Last time the gal was in Cardiff it was to see Rocco Forte’s just-opened St David’s Hotel, a ship-like structure that soared up from the then-empty wastelands of the Welsh capital’s former docks. Now, 11 years later, the area is thriving, a buzz of entertainment venues and landmark buildings. What is today voco Cardiff St David’s, IHG’s launch of this new home-grown brand in the UK, in only a few minutes’ walk from the Millennium Centre, ‘where everything happens’. And this hotel is now base not only for visiting entertainers but also sports teams. They, too, must appreciate having, bedside, such local touches as heart-shaped lavender bags, with accompanying notes: ‘may it help you fall asleep faster, sleep better and wake up more refreshed, handmade in Wales using Welsh wool’,
It is easy to see why guests love it. I was in end room 212, looking out over the bay – see a video below. See the colour over my bed, above. Lying in it I could turn left and look out over my ship-like balcony, across the water. This was my first visit to a voco and I thought it could be described as grown-up lifestyle, with emphasis on senses and sustainability, and more than an element of fun. My room had soft tweeds, almost in Pottery Barn style: toiletries were big-size Aveda pump-pots, my welcome gave me exactly the right berries, and Welsh waters, plus a Brecon gin miniature and stylish Fever-Tree tonic. Dine here in the room? I could choose chicken tikka masala, or, £5 each, a mug of tomato soup, or Heinz baked beans or toast, any hour, day or night.
The all-day restaurant, The Admiral, is great – just what hotel guests as well as locals really like. Sit at unadorned wood or marble tables, on tweed-covered or plain cane chairs, dine off ceramic-look Steelite with quality Robert Welch cutlery. The house Champagne is Besserat de Bellefon but we went for Tim Adams Bluey’s Block Grenache 2013, to accompany six slices of tuna tataki with Asian salad, and a butcher’s aged Welsh sirloin with triple-cooked chips. Breakfast similarly was full house: 25% of rooms business is repeat, and these people knew to head straight for the cold-buffet table, and hot dishes in a side room that included a range of pancake
Locals have always used the fitness here, and from its opening at 6.30 a.m. there were swimmers lapping in the pool and others using the Technogym. Later I had my nails seen to by Rachel, who returned home to the Valley, 45 minutes’ drive, after spells working spas at sea (like many Welsh, the call of the motherland is too much). Her face lit up when we talked about voco, the same reaction I had when being seen off, under a giant voco-yellow umbrella, by a decidedly-mature doorman, a veteran of over a decade here. The GM, Russell Durnell, agrees that voco is for all ages (apart from those star guests, the average age of people staying here is several years older than anticipated). He is smiling. A new brand, and he hopes to close 2019 at 89%, beating all his neighbours when it comes to rate.
AND IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ROOM 212, AND THE BREAKFAST PRODUCT, CHECK THE VIDEOS BELOW