The Principal Hotel Company is becoming a firm favourite of a name here on The Luxury Editor, with our recent visits to and reviews of Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow a Principal Partner hotel, The Principal Edinburgh and we’re now delighted to add The Principal York to the list.
Previously known as Royal York the hotel was originally built in 1878 and underwent a major refurbishment in 2016, initiated by operating group Principal Hayley, to reform the hotel back to its former glory of being a truly grand hotel. Read on to find out how we rated its status of grandeur.
The Principal York could not be more conveniently located as a base for a city break; a stone’s throw away from the railway station, just a short walk into to city centre shops and attractions with great views of the Minster too – ideal for both leisure and business travellers alike.
Although right next door to the main railway station the hotel boasts a beautiful landscaped garden which is unusual for such a city central hotel. The garden area is perfectly sandwiched between the view of York Minster and the main entrance of the hotel. Despite its close proximity to the hotel we never once heard a rumble from the nearby trains.
The reception area is easy to find and its wooden, beige and grey neutral colour scheme is warm and welcoming. The two reception desks were tidy with well-presented receptionists to welcome guests.
Check-in was really quick, easy and informative without that forced friendliness a lot of hotels instil in their team. Our room was ready earlier than our anticipated check-in time which was great and Jacob, one of the members of the concierge team showed us to our first floor room.
Along the way he pointed out some of the features of the hotel including the beautiful shiny original Victorian tiled floor which leads the way to the gym and pool area, the stunning sweeping staircase which is made from cast iron over 139 years old and which in my opinion is the crowning glory of this hotel. Jacob was very well-educated in all things York (it was he who told us the key fact coming up soon) and had a great knowledge of the hotel too – apparently it used to only have 100 rooms and the cost to stay in the hotel 139 years ago was three shillings!
On the way to the room we passed the Garden Room which is the most beautiful place of the entire hotel. It oozes old world British elegance and as its name suggests looks out onto the garden and boasts clear views of York Minster. The décor is neutral but the shades of browns, beige and greys combined with the sumptuous furniture and imposing fire-place really create an inviting and luxurious ambient. I’d love for this to be a regular place I’d bring my lap top and enjoy a coffee and pretend I’m high society of decades gone by.
Artefacts such as travel chests from the Victorian era add to its charm and the many wall mounted keys throughout the hotel are another nod to days gone by; the keys are all replicas of keys to the doors of the many churches in York and the crossed keys is York’s city arms which are said to represent the keys to heaven as held by St Peter, its traditional gatekeeper and to whom York Minster is dedicated.
There are lots of other break out spaces throughout the ground floor of the hotel ideally set up for an informal business meeting or relaxed chats between friends.
After mounting the sweeping staircase we arrived at our first floor room which was in the deluxe category which is the one below the suite. I did manage to get a sneaky peak of one of the suites which was very impressive. Next time we visit for a special occasion I’ll be sure to book this one.
The Deluxe room was very spacious with a king-size bed – 3 pillows wide and extremely comfortable I knew that the minute I clambered in I’d never want to get back out! How true this proved as I had the best sleep I’ve had for such a long time. The combination of the really heavy curtains making the room so dark along with the really comfortable mattress and silk soft pillows was just bliss! Plus no toddler to give me an early morning wakeup calls!
A complimentary tuck box presenting sweet and savoury snacks from the three local well-known chocolate-makers features in every room as does complimentary still and sparkling water and fresh milk. A good selection of teas and coffees (no coffee machine) and all the usual suspects such as hairdryer, plenty of clothes hangers, robes and slippers, iron and board even an umbrella were tucked away in the wardrobe.
A personal safe is provided and the TV’s are currently being upgraded to Smart TV sets.
Hair straighteners and mobile phone chargers are available upon request.
The bathroom was simple yet stylish; fabulous big walk in shower with dual heads so you don’t have to get your hair wet if you don’t want to – I’m a big fan of this! White and grey marble kit out with wooden vanity unit. No bath but I’m not a bath fan so that didn’t bother me.
