Tried & Tested

London hotels: Chain reaction

17 Mar 2008 by Tom Otley
The Langham, London

The Langham

The Langham, designed by Giles and Murray, opened in 1865 at a cost of £300,000. At that time it was the largest building in London – a Florentine palace of seven floors with 600 rooms, 100 toilets, 36 bathrooms and the first-ever hydraulic lifts.

Better known in recent years as the Langham Hilton, this hotel just north of Oxford Circus is now in the middle of a massively expensive renovation and refurbishment under Langham Hotels, which is turning it into its flagship property (aided by the fact that it owns the hotel, so presumably spending tens of millions of pounds is no deterrent).

The first stages have now been completed, and include a new pool, gym, bar and restaurant designed by David Collins Studio, as well as a temporary entrance on the corner of Langham Place and Wigmore Street. Before the present works began, the hotel had 425 rooms.

This is being reduced to 384 rooms and suites, but at present there are just 160, almost creating the feel of a boutique hotel, particularly since all the works are out of sight and are concentrated around the hotel lobby, Palm Court and Ballroom.

All rooms are being renovated apart from the Langham Club rooms, which already have Bose alarm clocks, radio and CD players as standard, large flatscreen TVs, access to the two Club lounges (there are two free computer terminals in one of these), tea and coffee-making facilities, separate showers and baths, and Penhaligon toiletries (own-brand Chuan Spa in the standard rooms). Broadband is available at £20 for 24 hours.

Club room guests also enjoy a dedicated check-in and check-out service, free breakfast, all-day refreshments (drinks and canapés), a bar until 10.30pm, use of the boardroom next door to the lounges (seats ten maximum), complimentary phone calls to London landlines from the room and the Club lounges, an extended check-out time of 3pm, and free pressing of one item of clothing on check-in.

Mention should also be made of the Infinity suite, which is the largest two-bedroom suite in the capital and has views over Regent Street. Among other luxurious features the suite has a “chromatherapy” (colour therapy) Infinity bath in the master bathroom, which lights the water in a full spectrum of colours, allowing you to choose the one which best suits your mood.

Until the completion of the works next year, the main emphasis is on the excellent new Artesian cocktail bar and Landau restaurant ( The Artesian, named after the 110 metre-deep well located under the hotel, “combines a whiff of exotic Orientalism, the romance of new nostalgia and some very sexy, contemporary touches”. This translates as being lively and, on a Thursday and Friday night, busy without ever being uncomfortably so.

The Landau is a 100-seat restaurant under head chef Andrew Turner, who was previously at Pennyhill Park Hotel as well as “1837” at Brown’s Hotel and “1880”at the Bentley Kempinski in 2003. The ingredients – from the Mutton Renaissance, Longoe Farm at Castle of Mey in Scotland and the Ginger Pig, which rears animals on the Yorkshire Moors – are top quality. Presentation is superb, the staff – senior members of whom come from the Savoy Grill – are excellent, and the set lunch and pre-theatre menus are great value (£27.50 for three courses or £20 for two).

Access to the restaurant is through an atmospherically lit, vaulted wine corridor, which connects the entrance lobby to the main restaurant, allowing diners to browse a dramatic display of up to 280 bins, including a unique collection of magnums.

VERDICT The Langham is keeping a low profile while work continues, but the bar and restaurant alone are reason to stay here, and the Club rooms are an excellent choice, particularly in this very good central London location.

PRICES Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £300 for a Superior room (cancellations by 4pm on day of arrival).

1C Portland Place; tel +44 (0)20 7636 1000;

Hyatt Regency Churchill

Acquired by Hyatt in 2004 (it was previously an Intercontinental), the Regency Churchill is nearing the end of a four-year refurbishment, with some 85 per cent of works now complete. On Portman Square, just north of Marble Arch, the hotel is shaped like an E, with rooms facing into the square, north to Upper Berkeley Street and the Radisson SAS hotel, and south to Seymour Street.

Some of the 444 rooms and suites face onto the internal courtyards, although with triple-glazing noise from the road isn’t an issue (for those who want fresh air, the windows do open). Corridors contain original prints depicting scenes of Portman Square and Hyde Park, the browns and greens contrasting with the light rooms and crisp white linen sheets.

The rooms are over seven of the nine storeys (there is no second storey because of the height of the public areas on the ground floor), with the top two floors being Regency Club rooms. The Club lounge is on the eighth floor and has all the usual facilities and services, including a cocktail hour in the evening and breakfast (although cooked items are charged and can take
time to be delivered).

Club rooms have Molton Brown toiletries in the marble bathrooms, Hildon mineral water and separate check-in, as well as use of a meeting room and a personal concierge. All rooms have 26-inch Philips flatscreen TVs, and UK, US and European plugs at desk height. Suites also have DVD players and iPod-charging iHome stations. There are 12 meeting rooms on the ground and first floors, and on the second floor there is a gym equipped completely with new machines.

The Churchill bar is extremely traditional, with leather armchairs and a cigar menu (smokers must go outside or to the two smoking floors on the third and ninth).

The Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli ( is on the Seymour Street side of the Hyatt, although there is a direct entrance from the hotel. The restaurant is run as a separate concern, but bills can be signed to the room. The hotel’s main restaurant is the Montagu, with a modern Mediterranean menu, which is particularly popular with local workers for its value-for-money set lunch (two courses with a half-bottle of wine for £18.50).


