If you are not from the UK (or even if you are a particularly chauvinistic Londoner) it is possible that your image of Birmingham is stuck in the past. But this once-drab industrial city has had a makeover — we'll spare you the full Economist treatment, but, put plainly, the old, dreary Birmingham is nearly gone. Thanks to an influx of EU funding, cranes dot the skyline, and the city is re-styling itself as a thoroughly modern cosmopolis.
The Malmaison chain has long been at the advance guard of the boutique hotel revolution, at least outside of London — and it's fitting that they have set up an outpost in this newly chic town. The hotel itself is located in a converted Royal Mail sorting facility, now Birmingham's upscale shopping destination, The Mailbox, alongside the canal and right next to New Street station. Quite appropriately you will walk past Harvey Nichols or Armani on your way to reception, and the rest of the Mailbox's designer shops are never more than a short walk from your room.
The décor is cool and crisp, all dark woods, rich earthy tones and white linens, in the Malmaison house style — which is, despite what you may gather from trying to translate the name, not a “bad house” style at all. The chief luxury here is space, as anyone who has been to a London hotel room lately can attest; rooms here are large and public spaces are larger, a far cry from the perfunctory spaces found in many of the capital's trendy but cramped hotels.
The calm, insulated atmosphere inside the hotel belies its central location — though the nightlife may carry on outside, once in your room you will be blissfully oblivious to the panic on the streets of Birmingham. Malmaison-branded toiletries and CDs in the rooms complete the hard sell, but really, it's not necessary. By any other name, this hotel's mix of modern style and classic luxury would be a winner — and the brasserie and spa don't hurt either.