Elemis are the amenity partner of choice so we were left feeling and smelling beautifully fresh.
Facilities and Services
There is a small but fully equipped gym and a 13m swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam and sauna room there are also two treatment rooms so if you fancy indulging in a massage or relaxation therapy it is advisable to book in advance. The most impressive part of the fitness set up though is the staircase that leads to it. The original Victorian tiles are all in tact and form a stunning pathway to the pool. You actually feel like you have stepped back in time. I was half expecting full length bathers to the attire of choice when we hit the pool!
The hotel also has 11 meeting and conference rooms if business dictates the need for such facilities. We had a look in the Oak Room and it was absolutely stunning. All of the original ceiling and wall tiles remained perfectly intact. Book this and you won’t be able to hold the attention of your attendees – the décor will surely hold centre stage.
There is also a little ‘corner shop’ located in the hotel lobby. It sells all the essentials (in luxury format) to either stock up your snack quota or for little gifts to either treat yourself to or to take back home.
As to be expected at a hotel of this standard there is a concierge team. We were only staying one night and dining in the hotel so didn’t need to use this service, however we did speak with a couple of members and they were very friendly and informative.
Food and Drink
The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace is the ‘main’ restaurant within the hotel and serves both guests and locals. It can be accessed off the street or through the hotel.
There is a cosy outdoor terrace kitted with bright and comfortable seating areas and patio heaters. We enjoyed a bottle of fizz out here until the sun hid away which was just in time for dinner, although we could have dined al fresco if we’d wished to do so. The terrace looks out onto the main street and railway station.
We enjoyed a very flavoursome dinner at this restaurant. The menu is seasonal with simple ingredients but with and mouth-watering results. My comment to our waiter was that the descriptions of each dish on the menu really didn’t do them justice. I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality and creativity of the dishes we were served. I opted for pork fillet with a parmesan crust, sweet potato puree, crispy kale, and sherry vinegar. I ordered broccoli with toasted almonds and almond butter as a side and it was outstanding. I could have eaten that just on its own.
For dessert we couldn’t resist the recommended Lemon Meringue Pie for Two. Wow, wow, wow. Wow!! Still warm the meringue was slightly torched, light and fluffy and gooey in the centre, tangy, tangy lemon curd smothered on a buttery crisp pastry base. It was topped with a sharp raspberry sorbet topped with fresh ginger and macaroons. I gorged on this and I’m disgusted to say we finished every mouthful …..DELICIOUS!
The wine list was comprehensive and the team knowledgeable in their recommendations.
We also enjoyed breakfast here. A cold buffet consisting of cereals, fruits, pastries and muffins was on offer along with a hot buffet with the favourite full EB favourites including big triangles of locally sourced black pudding and maple cured crispy bacon. Toast, tea and coffee were served to order and options such as avocado, salmon and porridge could also be cooked to order. We indulged quite sufficiently and more than satisfactorily on the buffet options. A top class brekkie.
Chapter House is another of the dining options and this is more of a bar and serves a classic pub style menu. Great for local craft ales, cocktails with an extensive gin list too. It was quite busy when we were there with a mix of what looked like locals enjoying an after work drink and bite to eat.
The Garden Room. As I mentioned earlier I fell in love with this room and this is where Afternoon Tea is served. We were invited to enjoy this traditional treat; unfortunately due to time restrictions of our trip we were unable to do so. However, if the dessert from the night before was the standard to judge it by I can only imagine it to be a feat fit for a queen!
I absolutely loved this hotel. The staff were all extremely helpful and genuinely friendly. It’s understated, charming and elegant. It is the ideal place for a York city break and I will most definitely be going back.
Principal York Hotel rooms start at £139 per night ( incl VAT). Breakfast not included. Breakfast costs £15.95 per person, full inclusive.
Address: Station Rd, York YO24 1AA
Phone: 01904 653681