The Macdonald Burlington is a landmark Victorian building in Birmingham city centre that has hosted everyone from royalty to rock’n’roll legends. Situated between New Street railway station, which offers direct links to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the city’s pedestrianised shopping district, it could not be more conveniently located for those wishing to explore Birmingham and its excellent retail offering.
Originally known as the Midland Hotel, after the railway company that built it, the building was also the venue for one of the most infamous political speeches of the 20th century. It was here that Enoch Powell delivered his “Rivers of Blood” address in 1968 – an event which saw him promptly sacked from the then Conservative government.
Budget or boutique?
The Burlington is a popular conference venue but attracts a wide variety of visitors, with rooms available at competitive rates given its city centre location.
Wining and dining
The Scottish Steak Club is the Burlington’s first floor restaurant and offers contemporary Scottish cuisine in relaxed surroundings. The high-ceilinged dining room was obviously once the hotel’s main attraction but has sadly seen better days. The parquet flooring has lost much of its varnish and the walls were crying out for a decent lick of paint. The hotel has been undergoing a wider renovation but it had yet to reach the restaurant at the time of our visit. With some investment this could be a very impressive venue.
Thankfully, the Aberdeen Angus steaks we ordered went some way to making up for this. The sirloin was high quality and the range of wines on offer as an accompaniment would have satisfied even the most discerning.
Breakfast was less impressive. Being a Sunday, many guests had arrived towards the end of the serving period and had to queue before a table was found for them. Staff appeared harassed, with loud complaints concerning drinks orders being heard from several nearby tables.
Our cooked breakfast was poor quality and we didn’t finish it.
Being a grand Victorian railway hotel, our room was generously proportioned with high ceilings and large windows. It had recently been refurbished in a contemporary style with luxurious interior fittings. The bathroom was most impressive – the kind of size most homeowners can only dream of. The high-end shower was big enough to wash a horse – presuming you could get it past reception in the first place.
Worth getting out of bed for
With New Street station on its doorstep, the Burlington makes an ideal base for exploring the wider Midlands. The charming medieval cathedral town of Worcester is a half-hour train journey away and makes for a pleasant afternoon outing. Scottish history buffs will have plenty to entertain them – it was there that Charles II’s attempt to win back power from Oliver Cromwell was comprehensively ended in 1651. The Royalist army of 16,000 was predominantly made up of Scots – many of whom never made it back up the road.
Another short train journey from Birmingham is Stratford-upon-Avon, a town that doesn’t so much celebrate William Shakespeare as remind you he was born there at every possible opportunity. The birthplace museum is genuinely impressive, and a living reminder of domestic life in the 16th century. Of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company base means you can enjoy a high-quality theatrical production of the Bard’s works. Book well in advance, though.
Upgrade to a suite experience and enjoy a bottle of Laurent Perrier Champagne in your room on arrival, with a late check-out time of 12.30pm.
Prices for dinner, bed and breakfast from £164 if booked at least three days in advance. www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk. Macdonald Burlington Hotel, New Street, Birmingham