What a strange hotel brand Crowne Plaza is. Stay at this hotel, opened in December 2003, and you’d be convinced it was a five-star hotel chain, but visits to other properties would quickly revise this down to four-star. Still, this is London, so we expect the best, and it is in a prime position both for the West End and the City, being on the dividing line between the two. Close to Ludgate Circus, there are public transport connections including Blackfriars mainline and underground stations (District and Circle line).
The hotel is a new-build behind a listed Royal Doulton Carraraware façade which faces New Bridge Street. There is an entrance from the road but the main one is around the back on Kingscote Street, which because of the slope of the land is two metres lower, allowing for a double-height lobby.
The nine-storey building (including two basement levels) has 203 rooms on floors one to seven. Most are Standard and Deluxe, with Standard (floor one and two) and Deluxe (three, four and five) being the same size, but with improved amenities in the latter.
Floors six and seven are the Executive Club floors. All are well thought-out with a good-sized desk with UK, US and European plugs and both wired and wifi internet access. (It costs £14.95 for 24 hours, and is available through Quadriga.) There is also a laptop safe, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, tea and coffee-making facilities and minibar.
There are 40 to 50 internal-facing rooms for those for whom quiet is all-important, and ten disabled rooms. Then there are 43 Club rooms, 12 King Studios on the corners of the buildings, and three Suites. The extra amenities in the Club rooms include Molton Brown toiletries (as opposed to The White Company), Playstation Portables, iPod Bose sound-docks, free wifi and movies, and a filter-coffee maker.
Guests staying in these rooms all have access to the Crowne Plaza Club on floor six, which includes a club check-out, business centre services, free breakfast, and canapés and drinks in the evening (non-alcoholic drinks during the day). It’s at the south-east corner of the building and so has good views towards the Thames and the City.
There is a business centre on the lower ground floor with two laptop stations and a small but well-equipped gym, although running along the Embankment with views of the river is also a good option. I was impressed with the security, keycards being required to access the floors.
For food and drink there’s Nineteen Below (previously Bar 606), which was renamed last year, and has leather banquettes and a long, dark wood, concrete-topped bar. It’s a dim place, perhaps better in winter than summer, but has 25 malt whiskies (15 single malts) priced at £6-£25, and a choice of ten champagnes (from £10 per glass), although they might be better off focusing on more mainstream choices.
The evening I was there, the draught Guinness was off and the service was distracted by a function in the private “Glass Room” at the end, although I was impressed that the bar manager offered me a newspaper to pass the time until the bar staff noticed me. You can eat here or in either of the hotel’s two restaurants – Refettorio from Giorgio Locatelli or Spicers for all-day dining.
VERDICT A very high-standard, four-star hotel (four-star deluxe really) and one other Crowne Plazas must look at enviously.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 203 rooms on floors one to seven, with 40 to 50 internal-facing ones for those for whom quiet is all important, and ten disabled rooms. The top two floors are Executive Club levels and have 44 rooms.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS Good-sized workdesk with UK, US and European plugs in the side.
CONTACT 19 New Bridge Street; ichotelsgroup.com.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in September started from £230 for a Standard room.
OTHER CROWNE PLAZAS IN LONDON London St James, London Shoreditch, London Docklands, London Ealing and London Heathrow.