From the Star Wars' stormtroopers bearing Swizzels' Love Hearts emblazoned with the words 'The Toon', 'INNSiDE' and 'I HEART NUFC' to the Tyne Bridge devouring monster that dominates an entire wall fresco, art is at the heart of the new INNSiDE by Melia Newcastle's decor but not in a stuffy way, writes Liam Rudden.
No, the latest addition to Newcastle's waterfront has a buzz as invigorating as the panoramic sights from Room 625, The Studio River View, but more of that shortly.Already a favourite with visitors and locals alike, after a seven-minute walk from the station, we were greeted by excited crowds as we arrived at the hotel where two coaches waited to transport what we later discovered was the Leicester City football team heading to that day's big match.
INNSiDE is definitely the place to stay right now in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the place the A-listers stay, and in keeping with its location it literally sits on a bank of the river that Lindisfarne took to the top of the charts in 1971. Thankfully, throughout our visit it was devoid of the slightest wisp of fog.
Quite the opposite in fact, with a glorious day forecast, the terrace area of Gino D'Campo's Quayside ground floor restaurant and bar proved a veritable sun trap.
Arriving early, check in is at 3pm, a leisurely lunch on said terrace allowed us to dawdle away a couple hours soaking in the rays and the stunning views of the nearby Tyne bridges.
Spacious, bright and open, the Open Living Lounge that leads to the Gino D'Campo Quayside is rightly described as the beating heart of the hotel and it certainly radiates the good vibes that can be found throughout the visitor experience.
Opening the door and stepping into our sixth floor Studio River View en-suite I was stopped in my tracks by the breath-taking view of The Toon's most famous landmark, its iconic bridge. It's a stunning welcome to the classy, bijou room, which like everything else in this hotel boasts a modern, sleek feel.
A glass shower chamber looks out onto the room, neck-high frosted glass protects your modesty, and there is a seperate toilet cubicle. But it's the view that makes this room special – who needs to switch on the large wall-mounted TV when you can look down and watch life unfold in the city below through the ceiling to floor windows.
Budget or boutique?
With 161 stylish rooms, INNSiDE falls firmly into the boutique category although arguably with budget tariffs, which start from just £63 a night.
Wining and dining
There's a Wetherspoon next door but we discovered we never needed to venture beyond Gino D'Campo's 190-cover Quayside restaurant and 54-seat covered bar. A menu of 'comfort food' dishes inspired by D'Campo's family and land of his birth makes for simple but tasty choices.
Service is friendly and casual with a special shout out to Dennis, who declined a tip, asking that it be donated to a charity of our choice instead or given to a homeless person. Nice guy. Good karma. An open pass allows the bustling and often vocal energy of the kitchen to add a Mediterranean element of theatre to the dining experience.
Worth getting out of bed for...
A two minute-walk from the hotel you'll find the historic remains of Newcastle castle, the Black Keep and Castle Keep - the real heart of Newcastle.
Two wonderfully quirky Angel of the North shaped biscuits awaited us in our room. It seemed wrong to eat them but eat them we did and they went down very well with a nice cup of tea.
Don't miss the artistic touches throughout the hotel, from the retro pop art telephones in the rooms to the ever-changing display of work by local artists throughout the public areas... and it's true what they say, you won't find friendlier people than the Geordies.
Price start from £63 a night. INNSiDE Newcastle, River View, Bridge Court, Newcastle, NE1 3BE (0808 234 1953, https://www.melia.com/innside-newcastle)