First opened in 1865, the Charing Cross is one of about half a dozen iconic London railway hotels, along with the Great Eastern (now the Andaz Liverpool Street), the Great Western Royal (now the Hilton London Paddington), the Great Northern (by Kings Cross and reopening after a revamp in early 2012), the Great Central (now the Landmark), the Midland Grand (reopening as the Marriott St Pancras Renaissance this spring) and the Grosvenor.
It is one of four London properties managed by Guoman Hotels, the others being the Tower hotel, the Royal Horseguards and the Cumberland. The Grosvenor hotel in London’s Victoria station is set to join the Guoman brand when it has completed an £18 million refurbishment programme, to be finished by the 2012 Olympics. (It is currently marketed as a Thistle property, Thistle Hotels being owned by Guoman Hotel Management.)
The Charing Cross takes up the whole of the French Renaissance station building above the concourse level, along with a second building attached to the station via a covered walkway across Villiers Street. The older building still has many of its original features, including a grand staircase, marble pillars, ornate chandeliers and two covered terraces overlooking the Strand. The hotel plans to refurbish its restaurant and bar next. Rooms in the main building have a traditional feel and have had soft upgrades, including the addition of flatscreen TVs. They are triple-glazed to keep out any noise from the trains.
The newer building, known as the Buckingham Wing, has been undergoing a £2.5 million refurbishment (due for completion in April), which has transformed 85 of the hotel’s 239 rooms into smart new Executive ones. When complete, the wing will also have its own reception, although guests will still need to enter via the main hotel entrance.
To access the new bedrooms, guests take the main lift to the first floor then walk across the bridge to another lift serving the Executive Wing. This may be something of a chore if you’re going to be frequently in and out of the property, but the restaurant and bar are both on the first floor of the main building so are only one lift away wherever your room is located.
The new bedrooms are smart, with muted browns and beiges punctuated with splashes of purple from the cushions, curtains and bedspreads, and offer views of the neighbouring streets. Standard facilities include a large desk with UK and US sockets, a coffee table and chair (some larger rooms have a sofa), a 28-inch flatscreen TV, an iron and ironing board, a safe, an empty fridge that can be filled with minibar items on request, free mineral water, a robe and slippers, and tea and coffee-making facilities. Wifi (no wired access) is £10 for 24 hours. Bathrooms are bright and modern, with heated floors and walk-in showers, but no tubs.
Executive guests have access to the Club lounge on the ground floor of the main building (open 24 hours), offering free printing, newspapers, and free soft drinks, tea, coffee and pastries. Executive guests also receive a glass of champagne on arrival, and a fruit smoothie on departure.
The hotel’s Terrace on the Strand restaurant is attached to one of the covered patios looking out over the front of Charing Cross station. It’s worth asking for a table in this area for the people-watching opportunities it gives over the Strand, Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here. Next door, the Strand bar has a Victorian feel, and is open 24 hours a day.
There are nine meeting spaces on the first floor of the hotel, with capacities ranging from 16 to 150 delegates in each. The Betjeman suite is the largest and is particularly impressive, with a seven-metre-high stucco ceiling and a breakout area that can be used as a bar. All conference venues have daylight (some overlook the station concourse) and wifi access. There is a modest gym on the lower basement level.
The new rooms are an excellent addition to the hotel, and the views from the restaurant terrace make a leisurely breakfast a must.
Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £179 for a Deluxe Double room.
The Strand; tel +44 (0)871 376 9012; guoman.com