Thursday, 30 August 2012

Staying Cool - Birmingham - self catering apartments

Staying Cool - Birmingham
Friday 17.16

Stepping out of Birmingham New Street station, it quickly becomes apparent that we won’t need a map to find our apartment for tonight - the landmark Rotunda building, soaring 20 storeys into the sky, is pretty much dead in front of us.

Staying Cool's landmark Rotunda building
We enter the sleek angled lobby, marvelling at the colour-changing stalactite light instalment running the full length of the space.

We know that the concierge is expecting us; Staying Cool, who manage the apartments in the Rotunda building, sent a thoughtful ‘looking forward to seeing you’ text message while we were en route.

Check-in takes just a few minutes during which Danny, our concierge, sets out a few eminently reasonable house rules - basically no parties, and no trashing the place, not that we would! - before we whizz up to our 19th floor apartment in the lift.

We’re impressed before we even open the apartment’s door by the striking acid-green and monochrome design of the circular lift lobby - appealing to Monsieur 2’s inner sci-fi geek!

Once inside the apartment itself we explore the unusual wedge-shaped space (due to the cylindrical shape of the building).

First we check out the huge main living space; it’s impossible not to head straight over to the floor-to-ceiling windows which offer a sweeping panoramic view of the city below. The French windows open right up; fortunately sturdy waist-height barriers provide the security I need to overcome my vertigo, and we spend a few minutes taking in the spectacular vista.

The main bedroom (we booked a two-bedroom Maxi apartment) opens off the living area. It’s compact - not much bigger than the double bed in its centre- but its city view creates the illusion of it being larger than it actually is.

We unpack and hang up our party clothes - we’re planning on painting the town red later!

Time to unwind. The living area is a stylish mix of retro and modern; contemporary furniture and artwork have been chosen to reflect the Rotunda’s 1960s heritage (I particularly covet the Tom Dixon lampshades).

We also play around with the very 21st century gadgetry including Apple TV and iPod dock, but the only entertainment we really need is that view! We uncork a bottle of wine and watch the city buzz away far below.

A friend calls to invite us out for drinks on Hurst Street, the heart of Birmingham’s gay village.

It’s just a ten minute walk from Rotunda, the route taking us past the famous Bullring shopping centre and through Chinatown, so we get to take in some of the city’s sights on the way.

We meet in the charming courtyard garden of the super-stylish Loft Lounge, already busy with a cool crowd.

A round of drinks costs barely two-thirds what it would it in London - we could get dangerously used to this, and stay for a few more...

Hungry, we head back towards the city centre and chic new cicchetti bar Fumo. A spin-off of well-known Italian restaurant San Carlo next door, it’s a smart, stylish spot for dinner, its location opposite the city’s Louis Vuitton store reflected in the clientele’s glammer-than-glam attire.

We pull up a couple of stools at the honey-coloured marble bar, and feast on impeccable fritto misto, perfect porchetta and one of our favourite Italian dishes, vitello tonnato.

A bottle of fragrant Verdicchio is the perfect accompaniment and service couldn’t be friendlier.

Back out onto the scene, we hit youthful dance bar Sidewalk.

Then we move to the laid-back cabaret joint Village Inn, where we stay for the next few hours enjoying a great drag show, lots of cheap drinks and the lively company of the locals.

We stagger - we’ll admit - back to Rotunda and zoom up to the very welcome embrace of our luxe apartment. We love the way that, letting ourselves in with our security fob, it feels just like coming home (and there’s no stern receptionist to scowl at us...) We collapse contentedly into our very comfortable bed, where the view looks even more spectacular.

Saturday 10.11
Ouch...nursing hangovers we drag ourselves out of bed and boy are we grateful to find that the smart self-catering kitchen has a fantastic espresso machine! There’s also a range of our favourite Dorset Cereals, but we do encounter our stay’s only real failure: the ‘fresh’ oranges we’ve been promised for the juicer are way, way past their prime. Reception are profusely apologetic when we call to let them know, and five minutes later there's a knock at our door and some fresh oranges arrive, all ready for us to juice. After breakfast and buckets of coffee, we go for a hot shower.

The great thing about having our Maxi apartment is that we have the luxury of two bathrooms, which means we can shower separately (usually it would be together but we both need to soak our headaches away in private).

Each sleek, minimally-white bathroom has a range of full-size products, a powerful shower jet and super-fluffy towels. By the time we’re done we’re both feeling alive again!

We pack up, and after one last lingering look at the incredible view, head downstairs to check out.
Reception happily take care of our bags; we’re off to enjoy Birmingham’s brilliant shopping.

We're going to need a sizeable wallet!
Harvey Nichols
We’ve really enjoyed the freedom of staying in a self-catering apartment rather than a hotel for once, and next time we visit England’s second city, there’s no doubt we’ll be staying here, at Staying Cool, again.

N: Staying Cool
T: +44 (0) 121 285 1290
Rating: ****

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  1. Such a wonderful place it is, how I wish I can spend a night here.

  2. Birmingham is welcoming, lively and so much fun - our apartment was brilliant, and the folks at Staying Cool couldn't have been more helpful. Well worth a visit, and if you mention us when you book, you'll receive a complimentary bottle of wine!