This is a flagship hotel, and has many touches of the five-star Park Hyatt brand. It has the cool simplicity of the new design, as well as bright touches like the stunning flower arrangements in the public areas, the open kitchen in the Montagu restaurant and the smartly dressed, extremely attentive staff under “hotelier of the year” Michael Gray. Excellent.

PRICES Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £305 for a King room (24-hour cancellation).

30 Portman Square; tel +44 (0)20 7486 5800;


Park Plaza County Hall

Despite the name, the new Park Plaza hasn’t joined the Marriott and Premier Inn hotels in the old County Hall building. It is instead in a brand-new building on the roundabout on Addington Street overlooking County Hall, with views of the London Eye to the north, and south to the snaking roof of the old Eurostar train station at Waterloo.

Purpose-built, and open since February, the 14-storey building has an impressive entrance, with stairs on the right leading down to the gym and up to the restaurant, with the bar tucked in behind. The 398 rooms are all designed with longer stays in mind – the building was in fact built as an apartment complex, although now the rooms have been bought as investments by individual owners.

The majority have kitchenettes containing double-door fridges for minibar and self-storage, tea and coffee-making facilities, and some microwaves (there is an ice dispenser on each floor by the lifts). There’s a good-sized workdesk, free wifi throughout the hotel, iron and ironing board, laptop safe, plasma-screen TV with interactive entertainment systems, and both a bath and rainfall shower.

There are 251 Studio rooms. Above the eighth floor these are Executive Studios, with enhanced amenities such as Nespresso machines, bathrobes, and access to the Executive lounge on the first floor, which serves full English breakfasts and all-day snacks, and has an open bar from 5-7pm.

Although described as “studios”, these have a separate living area, black-out curtains for the floor-to-ceiling windows and stylish low beds, as well as plenty of storage space. Modern art brightens the beige carpets and neutral tones, and wifi is available in every room for £7.95 for 24  hours. At the top of the hotel, there are seven penthouse suites with balconies for entertaining.

Local companies include Shell and Ernst and Young, and there is still a huge swathe of development taking place in the area, not least the Park Plaza Westminster, which is being built opposite the County Hall structure in the centre of the roundabout. On completion in 2010, this new property will have an astonishing 1,037 rooms, as well as a large meeting and conference facility with a delegate capacity of over 1,000.

Located beneath the atrium, the Spectrum restaurant is a colourful, double-height space with floor-to-ceiling windows making it bright during the day. It is lit stylishly at night, and has attractive furnishings such as purple Ottoman seating and beige banquettes with splashes of turquoise. Spectrum’s fusion menu offers a selection of tapas and pizzas, made from fresh ingredients and based on traditional recipes from the countries around the Mediterranean. Spectrum bar serves speciality beers from around the continent, delicious cocktails and fine wines.

Leisure facilities include a large gym, sauna, spa and treatment room (run by an outside company). The hotel is a bit short of meeting rooms, with only six small ones available, but all have natural daylight, wifi internet access and the latest audio-visual and technical equipment. There is also dedicated function space for up to 100 people.

VERDICT Park Plaza Hotels and Resorts seems to be taking over London’s South Bank, but with all-new properties such as this one, the four-star deluxe end of the market is well served.

PRICES Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £199 for a Superior room (24-hour cancellation).

1 Addington Street; tel +44 (0)20 7034 4820;

Premier Inn London King's Cross St Pancras

The rebrand of the Premier Travel Inn chain – the UK’s largest hotel brand, with some 500 properties – to Premier Inn is reaching completion. The popularity of the three-star chains in London is demonstrated by just how many of them are in key locations, with another recently refurbished Premier Inn just five minutes’ walk away at Euston.

This 276-room property at King’s Cross, on the eastern side of the train station on York Way, has been open since 2004 and is finishing a renovation, with new beds, flatscreen TVs, carpets, laptop safes and bathroom flooring being introduced. The hotel is built around a central atrium (pictured) with a bank of lifts in the centre. The five floors of rooms are accessed from central landings, and there is good security – a keycard is needed to enter the property after 11pm (reception is open 24 hours) and also to exit each landing, while staff patrol the corridors at night.

On each floor there is a lobby area, which contains a vending machine, and another leading to the room corridor. The bedrooms are quiet, with double-glazed windows which can be opened. Decoration is easy on the eye – minimalist but with modern prints on the wall – and facilities include a TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, crisp white sheets, a white duvet and a dark purple strip over the bottom of the bed.

There are good reading lights at either side of the double bed and a full-length mirror. The bathrooms are equipped with
a good-sized bath and shower, along with a Lux shampoo and shower gel dispenser on the wall (much better for the environment than the small containers you half-use or, worse, take home with you). All rooms have king-sized beds, some of which can be unzipped into two singles, and in family rooms there are truckle beds or bed settees.

This hotel has an integral “Bar Est” all day-restaurant serving an excellent “all you can eat” breakfast for £7.50 (porridge is available to order from a member of staff for no extra charge) or a “grab and go” breakfast for £2.95. Some 55 per cent of guests take advantage of this, and for families, children eat breakfast for free. The daytime menu has main courses for around £7.50. Just off the lobby there are three meeting rooms and a business centre, as well as access to the Waiting Room pub and a Costa Coffee outlet.

VERDICT I was impressed by every aspect of the stay.

PRICES Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £130 for a Double room (cancellation by 1pm on day of arrival).

26-30 York Way, King’s Cross; tel +44 (0)870 990 6414;

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