FIRST IMPRESSIONS The largest Holiday Inn in the world with 906 rooms over 27 floors, this Holiday Inn has benefitted from both the recent global rebranding of Holiday Inn, as well as specific expenditure on new flat screen TVs and a wifi system being installed at the end of 2010. The new branding means new beds, a choice of soft or firm pillows, new white linens and new shower rails (curved, so the shower curtain doesn’t stick to you as you shower) and 18,000 square feet of new carpet.
WHERE IS IT? A two-minute walk from Gloucester Road tube station (turn right and make your way around the corner – the hotel is the second high rise behind the station), on both the Piccadilly Line (to Heathrow and Central London) and the district and circle line. Convenient also for Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
ARRIVAL The lobby is a large space with a concierge desk to the left and a long reception to the right, with a colourful picture of cyclists flying along and the Holiday Inn sponsorship of London’s 2012 Olympics advertised. At the far end there is the hotel’s cafe - the Consortia restaurant. If you arrive at a busy time, you will have to wait here – when I visited it was reasonably quiet but still there were queues waiting to be served, and when I tried to get the head concierge’s attention, I failed. (He instead greeted a friend). If you are a gold or platinum member of Priority Club, InterContinental Hotel Group’s loyalty programme, then there is a dedicated queue here. For check-out you can simply drop off your card and receive the bill later, although this isn’t popular if you want to check the charges.
ROOMS One third of the hotel is booked each night by flight crews from various airlines, and they have floors 17-27 and a separate check-in on the other side of the hotel. Of the remaining 600 rooms (floors 2-16) floors 2, 6 and 23 are smoking floors. There are two main categories of rooms – standard and executive (although both come in twins or doubles). There is no size difference between the two, but the 123 executive rooms have increased amenities, late check-out (2pm), and when the new flat screen TVs are introduced, you will get a 37-inch TV instead of a 32-inch one. You also get complimentary wifi internet access (normally £15 for 24 hours), bottles of water, a chunky kit kat and a welcome note from the general manager. Executive rooms also have safes. You can upgrade to an executive room for £25. The views from the upper floors are magnificent, and so ask for one of these if possible (although flight crew occupy these floors, it is not exclusively so). The upper floors are quieter, and if possible, try and avoid rooms overlooking the busy Cromwell Road.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS As well as the Consortia Restaurant on the ground floor which serves affordable food and drink all day (breakfast £7.95, gourmet burgers for lunch £11.95) there is the main breakfast restaurant on the mezzanine floor with a breakfast buffet, and on the ground floor an English pub – The Tavern, which is open in the evenings during weekdays.
MEETING SPACES The second floor is dedicated to the meeting facilities – the Academy – a Holiday Inn feature - which has 11 rooms and a total of 9,000 square feet. It can cater for up to 350 for cocktails.
LEISURE FACILITIES There is a small gym with good, new equipment, and also jogging maps are available for those wanting to explore nearby Hyde Park.
VERDICT You wouldn’t think it from the outside, but this is a great hotel, totally refreshed after the significant amount of money that has been spent on it, and in a great position. You are only 20 minutes by underground from Central London. Very affordable as well.
- HOW MANY ROOMS 906 rooms, with 123 of these being Executive Rooms with free wifi, late check out and larger TVs, amongst other benefits.
- ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The Executive rooms are worth the upgrade – there’s a good breakfast buffet on the second floor, and The Tavern is a great place to relax in the evening and get talking with flight crew.
- PRICE Internet rates for a mid-week stay in February started from £100 for a standard room.
- CONTACT London Kensington Forum - 97 Cromwell Road, London, SW7 4DN, ENGLAND; +44 (0)871 942 9100; hikensingtonforumhotel.co.uk