There's no denying it: the view is terrific. Right in front of our noses – well, about 50 metres away – looms the glorious neo-Gothic clock tower of Manchester Town Hall, unveiled in 1877 when the city, then known as Cottonopolis, was at the height of its economic powers.
Just behind it – OK, about 500 metres further back – is the Beetham Tower, the city's tallest skyscraper. It sprouted in the mid Noughties, a brash symbol that Britain's second metropolis had well and truly emerged from its post-industrial doldrums. Elsewhere, we glimpse clusters of multi-storied red-brick Victorian and Edwardian buildings (some with smoke billowing from their chimneys), a slew of construction cranes and, way, way away, huge, puffy clouds, smeared with a sunset-fuelled pink.
The dreamy, almost surreal feel of this panorama is enhanced by where we're enjoying it: amid the jet-powered bubbles of Manchester's first rooftop infinity pool. This alfresco draw is perched on the seventh floor of the King Street Townhouse, the latest in a string of desirable hotels to have opened in the city over the past 12 months.
Though the pool is petite – maximum capacity is 11 – my partner, Celine, and I have it to ourselves after a busy day of sightseeing and shopping in Manchester's vibrant core. And it is all rather lovely, but, after about 10 minutes of bathing, gawping at the view and fiddling with the features (as well as jet bubbles, there's a gushing waterfall option), Celine turns to me and says: "I'm starting to get a bit cold." Sure enough, her skin is pimpled with goose bumps.
We had, in truth, expected it to be warmer, as we'd seen steam rising from the pool before we poked our toes in. Perhaps we've been spoilt by the geothermal bathing hotspots of Bath, Budapest and Reykjavik, where water temperatures are routinely 35-40 degrees. This afternoon, the water is about 25 degrees – which would probably be fine in summer, but not exactly ideal in early Mancunian March, where the air temperature is typically below 10 degrees (I'm later told by staff that the best time for a dip is usually in the mornings, when, having been heated overnight behind a cover, the water is at its hottest, around 32 degrees). No major worries, though. Celine's goose bumps quickly vanish thanks to the pool's neighbouring steam rooms. One – heated at 30 degrees – has four loungers, the same vista, and magazines to leaf through.
The other is smaller, darker, and Outback-in-January-like hot – at least 45 degrees. After 10 minutes in here, we're toasted and refreshed (if you require further pampering, treatments can be arranged with the in-house therapists, and you can get a sweat on in the second-floor gym). While the spa graces a new annex, the bulk of the hotel occupies a 19th century, Grade II listed, Italian Renaissance-style former bank building in a quiet backstreet of Manchester's erstwhile financial quarter (a 10-minute stroll from Piccadilly station).
The whole place looks fabulous, inside and out, and it's no surprise, as it's masterminded by Eclectic Hotels, whose owners – husband and wife team, Eamonn and Sally O'Loughlin – are renowned for their funky restorations of elegant old properties (on top of two Victorian villa-hotels in the well-to-do Manchester suburb of Didsbury, they conjured the swanky Great John Street Hotel from a creaking city-centre schoolhouse).
Sally, an interior designer, has fashioned King Street Townhouse's suitably eclectic decor with impressive attention to detail. There are nods to the building's banking heritage – copper coins are glued to the King section of the hotel's lobby logo – and all sorts of quirky exhibits: wallpaper etched with sketches of birds and flowers, wiry metal sculptures, antique scales, typewriters, clocks and cameras, and books and locally commissioned artwork that celebrate Manchester's history (not least its heady industrial past and Madchester music era). Split into size-based categories – such as Snug, Cosy and Comfy – the 40 individually designed rooms and suites are chic and elegant, though perhaps not quite as bombastic as you'd expect, with white, grey, brown and beige the dominant colours (complemented by the odd splash of red, purple and gold).
They're furnished with eye-catching ingredients: a blend of carpets and black-and-white tiled flooring, oval mirrors, vintage Roberts radios (out of which drift the soothing tunes of Classic FM), zany Eichholtz table lamps, offbeat contemporary art, and Nespresso machines (coffee is complimentary). Most rooms – including ours (number 45) – have deep free-standing bath-tubs, which are perched in front of the beds and provide, we find, a blissful, pre-dinner soak (the minty Temple Spa toiletries help matters, too). I'm told VIPs and large groups like to book the entire fifth floor, where two spacious suites with bewitching town hall views are optionally connected to a smaller room (you can even hire a butler to unpack for you). Alluring public spaces dot the hotel.
The sixth floor South Terrace bar is popular with wedding functions and corporate events, but we prefer the ground-floor Afternoon Tea Lounge and, directly above it, the Mezzanine Lounge. You cosy up on cushion-filled couches, or lounge in armchairs, browsing leather-backed English literature classics from the bookshelves (or photogenic tomes about Manchester), as affable staff in tweed waistcoats wait on you. Adjacent to the lobby, the parquet-floored Tavern serves a seasonal menu of hunger-quashing dishes (mainly classic British but with Gallic flavours). Tempted by coq au vin, Celine plumps for chicken liver pate (£5) and the Superfood Salad (butternut squash, feta, pumpkin seeds, mint, cous cous, and chicken; £10.50). I have rib-eye steak and chips (£18) with a zesty pint of Manchester Pale Ale. We're both satisfied – and left pondering what to do with the rest of our evening. There are good watering holes nearby (the Salut wine bar and The City Arms pub are just around the corner), and you're never far from a show or a live gig in Manchester. But, like most fine hotels, this high-end, but charmingly unsnooty affair is an exceedingly pleasant place in which to linger.
Rooms are priced from £120 if booking a late deal on King Street Townhouse's website (available up to a fortnight before your stay). Expect to pay from double that rate during busy periods; eclectichotels.co.uk/king-street-townhouse.
Steve McKenna was a guest of King Street Townhouse.