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Go back to school in Manchester

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Stylist’s deputy editor Susan Riley heads back to her home city of Manchester to see what she’s been missing

Forget April; January is the cruellest month. At least for the bank balance (payday is NEARLY here people), which is why right about now, the staycation is king. Especially a city fling that lets you catch up with friends and family without having to navigate a futon or fold-up.

City or country, I like to stay somewhere with quirk factor. And in Manchester, I’ve found just the place: the Great John Street Hotel. Tucked away in a backstreet off Quay Street, right near the Opera House, it’s a discreet townhouse hotel that’s been converted from an old Victorian school house. A fact I know because inside, its history is utilised in lots of charming ways – from the framed black and white photos of old pupils and teachers that hang on the walls, to the names of its rooms (private dining rooms are called Boys’ and Girls Classrooms; a meeting room the Headmasters Office).

The size (30 rooms and suites) means it feels slightly like a cosy private members club, helped mostly by the Oyster Bar at the hotel’s core – a buzzy hub of sofas and armchairs which, at 3pm on a Saturday, is packed with both guests and non-guests enjoying afternoon tea. The bar also hosts cocktail-making baby showers and chocolate truffle-making sessions, so it’s a great place to meet friends.

Upstairs my room – like most – is a duplex, with the bathroom upstairs mezzanine-style, overlooking the bedroom boudoir below; your own little New York loft for the weekend. And if you outgrow your stand-alone bath tub? Head up to the roof – the hotel’s ‘playground’. Laid out with hot tub, bar and, in appropriate weather, a terrace stacked with loungers, you can even spy on nearby Coronation Street.

Non-residents can get access too with a variety of ticketed events; Christmas-time saw the rooftop transformed into a fire-lit ski lodge complete with DJ, vin chaud and winter BBQ.

From Great John Street, you’re 10 minutes to Exchange Square, Harvey Nichols and King Street’s boutiques, and a stone’s throw from the Spinningfields complex – housing everything from the Gourmet Burger Kitchen to Neighbourhood, an industrial Manhattan-ite eatery with a VERY vibrant bar (neighbourhoodrestaurant.co.uk) where I spent Saturday night. The ode-to-NYC food is exceptionally tasty – tuna tartare tacos, jumbo shrimp cocktail on ice, and perfectly cooked NY Strip steak. But be warned – this is not romantic dinner-a-deux territory; it’s a high-volume destination where music gets you in the mood to party and the toilet queue is long.

For a laid-back Sunday brunch, head to Teacup (teacupandcakes.com), or for lunch order a Sunday Board at European-style bread and wine bar Bakerie (bakerie.co.uk). Street-market stalls line Piccadilly Gardens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday (11am-5.30pm), joined by a craft market on Saturdays. Wherever you lay your fork, you’ll be pleasantly full for the train ride home.

Susan stayed in a Classical Grand room at the Great John Street Hotel (eclectichotels.co.uk). Rates start from £180 per night. Stylist readers get 10% off their total stay when quoting STYLIST on booking (valid from 29 January-29 March)

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