A blogger weekend in Sheffield, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

Mo and I had a weekend break with Mercure last year in our home town of Manchester and we had loved it. So I did actually have high expectations for once.

When the time to set off actually came, it had been a long day at work. Mo and I were both shattered and our moods had started to deplete. The road to Sheffield was jam packed with roadworks and cars… not quite the scenic route we had in mind.

But things started to look up as we entered the city…

My first major observation, there are a lot of brown tourist signs. There seemed to be so much on offer in the area, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. We learned later in the weekend that you’re only ever fifteen minutes away from the great outdoors if you live in Sheffield. Pretty impressive.

We easily navigated our way to the NCP, making sure to admire all the beautiful buildings that lined the main street. Just a two minute walk from the Arundel Gate NCP car park and you’ll reach the fabulous Mercure St. Pauls Hotel, our resting house for the night.

 

The hotel

Ok, so the few Mercure’s that I’ve come across over the last few years have been quite unattractive from the outside, but I learnt from my first visit that you should never judge a book by its cover. And that definitely holds true once you walk into the Mercure St Pauls. It’s not bad from the outside but just how sleek and sophisticated it was on the inside really took me by surprise. The main restaurant and bar area sits side by side with the spectacular Winter Gardens, creating an urban oasis type of space.

 

 

Everything from the creative light diffusers to the steel nature inspired wall art, it was fabulous. There was so much natural light and space?

 

 

Oh, the space! It was open plan and they had done a great job of the floorplan. On Saturday there were families, there was a wedding, QPR football club were having breakfast and there was us bloggers, we were all there co-existing in this big open space and it worked?

 

 

The room

Ooh, it was so comfortable! good sized bed, very clean, modern, minimalist…

My favourite part was the bathroom, if I’m honest. There was a large tub, also a separate large walk-in shower – both rain and hand-held options (the dream) and amazing White Company ‘Noir’ toiletries!!!

 

 

As this was a bloggers trip, we did have a number of lovely little treats left for us too. Jelly beans went down a treat with the family when we got back, chocolate made for a great pre-dinner snack, but I’ll be honest the best thing they left for us in the room was an information pack on the sights and snippets of history of Sheffield. It was really interesting! (Check out my post on the sights of Sheffield for more)

 

 

There were a lot of neat little things we noticed about the room – I loved the aux lead for music, sockets by the bedside, nespresso machine and pillow mist! For ultimate relaxation ūüôā

 

 

The facilities

Unfortunately, Mo and I couldn’t stay too long at the hotel so we didn’t get to enjoy all the facilities. We did get the chance to have a quick nosey round. There’s so much to see! I couldn’t actually believe how much was going on all in one weekend. As we walked towards the spa and fitness suites there was a corridor of meeting rooms… all being set up for different events. They all looked spotless, professional and the staff, well they looked completely calm and in control. I didn’t take any pics of the facilities, mainly as we didn’t actually get the opportunity to use them so it would be unfair for me to comment. Something to save for next time…

 

The food

It was good. Ok anyone who serves grilled halloumi as a starter is usually onto a winner. Again, I had high expectations for the food as the meal we had at the Mercure in Manchester was delicious. If I had one criticism, it was that my butternut squash risotto portion was far too large and not quite as punchy in the flavour department as I would have expected. Mo’s order of pan-fried cod loin however, was exquisite. The white fish wasn’t overcooked, it wasn’t over seasoned and the crushed new potatoes it perched on was divine. A truly great all rounder dish. By the time rhubarb and polenta cake dessert arrived I was too full to stomach anymore, but I had to have a taste, if anything to decide whether or not I liked rhubarb. I’ve never been a real fan but this gingery spiced sponge was a dessert I would happily re-order.

 

 

Breakfast the next day, was exactly how every good hotel breakfast should be. Lots of options, fresh tea and coffee but the best part was having a window seat to the Winter Garden of course. It was like our own private garden view.

After receiving a bottle in our goody bag, I decided to experiment with the famous Sheffield born relish, splashing it here and there to see what it worked with. Personally I enjoyed using it as an additional topping to my breakfast egg and bean tower (worked a treat ūüėČ )

 

 

Afternoon tea was very grand indeed. Showcased on a very unusual, very large display case. Let’s be brutally honest, afternoon tea is not going to be wildly different unless you’re opting for a themed one. It’s usually easier to say what’s wrong rather than what’s right. And in this case, I had nothing to really complain about. Maybe that I’m not really a fan of any type of fruit puree and it was atop of one of the desserts? I did end up liking that actually, so ignore that comment. Ok maybe the only thing I wasn’t happy about was that the scone had raisins and I am not a fan of raisins.

(Yes, yes I can feel you reading this and scolding me for expecting scones to not have raisins)

 

 

The location

Wow, what a great location! Car park was close by, easy access from the motorway and we were able to walk straight out and see the sights. After a good night’s sleep, part of our adventure was embarking on a walking tour. I originally wanted to include what we saw in this post but I thought instead I share some highlight photos and instead wrote a separate one on all the fun you can find in this city.

