The view from our bedroom includes at least three icons of the city. Far left is the Anglican cathedral, designed by a youthful Gilbert Scott before he went on to design Battersea Power Station. To the right is the Catholic cathedral, its unforgettable silhouette having long earned it the sobriquet “Paddy’s Wigwam”. Straight ahead is Albert Dock. Outside of London, Liverpool has more listed buildings than any other UK city.
Above the Mersey, the hillside Hope Street links both cathedrals on axis. True to form, it has period buildings aplenty including the very High Victorian Philharmonic Dining Rooms which have the city’s fanciest loos. Encaustic tiles run riot. Equally majestic is the former London Carriage Works warehouse built in 1869. This Venetian palazzo has found a new use this century as Hope Street Hotel. A contrasting contemporary extension by Falconer Chester Hall introduced the first new façade to Hope Street in four decades.
We caught up with Creative Director Mary Colston, one of four co founders of the hotel. “There’s a strong Danish influence to the interior style,” she explains. “We let the natural textures do their job,” looking round at the exposed brick walls, iron columns and timber beams criss-crossing the ceiling of the lobby. The simplicity of form is Mondrian inspired. “Sometimes people say why don’t you put up a picture on the walls? But the walls are lovely in themselves. Less really is more!”
This thinking extends to the 89 bedrooms – 51 in the old building; 38 in the new – with their leather door plates, solid timber floors and white walls. “It takes confidence to have a pure white bed,” Mary believes. “I’m not a fan of cushions and throws. Instead we have oversized beds covered in white Egyptian cotton.” White plus wood equals warm minimalism. Ren toiletries and embossed soft white towels complement the streamlined elegance of wet room style showers. Several of the suites have deep oval wooden baths.
“The London Carriage Works is already an established destination restaurant for Liverpudlians,” remarks Mary. “We make sure everyone’s welcome. People come dressed up for a night out or in T shirts and sneakers. It has a relaxed ambience. We pride ourselves on being dog friendly. To distinguish the brasserie from the bar area we commissioned a glass sculpture designed by Basia Chlebik and made by Daedalian Glass. The sculpture’s based on a glass chandelier crashing to the ground in one of the Batman movies. It catches the natural light and changes hue throughout the day.” The shards of storey high glass are like a miniature abstract version of César Pelli’s One Park West, the 17 storey glacial edifice opposite Canning Dock, part of Grosvenor’s Liverpool One development.
“Hope Street won the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Street Award 2013,” says Mary proudly. “It’s a great example of a neighbourhood coming together for the common good. We all talk to each other – museums, galleries, restaurants…” She recounts how locals refer to the suntrap corner of Hope Street and Falkner Street as “Toxteth Beach”. This urban strand is lined with canopied shopfronts, a high cappuccino count among the Georgian buildings. “We’re planning another extension,” confirms Mary, “this time, apart-rooms with a swimming pool on the roof. Why not? Barcelona comes to Toxteth!”
The confident use of materials and textures in the interior is matched by Chef Paul Askew’s confident use of regional ingredients and specialities in the food. Well trained staff serve us dinner. A delicate amuse bouche of scallops precedes a starter of grilled fillet of Menai mackerel with fennel purée and orange salad with citrus dressing. Main course is natural smoked Scottish haddock risotto. Cabbage, leeks, mascarpone, parsley and Mrs Kirkham’s extra mature Lancashire cheese infuse this course with flavour. After this coastal tour of Britain comes more home comfort – peanut butter cheesecake with milk sorbet and chocolate cookie. Hope Street Hotel lives up to its rep as Liverpool’s finest boutique place to stay.