A weekend in Coventry might not sound like the most salubrious of sojourns; but things have certainly changed in the city since I last visited. Firstly, as it comes to the end of its year wearing the City of Culture crown, it’s become a proud hotbed of local creativity, establishing itself as one of the UK’s leading arts centres. Secondly, The Telegraph Hotel has opened its doors.
Housed in the former head office of the illustrious regional newspaper, the chic Telegraph Hotel certainly grabbed the headlines when it opened just after lockdown last year following a two-year, £18 million investment programme. Created by Complex Development Projects and operated by Bespoke Hotels, it has embraced its mid-century heritage and then some, and now offers a stylish Mad Men-inspired place to stay … so much so even Don Draper would feel very much at home.
Dominating Belgrade Square, this Brutalist monolith was built in 1958, and for 50 years it was alive with the hustle and bustle of hundreds of journalists, printers and machinists. I think it must be two decades since I was last here, back in the days when I did occasional subbing shifts. Even then, I remember swooning over the masculine beauty of its late-1950s Modernist design, from the terrazzo tiling and classic zig-zag railings to the never-ending wood panelling and marble pillars. In its new incarnation, many of these features remain and pay homage to the past; they have been lovingly restored to their former glory and are now paired with carefully chosen vintage pieces and more modern replicas to ensure the look is just right. The original glass entrance doors still have their brass plaques, the famous Gothic lettering adorns the ground floor windows and there’s even the old punching-in clock and Formica coffee tables in the lobby bar.
Our room was the stunning Lord Iliffe Suite, the hotel’s crowning glory. It’s been designed to honour the original owner’s private apartment and at 72sqm, it’s huge. There’s a large dining area, lounge with a built-in corner bar, and full-length picture windows. The super-king bed hardly makes a dent in the bedroom and there’s even a stand-alone bath alongside a very generously-sized, mint-tiled bathroom. The décor nods firmly towards Fifties glamour, with black and white graphic wallpaper, a plush moss green velvet sofa and splayed-leg Danish furniture. Highlight though is the very modern private terrace with its own hot tub – perfect for sipping Martinis or perhaps a “Covmopolitan”, the hotel’s play on the classic Cosmopolitan cocktail.
The Telegraph has turned the newspaper’s first and second floor offices into 88 bedrooms – there are large doubles (although none of the rooms are small) and split-level suites with mezzanine bed decks; even the old dark rooms are now snugs. Each one is very much in keeping with the style of the hotel, drawing on it’s history with clippings of The Coventry Evening Telegraph on the walls.
On our Friday night stay, we dined in the Forme & Chase Restaurant (the name comes from old printing terms) which offers an extensive menu of posh pub classics. Think classic prawn cocktail, beer-battered fish and chips, 10oz beef rib-eye and plant-based burgers, as well as afternoon tea and lighter bites. For drinks, there’s the rooftop Generators Bar – a first for Coventry – with views over the square below, stylish Tiki huts and colourful wall murals.
In a time when so many of our heritage buildings have been lost to make way for generic architecture, it’s wonderfully nostalgic to see such a beauty (ok, maybe not in everyone’s eyes) reimagined for a new generation. The Telegraph Hotel is a masterclass in mid-Century modernism and and because of this it feels authentic. It’s not a theme park, more a heart-felt appreciation of a decade that oozed style.
The Telegraph Hotel, 157 Corporation Street, Coventry. Room prices start at £68 – for more details visit the website here.
THE REEL STORE
Part of The Telegraph building houses The Reel Store, one of the key legacies of the City of Culture and the UK’s first permanent digital art gallery. It once stored the rolls of paper that the city’s stories were printed on; now it features innovative and interactive commissions from world-renowned artists.
Its first major exhibition is Machine Memoirs: Space by internationally-acclaimed Refik Anadol. This long-term collaboration with NASA interprets two million publicly available images taken by satellites and telescopes. It’s a unique 360-degree experience that captures the beauty and spectacle of space in waves of colour and light – it’s well worth a visit but my tip would be to view it sitting down as it can be quite disorientating. You can find out more about The Reel Store here.