Two of the bloggers on the tour with us were Sheffield locals, and it was so nice to hear them speak so passionately about their own home town. There was a real sense of pride in what their city could offer us (they also had a lot of knowledge on its history between them) it made Mo and I feel all the more privileged to be able to visit and appreciate it.

 

 

The verdict?

All in all this was probably one of the best blogger weekends Mo and I have ever had. Not only were we treated to a relaxing nights stay in a great city, but this experience had introduced us to some really awesome new friends. As we get older and as Mo and I have started attending many more networking events, we have met lots and lots of new people. But it’s only very rarely that you bump into folk that actually become great friends. We were so fortunate to have randomly sat with two bloggers that turned out to be just that. We got on so well we were the last ones left at the meal… and probably amongst the last few in the hotel lounge after we were moved on. Sight-seeing on Sunday introduced us to more new friends and again so did afternoon tea.

New friends for us, obviously means I also have new blogs to read and I of course recommend you check them out too:¬†The uber-trendy Oli at Suede and Symphony (I’ve been following Oli for some time); Tracey, naughtyfortydiaries, who claims she’s in her forties but doesn’t look a day over thirty and David, at dktravelpix who’s photography skills are truly spectacular. We also got to know local lass Sue had us constantly yearning to know more about the citys history and Olivia made for fab company during afternoon tea, as we exchanged tales of our travels.

I can’t actually think of anything to complain about on this trip and I genuinely think Mo and I will return to Sheffield one day, if only to lace up our walking shoes and venture to the countryside in the outskirts. I’d happily pick the Mercure as our base though, can’t think of a more perfect place for an apres-hike massage.

Memories are only memories if something memorable happens. I’m always grateful that even when something goes wrong on a trip, Mo and I are able to laugh and embrace it as these are the moments that truly make great tales. But sometimes having everything go right can make an even greater one.

So, a blogger weekend in Sheffield they said, and fun it well and truly was!!

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel for arranging this fantastic weekend and taking such good care of us. Of course as per usual all opinions are completely my own and no pictures have been filtered, in fact all were taken using my phone camera and haven’t had any adjustment. ***

 

Have you ever stayed at a Mercure hotel? Where else in the UK would you recommend for an unexpected city break? 

 

 

Follow:

 

Last weekend was the last weekend before Christmas and considering I thought the festive period would be a quiet one for me this year, my weekend was pretty nuts!!

There was a lot to cram in so when I received an invitation to stay overnight at the Mercure Hotel in Piccadilly Manchester with a bunch of lovely bloggers, I jumped at the opportunity.

Now I know you’re sat there thinking if I had so much planned why on earth would I choose to do such a thing when I live less than 10 miles away? Well my friend I have two words to explain my decision… Christmas. Traffic.

This year, more so than any year, the traffic in this city I love so much has been HORRENDOUS. I have spent more hours in my car than ever before and it’s beginning to turn me into a real grouch. So I knew that not only could I visit a hotel I have never ever thought of using before, but as it was central, I knew this would save me having to spend hours in car queues with me screaming at people around me because… well because they too are stuck in the car and can’t really stop me!

Anyway. The Mercure. It’s not the best looking building on the block. To be honest there are a few shockers in the Piccadilly area, and I’m afraid to say the Mercure is one of them, which is probably why when I told Mo he had no choice than to join me, he wasn’t really that impressed and just sort of shrugged his shoulders in the usual ‘whatever you say darling’ kinda way.

BUT the location? It’s pretty darn perfect. Slap bang in the middle of the city, a short walk from Piccadilly train station, looks out over the very busy Piccadilly gardens. Not a pretty sight at the moment, but it soon will be as the council have big plans for that space. It’s easily accessible by tram and the hotel also has its own car park – which is a total bonus for such a central hotel.

I had sent Mo ahead to check us in and to meet the others, as I was a little tied up – getting into the festive spirit down at Gino’s in the Corn Exchange with my lovely ladies (and a¬†gent) from work.

Whilst I was dining at the Italian down the road, Mo was stepping into my blogger shoes and spending the afternoon exploring the hotel.

 

Checking in

Upon arrival, he was greeted by the very jolly Sales Manager, Anthony. Room key all sorted Mo had a little time to kill before heading up to¬†the restaurant/bar on the 3rd floor.¬†Bearing in mind he had expressed to me earlier he wasn’t expecting to be impressed, I was constantly texting him to check he was ok. In my mind I figured it would be best to have him get all his complaining out the way over¬†WhatsApp so we wouldn’t have to do it face to face later!! However all my worrying was unnecessary as he pretty much instantly sent me over pics of the room with lots of smiley emojis dotted around. Phew.

Considering how dated the building looks from the outside, the inside seems to be quite recently refurbished. As we’d never stayed in a Mercure before we very much expected it to be quite budget-looking. But the room was super clean, lovely colour scheme, bathroom was pristine and the bed was unbelievably comfy!¬†It was a great surprise. The hotel had even arranged a couple of lovely cakes, a Christmas card and bottle of Prosecco to greet us on the dressing table. We hadn’t quite got round to telling them we were non-drinkers but we appreciated the gesture all the same.

