Published on Friday, March 16, 2018

Down by the harbourside

Rachel Roberts is glad to bag a room with a harbourside view when she checks into The Bristol Hotel in - you've guessed it - Bristol.

First Impressions: The hotel, part of the Doyle Collection, is the equivalent of architectural Marmite. You'll either love or hate the exterior; a classic example of post-war concrete brutalism. While the boxy structure (pods stacked on top of each other) makes the hotel look distinctly utilitarian and functional, don't judge this book by its cover. Once inside, it's a different story. The sternness of the exterior evaporates from memory when a friendly receptionist greets you, kitted out in a stylish uniform which features a zingy, cheerful fuchsia blouse. They've aimed for a boutique-y cosy feel throughout the hotel, and in the communal areas, there's more than a nod to the Great Gatsby era.

Location: Part of the city's large floating harbour, and sandwiched between the historic cobbled Narrow Quay and elegant Queen Square, The Bristol boasts a five-star worthy address. The River Avon flows into the quay outside on its journey towards the River Severn and the maritime quarter is home to a thriving creative scene, including the Watershed Arts Centre. It's the place to be in the evening when Bristolians sip afterwork cocktails in bars like Severnshed. Housed in the world-famous engineer Isambard Brunel's former boathouse, it features a movable bar that's worth a visit alone. And Brunel's masterpiece, the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, is about 20 minutes away via No 8 bus, five minutes by taxi, or a 35-minute stroll. For those on a shopping mission, the brand spanking new Cabot Circus is a stone's throw away and home to ninety shops including Harvey Nichols or head to the Clifton area for independent boutiques and coffee shops. If you're arriving by train at Bristol Temple Meads, The Bristol is fairly close by, so no sweaty trawling of suitcases for miles across the city (though don't confuse it with the similarly named Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa, which is slightly further afield).

Bedrooms: Subtle luxury is the order of the day in the hotel's 187 bedrooms and suites. Tiered as Standard. Superior and Deluxe, depending on size, they feature a palette of neutral shades with coffee and China Blue accents. Contemporary bathrooms are furnished with yummy local Temple Spa toiletries.

Facilities: Handily, the hotel is linked to a multi-storey car park. You can literally park the car and get the lift down to the hotel lobby. There's also a small gym housing the usual suspects of stationary bikes and rowing machines - but their description of it as a 'fitness centre' is stretching it. To bag a harbourside view, ask for an upgrade or you'll kick yourself with the alternative view of a fairly boring main road. There are good meeting room and conference facilities for business types.

Family Friendly: Fairly; there are adjoining room and suite combinations and high-chairs and cots can be requested for little people. A selection of kids' TV channels will keep them entertained for a while and if that fails, you can hire a Nintendo Wii from reception. For a fascinating history lesson, the magnificent SS Great Britain is a stone's throw away. Combining size, power and innovative technology, Brunel's passenger ship was called 'the greatest experiment since the Creation', when she was launched in 1843. A major new museum and visitor experience, Being Brunel: The National Brunel Project is due to open in 2018 too.

Wining and dining: I reckon they should rename the Shore Cafe Bar: it simply doesn't do justice to the chic bar that makes a great spot for an in an intimate tete-a-tete or a post-sightseeing cocktail to revive the spirits. The River Grille Restaurant overlooks the river and features a British Bistro dining menu with classics like rib-eye steak and pork belly. Room service was zippy; our fish and chips arrived within 15 minutes and were really very good: fresh tasting with not a soggy bit of batter in sight.

Highs: The genuinely friendly staff, the impossible-to-beat location, and one of the best night's sleep this picky reviewer has had in a long time.

Lows: Being charged £5 a day to use the car park: it felt a bit penny-pinching. Why not just absorb the cost into the overall price of the room to avoid the hassle? We also felt like the River Grille Restaurant's decor needs to be revisited. Awash in a sea of brown, it has the feel of a gloomy cave, making you a tad envious of the people you can see through the window, mooching along the harbour in all of its maritime gorgeousness.

Verdict: A great choice for a quick weekend getaway for any combination of guests.

Room rates start from £89 for two people in a standard room on a B&B basis.


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