The Leopold

“A Grade II-listed former school that's Sheffield's "first boutique hotel".”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd November 2009.

What can I say? It's OK. For the price, it's more than OK. But if the Leopold really is a "boutique hotel" and a Small Luxury Hotel of the World then I'm a platinum blonde in a Ferrari.

In the glossy SLH handbook by the bed, the Leopold rubs shoulders with such gems as the Levin in London and the Chester Grosvenor, and yet its bedrooms have all the panache and personality of a Novotel with cushions. My mezzanine suite feels anonymous, with a swathe of brown striped carpet, beige walls, off-the-peg furniture and those awful plasma-television screens that Welcome Mrs Duncan.

For me the Leopold is not "Sheffield's first boutique hotel" as it claims and is most definitely not a luxury one. It is, however, something rather more desirable: a really good budget hotel in a great location, with plenty of extras for your money – bedside clock/radio/iPod dock; excellent Hypnos bed and crisp linen; bath robes and large towels; salon-standard hairdryer; attractive toiletries, full-length hanging space and proper hangers.

Better still, the cheapest double rooms are more than acceptable; I preferred them to mine: the uniform palette of green and red, brown and beige packs more of a punch in the smaller spaces and they are cosier.

Sheffield's a funny place, having always lacked a hub, though that's never stopped locals and university students alike from loving the place. But now it's got what passes for a central meeting place: newly constructed Leopold Square, ringed by cafés and restaurants, and by the great Victorian Grade II-listed bulk of the city's former boys' grammar and technical school, which counts two Sheffield legends, Joe Cocker and Roy Hattersley, among its alumni.

With 90 bedrooms (hardly boutique size), the Leopold occupies the main wing of the old school. The façade remains, as does the panelled Oak Room (have a peak), used for private functions, and a collection of school photographs donated by the Old Boys' Association (whose members still meet once a month in the hotel). Best of all is the beautiful carved wooden coat rail now displayed in the lobby, which somehow sums up the lost school. Can a coat rail be beautiful? This one is.

But these are mere touches. For the average guest, the hotel holds little of its former atmosphere, or much atmosphere at all, though I like the recollection of a former pupil, recounted in the hotel's literature, about woodwork teacher Jack Hunter's lesson on cutting safely with a band saw. "You draw the wood to the saw like this," said Mr Hunter as he started sawing, promptly cutting off two of his fingers. "And that, boys," he said, examining his detached fingers in the bloody sawdust, "is how not to do it."

2 Leopold Street (08450 780067; www.leopoldhotel.co.uk) Doubles from £79; breakfast £10.95. Excellent adapted rooms for guests with disabilities. Train information at www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk

The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
3 out of 5

Categorised by size: the smallest are fine and great value

Service
4 out of 5

All the warmth comes from the staff

Character
2 out of 5

Distant echoes of the former school; excellent central location

Food and drink
2 out of 5

Breakfast only. for dinner head to the wonderful nonnas (0114 268 6166; www.nonnas.co.uk): great italian food, waiters and atmosphere

Value for money
5 out of 5

No luxury prices here, and quite right

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