 

 

3pm sharp, ever punctual Mo headed down to the 3rd floor where he met Erica from Talented Talkers and the rest of the bloggers. Everyone was once again treated to¬†more cakes and drinks before taking¬†a mini tour of the hotel, with the most surprising room being the quite up-market gym. Again I think the initial assumption is to come across something quite dated, but that really wasn’t the case.

After some mingling everyone then dispersed to go and enjoy the rest of their afternoon, I reunited with Mo and we headed off to Winter Wonderland at Eventcity, next door to the Trafford Centre.

 

Winter Wonderland

I think it’s safe to say¬†most of the other¬†bloggers didn’t have many nice things to say about this place, mainly because I think they perhaps assumed it would be like the one in Hyde Park down South.

However I thought it was exactly what it said on the tin. Mo and I both knew the event was completely tailored towards families with children, but we wanted to go along and see how good it was. It’s always nice to scope out places we may want to treat our niece or nephew too in the future.

 

 

And I’m pretty sure if they had been with us, they would have LOVED it. I wasn’t sure if the entrance fee was justified for this place as some Eventcity events can be hit and miss, but the whole venue was jam packed full of rides and activities, there was a circus, a main stage, lots of games and places to eat it was pretty impressive.

 

Few tips if you’re thinking of going:

  • It’s at the Trafford Centre, over Christmas time, so parking is manic, plan ahead
  • Put the kids in shoes they can slip on and off, there’s a lot of bouncy castles and soft play slides and I could see kids getting annoyed with the whole shoelace tying when all they want to do is run to the next ride
  • One of the bloggers didn’t manage to get into Santa’s Grotto! which is a real shame so either go early, or don’t get your child’s hopes up if you don’t fancy the queue

 

Dinner at the Brasserie

Coming back from Winter Wonderland, we went straight to our rooms to freshen up before dinner. The restaurant wasn’t busy (maybe because there was a huge Christmas party in the main function room), but it looked lovely all dressed up for Christmas. We had a gorgeous table for 2 by the window overlooking the city centre.

The menu arrived and everything sounded pretty great. Would it taste as good? We would soon find out… Unfortunately for Mo and I, the meat was not halal but we had plenty of choice and in a way I’m glad it wasn’t because it forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

For starters,¬†Mo had the savoury pancakes with spinach and paneer and I chose the prawn cocktail. For mains, fish and chips, and this was my wild card – a falafel¬†burger with sweet potato fries. I don’t really like falafel, I never have really, BUT the description said it came with a halloumi slice, and I really wanted that halloumi slice.

The portions were¬†very generous¬†and the food was beautiful, full of flavour and the presentation was perfect. The paneer pancake was so unusual and my falafel burger? I LOVED it. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it totally blew my pasta from Gino’s earlier in the day right out of the water.

 

 

I was so full I was literally unable to put another morsel of food in my mouth. Mo however, could not end his meal without a dessert¬†and ordered the¬†sticky toffee pudding, which he requested with custard instead of ice cream (they obliged without any hesitation) and that too was delicious (I was full but I couldn’t not try it!).

We also met with Chris , the restaurant manager who came over to have a quick chat with us. A really lovely guy and I was desperate to ask whether this menu was standard here as it was so impressive. Most of the food we ate that night is on the regular menu, however a few of the additions are one off specials they do once in a while, such as the hot pot. Happy with that, as I think I would definitely return here for a nice peaceful city meal one day.

All that food and we were ready to hit the sack.

 

Sunday morning Breakfast

Breakfast the next morning was amazing.

Breakfast is always the highlight of Mo’s day, particularly when we are staying away so he was really looking forward to one: not cooking it and two: having lots of options. Would breakfast reach the level of quality we received from the night before? Abso-bloody-lutely it did. It was great! Plenty of tea and coffee on offer, a very well stocked buffet bar with a massive array of hot food, pastries, cereals, yoghurts and fruit. There was enough for the most ardent breakfast fan.

Mo ordered poached eggs and veggie sausages from the kitchen and everything emerged just minutes later, cooked to perfection. Safe to say he was a happy bunny. And the veggie sausage was FANTASTIC. Order it, even if you’re not veggie!

 

 

Overall, our experience at the Mercure Manchester was brilliant. As the old saying goes, you should never judge a book by it’s cover. From the outside, this place may not look like much, but it really has quite a lot to offer in terms of amenities, comfort and (the biggest shocker of all)¬†food. The service was also pretty special, every member of staff we passed had a smile and friendly acknowledgement to send our way.

For travellers of any type, business or pleasure this place is a good shout. My advising to anyone visiting Manchester is that this city centre location should definitely be worth considering.

 

 

*** Thank you to Talented Talkers for inviting us to take part in the Mercure Experience, the hotel stay, dinner and tickets to Winter Wonderland were complimentary, but of course as always all opinions and views on here are my own – oh no wait some of the opinions on this post are also Mo’s¬† ūüôā If you are looking to book make sure you check out the offers page! ¬†or click here to simply view the hotel ***

 

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a hotel chain? What’s your favourite city centre hotel?

Follow: