Hotel Indigo, Durham After 15 Million Pounds Renovations
Graham Clark, Features Writer
You do not have to travel far from Yorkshire to find a hotel that is new and unique both at the same time. The cathedral and university city of Durham is on the doorstep of North Yorkshire but feels totally different and is ideal for a weekend break.
15 million pounds has been spent on renovating the former Shire Hall and latterly the University offices into what is now the Hotel Indigo and probably one of the best, stylish and tastefully done renovations in years in the north.
We visited for a preview in December when the works were in full progress, 4 months later and the hotel is gleaming and open for business. If you are an architectural buff, interested in history or just want to sample luxury, this is the place to stay.
Brass etchings remain on the walls, pargeting ceilings glide your eyes upwards, marble tiles adorn floors, stained glass windows have been kept along wth original staircases and even the old Council chamber from the building's days as the Shire Hall is now home to the Marco Pierre White restaurant.
Modern touches abound, deep carpets still smell new, the scent of polish on the parquet floors and the joy of being one of the first to stay here all make it feel like a privileged experience.
Rooms come in a variety of options from Standard King to a Suite with Lounge and sample prices range from £103.00 upwards.
The King Bed with Cathedral view room we stayed in came with a good quality bed, Nespresso coffee machine, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, free safe and a good sized wardrobe. Because of the layout of the room the huge flatscreen TV was slightly offset from the bed which meant it was not possible to get a straight line view of the TV whilst viewing from the bed. The free Wi Fi was quick and available throughout the hotel.
Locally sourced products such as a bag of popcorn (from County Durham), bottles of water (from Hexham) A bag of handmade Durham Cinder Toffee and beer brewed in Durham were all complimentary.
Looking out of the window and seeing Durham Cathedral whilst drinking tea in the cups with Durham Cathedral on the side was an experience that felt unique.
The old Elvet toiletries in the well appointed bathroom complimented the powerful walk in rain shower. Charcoal soap added another local touch.
On site parking is charged at £12.00 for 24 hours, very handy as parking in Durham itself is not too easy to find.
The on site Marco Pierre White restaurant seemed popular with both hotel residents and casual diners too.
Eating in the former council chambers in elegant surroundings was another unique touch. They have managed to compliment the original features by adding a modern touch. We dined upstairs in what was the public gallery looking forward to a meal in such a beautiful setting. It felt like a special occasion.
I would describe the food and service though as a work in progress and a bit hit and miss which somehow didn't live up to the elegant surroundings we were dining in.
My partner decided upon the starter of Tartare of fresh salmon L'Americaine. When asking the waitress what the ingredients were in the starter she had no idea apart from that it contained salmon - it actually contains shallots (my partner does not like onions).
I decided on the selection of English Charcuterie as a starter. What there was tasted delicious but it was a small amount served on a board that was far too big for the serving.
My Rib Eye steak served with triple cut chips however was faultless and probably the best part of my meal.
My partner decided upon the Honey Roasted Belly Pork which was said to be delicious but the accompanying Pommes Fondant was luke warm and undercooked in the middle.
Desserts were mixed too, my Fresh Blueberry Cheesecake served in a glass had a creamy light topping but the crushed base was rock hard and it took several attempts with a fork to break it up - it felt like it had been kept too long in the fridge.
My partners Box Tree Eton Mess was creamy, fruity and well presented and described as excellent. Coffee was served with a hot brownie and rounded off a very mixed dining experience.
Breakfast was served again in the Marco Pierre White restaurant. It ranged from a varied and copious continental buffet breakfast to a cooked to order Durham breakfast, which was delicious and cooked perfectly.
Again, like at the evening meal, cutlery, plates and dirty glasses were never cleared from the tables and staff just walked past and ignored the dirty dishes, which were only cleared when I had to ask one of the waitresses to remove them. It might sound only minor points but it is not what you expect in a restaurant of this stature.
I am sure things will improve in the restaurant with more training and direction - in a few months time when they have got into the swing of things the staff will be more experienced and guided I would hope.
Service though throughout the rest of the hotel from reception staff to the cleaners was excellent, friendly, efficient and everyone appeared to want to go above and beyond to deliver a good customer experience. Nothing seemed too much trouble.
There is an on site gym and a cosy coffee shop called the Tinderbox which served tempting sandwiches and warm scones, along with a tart but delicately delightful Lemon cake, amongst other sweet treats.
An exceptional hotel that is unique and that has been tastefully restored bringing a touch of affordable luxury to this historic city.
Hotel Indigo, Old Shire Hall, 9 Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HL
Telephone 0191 329 3535
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Hotel Indigo, Durham After 15 Million Pounds Renovations, 10th April 2018, 15:00 PM