When you’re top of the pile on a global site like Trip Advisor, you get the privilege of charging premium rates on the basis that people will be willing to pay more for the perception of a superior offering. That weight of expectation can be a burden and may result in far more thorough analysis than would otherwise be necessary. In other words, discerning travellers will expect you to deliver.
The overwhelmingly positive reviews persuaded me to stay here for 3 nights. For just about £400 per night, I was paying the same that could have got me into the Ritz, Savoy, Langham or Claridges. Was it going to be worth it and what would the experience be like?
First Impressions: There is no entrance area or lobby. In fact there is nothing but a passage to a lift which takes you up to the 5th floor. There you are met by very charming staff, like Frederic and Monica, who take care of the formalities of checking you in. The lounge area includes the check-in desk area. It is cosy but small and therefore not very private.
The Rooms: I had booked a split level Junior Suite. I got into this room and immediately had a sense of disappointment:
1. The lower level was very small with a desk area, Nesprssso machine, 2 tub chairs facing the entrance and a TV/bar cabinet. The problem was that the space was so tight that the tub chairs could not actually face the TV, so was angled. I could see no possible reason why anyone would spend time in this lower level, save for a businessman perhaps, who needed to work at a desk while his wife was sleeping. Its utility has been poorly thought out.
2. Upstairs, the sleeping area was over furnished, taking up all the space. Yet another desk could be found. The TV was on a cabinet which was simply too big for that area. I could not believe that so much of useful space could be taken up by this unnecessarily large cabinet.
3. The TVs, both downstairs and upstairs were too small for a suite and seemed quite outdated. In this day, anything less than a HDTV with a minimum screen size of 40 inches is unworthy of a top hotel, let alone a premium suite.
4. The bed and bedding was of great quality. However, the foot of the bed 4 poster bed was very loose and looked like it was about to fall over at any moment.
5. Dark wood furnishing is a risk in any establishment because there is a high maintenance obligation. It is either going to look immaculate or it is going to look bad. Here, the marks and scuffs were visible and I would have to say it did not look like a 5 star presentation.
6. The bathroom was exceptionally large, with a Jacuzzi and I found this to be the best feature of this particular suite.
Anyway, on emerging from my room, which happened to be right next to the lounge area, I was asked by Frederic how I found the room. I mentioned that I was not a fan of this split level as I did not believe it worked. He immediately asked for some time and then got back to me saying that he had found me an alternative, which would only be available the next day. Long story short, the staff took my comments (which were really a matter of fact observation rather than a complaint) seriously and offered me an alternative suite, which at that time turned out to be the Master Suite. This was again a split level, but a lot bigger. It has this incredible glass conservatory style ceiling which could be quite a unique feature in any room, giving you some unusual options for daytime or night time enjoyment. In this suite, I again found the lower level furnishing to be poorly thought out. The entrance area is dominated by a large square table, so large that you could barely walk around it. There is a TV and drinks cabinet downstairs but with little thought given to how a guest might choose to spend a few moments of relaxation down there. I mean you have a TV, you have a drinks cabinet yet if you wanted to have a drink and watch TV, you couldn’t really do it in comfort, let alone in the manner one accustomed to luxury would expect. A smaller round table plus a couch and ottoman might be a far superior arrangement. Again, a poorly thought out layout. Upstairs, in spite of the space, there is no full length mirror. The couch in front of the bed didn’t quite work, having a high back which negatively altered the perception of the space. I had to conclude that overall the place lacked design integrity - it looked like a collection of random furniture as opposed to the meticulous attention to function and detail at a place like the Savoy. The bathroom in this suite is very large and totally satisfying, with a superb Jacuzzi.
With regards to the day to day amenities, I found the snacks on offer after 8pm a good gesture. If you were out very late, you would find the entrance locked and you had to go through the Rubens hotel to get in. If you had any really late night requests, you were not likely to find anyone to satisfy them – the place is deserted and inhospitable after 0100. My requested newspaper only arrived one day out of 3. Basic useful amenities like the shoe shine were not diligently replaced and had to be requested. As it has this awkward 5th floor layout, on my final day, I advised the doorman that I was expecting an airport limo whilst I waited upstairs. Half an hour overdue, I had to frantically call to find out why it had not arrived. It turns out that it was waiting for me downstairs for 45 minutes – the doorman had simply not spotted it, even though it had a sign on the window!
My impression at the end of it all was that this hotel does not deserve to be rated at number 1. Quite frankly, it should not even be in the top 10 – not at the prices it charges. The top level staff are exceptionally attentive and I found Frederic to be extremely personable and pleasant. If you stripped this out, however, the place itself simply would not rate alongside London’s grander and swankier establishments. Physically and aesthetically it is very, very ordinary. Quite frankly, I’m not even sure it can be called a hotel, lacking as it does a lobby to define its ambience & character. There are also no bars, restaurants, spa etc. It looked and felt like a superb bed and breakfast albeit one that was charging 5 star hotel rates. My conclusion is that Trip Advisor reviewers must be swayed by the top level service and in doing so are forgiving of the physical shortcomings of the place. However, if your circumstances do not call for exceptionally attentive service, you would be justified in wondering what on earth the fuss is all about, particularly if your entry rate would get you into far grander establishments like the Savoy, One Aldwych, Claridges, the Langham or even St Ermins.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Luxury hotel with club like atmosphere & 21st century business technology; near Buckingham Palace & Westend theatre. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- 41 Hotel London