight machine for a varied session and a mat for stretching out. It's not huge, but it's perfect for a longer visit. We were left with a chilled bottle of water in the car once the valet had brought it to us on leaving, this was a nice little touch for our journey home. I loved the school theme throughout the hotel, it was lightly suggested, not rubbed into your eyes - the playground, the lounge, the kitchen, the boys & girls staircases, little coat hooks everywhere, trophies, books, original classroom photos, it's really tastefully done and you could sit and stare at it all for hours, it's fascinating. Everywhere you wandered, there was chilled out music playing and not just in the main rooms and restaurants, but even the corridors and reception - It really added to the experience. The Little Niggles: The builders were back to the room next door at 8:30am, sanding and talking loudly, which was slightly infuriating. We only knew to what extent the decoration and building work currently being taken on when a staff member chatted to us in the corridor that night and told us. We weren't advised on checking in, which should be done so as not to surprise their guests when they go to their rooms and the corridor is full of dust sheets and Dulux tins right up to their doorway. We did receive an apology for this on leaving, so all was forgiven, as to be fair, it didn't ruin our stay and we couldn't hear them once in our suite. On exploring our bedroom, we found a used, scrunched up tissue on the floor by the bed, this was a little extra surprise we hadn't anticipated. My guess is that our secretive valet, whoever they may have been, might have dropped it after popping up our cases as we dined. Either way, a quick check of the room before leaving would be advised to their team to ensure that nothing is left behind like this, as it's not nice to find, as stunning as the room may be. Our room got very warm overnight, which was a little shock to the old system when we woke up gasping for water, so do check the temperature on going to bed would be our advice when staying. As lovely as our bed was, the pillows were a real let down, quite literally. As soon as we laid our heads on the pillow, they flattened to the shape of a pancake and as a pair who love their thicker pillows, these were no good for a comfortable night's sleep personally. We couldn't access the wifi, as there was no mention of it in the welcome book, so we had to ask for the password when we went downstairs later on. It wasn't the end of the world, but this is a modern world, filled with Twitter addicts such as myself, ahem. Final Thoughts: Natalie at the reception desk was simply amazing, nothing was too much effort and she couldn't do enough to make our stay more enjoyable. She sounded worried that I might complain about her when I asked for her name, but quite the contrary. She dealt (gallantly!) with the complaint in front of us about "the cacophony of sound" from a woman complaining about the noise the water pipes made in the building (what a moron, seriously?!) even though this was an old Victorian townhouse with a few creaks and shudders - she smiled and professionally "passed on" the information to ensure that it doesn't happen again... We loved her. It's intriguing to know that every suite within The Great John Street is unique, making me want to come back many times in the future to sample the different personalities they offer. The company that own this hotel, "Eclectic Hotels", have several properties in the area and I will very much be looking into visiting these in the future if The Great John Street is anything to go by. To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here www.eclectichotels.co.uk Please note - This stay was complimentary (we simply paid for additional food, drinks and valet parking), following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email: firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.