During the golden age of steam, Reading's Great Western Rail Hotel was one of the city's smartest establishments. Partly designed by Brunel, it dates back to 1844. But like so many station hotels it had fallen into decline. That was until last month, when the Malmaison hotel group unveiled its latest offering.
The decor fuses the building's fine heritage with Mal style – exposed brick, dark luxurious fabrics and furnishings and rich wall colours. There are 75 rooms and six suites, the latter named after famous railways or engines.
I stayed in the sumptuous Ghan Suite, with two 42-inch plasma screen TVs, Bose home theatre system and stylish linen. Signature Mal toiletries in the massive bathroom included the wittily named "no old bags allowed" eye gel. All standard rooms have flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, CD players and free Wi-Fi.
The food and drink
The buzzing brasserie served beef carpaccio, rocket and parmesan followed by chicken and spinach with brioche. Two courses cost £14.50.
The whole of the ground floor (reception, bar, brasserie) is wheelchair accessible, as are four bedrooms. Children and dogs are welcome. Dogs will cost £10 a night, including dinner.
From £99 per room per night at the weekend and £150 during the week, room only. Continental breakfast costs £11.95.
Malmaison Reading, 18-20 Station Road, Reading RG1 1JX (0118 956 2300; www.malmaison.com ).