Where is it?
Salford, officially – but if you're imagining soot-darkened, Coronation Street-style terraces you're behind the times, chuck. The Lowry is on the Salford-side bank of the River Irwell at the heart of the city. Deansgate, the city's main drag, is a mere five minutes' walk away.
What's it like?
A broad glass curvilinear edifice, six storeys high, unashamedly modern and brash. Inside, the emphasis is on the type of cool, relaxed contemporary design that shows off chic guests to a tee. The reception area's ambient lighting softens the prairie-like expanse of limestone floor between check-in desk and lifts.
What's its USP?
It's Manchester's only five-star hotel and easily its most fashionable. There are 165 bedrooms, including seven suites, all of which are extremely spacious with extra wide beds. Ask for a room on the river side: the views towards south Manchester are fabulous, particularly at sunset, taking in bridges new and old, Victorian architecture, Granada Studios and the north stadium at Old Trafford.
Classy and cool. Weekends are always busy: wander down to reception or the open-plan mezzanine bar for a spot of rubbernecking. Jennifer Lopez has stayed here, and if it's swanky enough for her...
Manchester's history is as an industrial city, so it is a relative newcomer in the tourism league – and the Lowry is playing for high stakes. Staff are friendly and polite, but mostly very young, and service can lack five-star seamlessness. The septuagenarian doorman, however, is graciousness personified.
Huge, light and luxurious. Typical décor is neutral with earthy tones, chic wood fittings and a fabulous view, thanks to room-width, floor-to-ceiling windows. Lighting combines halogen spots and strategically placed lamps. A cashmere blanket folded across the foot of the bed adds to the luxury, as does a chic chaise longue. The Italian porcelain bathrooms are immaculate and large walk-in wardrobes should satisfy fashionistas. The two-metre bed looks fit for a king (Edward VII, perhaps), but is actually two singles zipped together with an uncomfortable ridge down the middle, so not even suitable for a princess. The pillows are disappointingly thin and a bit hard. Room and breakfast starts at £70 a night based on two sharing, rising to £1,200 a night for the sumptuous Charles Forte penthouse suite.
A generous breakfast menu with lots of options, healthy or northern. You can dine in the first-floor River Room, a well-run Marco Pierre White restaurant, on modern European dishes, beautifully prepared. The wine list is also impressive. Dinner for two costs around £70.
Young and flash with lots of cash, judging by the number of shiny new Porsche Carreras parked outside. The Beckhamesque lifestyle is clearly something to which many Lowry guests aspire.
Things to do?
This is the shopping capital of the North, so go out and spend, then swank through reception with your carrier bags from Flannels, Joseph and Selfridges. Have an aromatherapy facial in the stylish spa and get your nails done. To appear in the bar looking casual after 6pm would be to hasten your passage towards social death.