The hotel Inspector calls at the City Inn, Leeds

There are plusher, cosier and more luxurious places to stay in Leeds than the City Inn, but none are quite so hip, quite so talked-about. Right here, right now, that is.

When we arrive on a Friday night there’s a queue for the lifts, as men in tight shirts and women dressed as if it’s an August heatwave, totter on high heels and wait to be elevated into the Skylounge, a vast, dimly lit bar with uncomfortable armless sofas where you perch rather than sit and shout rather than talk. It’s heaving.

Stylish: The lobby of the City Inn, Leeds

Stylish: The lobby of the City Inn, Leeds

The views from here aren’t at all bad. You’ve got the Leeds-Manchester canal in one direction, the station in the other, with lots of new development along the waterfront. Hundreds of apartments are up for sale and you can almost hear the soundbites of estate agents being carried on the soggy  wind: 'Up and coming…amazing bars and restaurants….great address….balconies....sign here and let’s agree a deposit.'
There are old warehouses and former mills in Granary Wharf – but City Inn, with its 333 rooms, isn’t one of them.

This is brand new (as are all City Inn hotels, of which there are now six), squeaky clean and big on technology. Every room has an iMac multimedia entertainment system that links you to the internet,  plus a web cam for video conferencing, complimentary Skype, a MP3 player and free access to iTunes, iChat, iPhoto and iMovie.

I know all this because it says so in the directory but, needless to say, something as simple as getting the BBC News is hard work.
My wife thinks the room is soulness but I don’t entirely agree. It’s several notches up on Ikea; there are floor to ceiling windows (which you can open a jar) and the white walls are restfully bare.

She’s annoyed that it only has a shower and I’m with her on that. But modern thrusting types don’t take baths, I tell her. After all, in the directory it stresses how the 'air conditioning is enhanced to ensure you feel alert and fresh.'
We feel suitably alert and fresh in the downstairs bar, which is stark but quiet enough to hold a conversation and the staff don’t make you feel inferior for not wearing a Simon Cowell cashmere jumper.

Heaven knows what the late Leeds-born writer and Daily Mail columnist, Keith Waterhhouse, would make of it all but I think he'd be pleased to see people enjoying themselves so much. The huge dining room is heaving, too. It's about 10-20 per cent cheaper than anything of its kind in London and just as good. Better than most, in fact. Bottles of wine start at a reasonable  £14.50 and you can get three courses for £21.95.

Several of the walls in the dining room feature an exhibition from Opera North's archives to celebrate the company's 30th anniversary. They give the room a welcome arty feel, while outside in the lobby various costumes from performances such as A Midsummer Night's Dream are on display.

They are almost as interesting as some of the costumes waiting for the lifts to the Skylounge, which we visit for a night cap. It's pouring outside but the wrap-around balcony is still popular with smokers, who can puff away but still feel part of the action.

We get the impression that many of the revellers are staying in the hotel rather than taking expensive taxis or trains home. For £59 b & b, it's a tempting strategy and breakfast, mercifully, is served  until 11am. And what a spread.

There's an extensive buffet offering all manner of fruits, cereals, nuts, cheeses, croissants, pastries and cooked breakfast to order from the a la carte menu. No one could call it cosy and the lighting is such that none of us look our best. But we're right here, right now - in Leeds' hotel of the moment. And we feel quite chuffed about that.

Rating: 4/5

Travel Facts

Doubles from £59 B&B

City Inn Leeds
Granary Wharf
2 Wharf Approach
Leeds LS1 4BR

Tel: 01132 438885

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