Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham

Birmingham has no shortage of hotels from leading chains such as Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and Hotel Du Vin, So how does the Radisson Blu measure up?

Preface

I’ve stayed at The Radisson Blu Birmingham probably a dozen times over the last 4 or 5 years. I love it there and any time I’m at The NEC I’ll book a room. This booking came about as I was due to be at The Photography Show, the even got rescheduled due to COVID-19 so I looked to reschedule the reservation. After 3 phonecalls it was apparent that if I wanted to reschedule I would be charged an additional £110. I could always cancel my reservation but I’d receive no refund, great.

Location

5 minutes from everything would be the short answer. Mailbox is A 5 min walk along the A38 where you’ll find Harvey Nic’s, Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Everyman cinema, etc. 2 mins in the other direction and you’re at The O2 Academy. And yes, that logic also works if you’re travelling into Birmingham New Street station by train, useful if you’re going back and forth to The NEC

If you’re travelling by Car logistically it’s a breeze, financially it isn’t so great though. The hotel backs onto an NCP car park but it isn’t cheap. The hotel has a deal where it’s £20 for 24 hours. There are parking bays in front of the entrance to the hotel for loading purposes. A word of warning though. I was travelling with a whole load of very expensive camera equipment for a photoshoot I had booked for the following day. I rang the hotel and explained I’d need at least 30 mins to unload it all. it ended up taking me about 90 mins. In that 90 mins, I had a bite to eat with a drink or 2. I came back and finished unloading then asked if I could pay the chauffer to park the car. Turns out they don’t have a chauffeur and I’d be charged £30 if I didn’t move the car. Being one who doesn’t live by the five and drive policy the car wasn’t going anywhere. Nowhere did it say this would be the case, not only was there no leniency, within 5 mins of pulling up I was getting hassled to move the car (still unloading) even though I had pre-cleared it.

WiFi

The WiFi connection is relatively quick and you don’t have to pay for it or have to disclose all your details including blood type, like in other hotels.

The Room

The room I had booked for my stay was their Standard King Room. Having booked through Hotels.com, I was expecting to be upgraded by 1 room type if there was availability. This is one of the perks Hotels.com offer its gold members, or it used to be. Apparently, this benefit along with a free drinks voucher is no longer a thing. That is 100% the fault of Hotels.com and not The Radisson Blu, Birmingham.

To digress a little further, i only paid £70 for the night but then immediately seen the same room for £62 ealsewhere. After having taken a printscreen and submitting it to Hotels.com pricematch team they responded 2 days later saying that price was no longer available for them to book. No shit… it’s 48 hours later. Needless to say, they never refunded me the £8, DICKS!

The Standard King Rooms are a decent size, what you’d typically expect for the price bracket. That’s soon overlooked when you consider the impressive quality. The pillows were nice and soft as was the duvet, if not a little too heavy for my liking. I’m not sure if it’s the same manufacturer for all Radisson Blu hotels, but the mattresses are always perfect.

Tip…

When you’re making the booking or checking in, request the highest floor possible. For the Standard King rooms, that’s floor 10.

There’s nothing special about the bathroom, no underfloor heating or anything, it’s just clean.

Again, nothing fancy just a bath with a simple shower head over it. With the bathroom being as small as it is, you can’t really expect anything more.

I was impressed with the well equipt own brand toiletry collection though which is the same standard as wehn you’re booking a suite.

The TV is a decent size with all the national channels along with some international ones. You’ll have to make do with HD, no 4K which given the distance you’ll likely be watching it from isn’t so bad.

The socket situation was a slight annoyance, 2 USB charging sockets at either side of the bed. Okay for charging your phone and tablet but what about your laptop or camera. The same is applicable for the table, slightly short-sighted I think.

No, I didn’t go on a bender and empty the mini-fridge of all its drink and food. Turns out, they have a new policy at the hotel where they don’t stock the minibar. If you want it stocked, you have to call down and they will deliver a minibar package.

The Business Centre

If you like your business centres to resemble a knock-off Starbucks, you’ll be right at home. You’ll struggle to find an ergonomic chair as there are none. Instead, you have towering chairs with no back support coupled with desks that aren’t much higher.

If you need to put a solid 5-8 hours of work in on a laptop, your body is going to be a write-off. I was only 40 mins into ingesting and editing images before I started to feel the discomfort. There’s a single desktop and printer should you need an emergency bit of admin (or some tickets to the O2 Academy) to be carried (printed) out.

The Bar

Like all good bars should be, it’s a nice place to be of an evening to unwind. A nice temperature, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The laid back chairs and music add to the comfort. Consider it less a place where you have pre-drinks, but more a place you end up having a few after your night out. Though the bar staff would make you forget with the cocktails they can mix up, it is a hotel bar and a couple of drinks after work is what they do to a high standard.

The Restaurant

Unfortunately, I’ve never eaten at the restaurant. With being able to grab a bite to eat from some fine establishments within walking distance, I’ve never wanted to take the chance that it might not be very good and have wasted an opportunity.

The waiting area/bar that accompanies the restaurant is fairly swanky. A nice place to kill 20-30 mins if you find yourself arriving early for a meal.

Breakfast

This is where Radisson Blu, Birmingham excels. This is no exaggeration when I say that they have the best breakfast I have ever had at any hotel I’ve stayed at.

Once again, COVID-19 rears its head. Where there is usually a feast of fresh fruits, cereals, cheese, yoghurt, breads, even a full salmon fish, there is just empty counter tops and a chiller. The usual self service very high quality cooked food is still there. but it’s just not the same.

Summary

Starting at £70 a night it’s a good hotel to book. The rooms are always clean and have an almost high end feel to them. The metropolitan view you get out of the window when your high up is fascinating, I even go to sleep with the curtains open just watching the traffic. Despite all of that and for the first time in 4 or 5 years, I had left the Radisson Blu, Birmingham disappointed and angry.

The first issue, where I was going to be charged a good 170% extra to change the date or 100% to cancel it was out of order. This was the Hotels policy and thus the reason I actually decided to make the journey down as to not waste the money. Upon checking out, with impeccable timing I receive a generic email from the CEO of Radisson stating that due to COVID-19 all hotel booking are free to change and refund.

The next issue was the lack of upgrade to the next room class at check in despite there being availability. This is 100% down to Hotels.com miss representing their Gold Membership perks.

Finally, the issue was the Gym being closed and the poor breakfast. I kid you not, I book the Radisson Blu specifically in Birmingham because of their breakfast. As I alluded to earlier, it is phenomenal. To not have it was a real shame.

The hotel was barely to blame though, they were following their company policy. It was just unfortunate for me as the policy changed due to COVID-19 the day I was checking out. Chances are I’ll be back, but I think I’ll be trying out the likes of Hotel Du Vin, Hyatt and Hotel Indigo first.

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