Hotel check: Doubletree by Hilton West End

BACKGROUND Doubletree by Hilton is one of Hilton Worldwide’s brands marked for worldwide expansion. The Doubletree brand has been in the US for decades, but the first one in England opened in Cambridge in 2007 (see online news). Others followed and this property is the second in London, after the former Kempinski Courthouse on Great Marlborough Street was rebranded in 2008.

The Doubletree by Hilton website shows properties in Aberdeen, Bristol, Cambridge, Chester, Lincoln (opening end of 2011), Milton Keynes and Dunblane as well as the two London properties. Some readers may know this one better as the Bonnington, which only recently was rebranded as a Park Inn (a Rezidor brand). Now, after a huge investment by the owners, it is a Doubletree, and the first in the world to have the new branding on it – Doubletree by Hilton. If you think it’s a mouthful, consider its sister property – Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton London-Regent Street hotel.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The outside is still a beautifully proportioned hotel in the Free Renaissance style – built in 1911 and with The Bonnington Hotel’s name still proudly etched into the stone façade. Inside, the reception is spacious and modern and the main desk looks a little like the bridge of a spaceship. There is a seating area in the centre with a modern sculpture, an open fire flickering away to one side in the bar area (a Doubletree brand standard) and the meeting rooms (15 of these in total) to the left. Some new stairs to the left also take you down to the lower ground level (basement) where The Level restaurant is. One side of reception is reserved for check-in for Hilton Honors members. At check-in you will be given a warm cookie (another Doubletree brand standard). These cookies are baked in a special oven under reception. Although a lot of money has been invested in the hotel, the corridors are narrow, and the rooms, though not tiny, are not large either despite clever design and flat screen TVs. Still, this is central London.

ROOM FACILITIES The 215 rooms, including eight apartments, come in three basic room categories: standard, deluxe and executive. These are situated over six floors at the front of the hotel on Southampton Row and four floors at the rear on Old Gloucester Street (the hotel is made up of two buildings of different height). All rooms are non-smoking (smokers stand to one side of the entrance on Southampton Row). The main building has an elegant – and listed – wooden staircase connecting the floors, but there are also plenty of lifts in different parts of the buildings. The standard rooms are around 22sqm and Deluxe are 24sqm, and have a variety of views with those on Southampton Row probably affected by the noise of the road more than others. (If you want a quiet room, there are around 40 facing inwards into a courtyard – no view, but quiet.) All rooms have a Sweet Dreams bed (brand standard) with two pillows per bed, or five in the case of King-size beds, scatter cushions and a Hilton radio player and alarm clock on the bedside table. All rooms have key cards to operate the lights and air conditioning, laptop-sized safe, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary water, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, Neutrogena amenities in the bathrooms and all have shower over bath. The minibars can be stocked by the hotel, alternatively you can put in your own products – an excellent compromise. All rooms have flat screen Phillips TVs, 32 inches in size in the standard rooms and 37 inches in Deluxe. Wifi is £12 for 24 hours, or there is a deal for £14.95 which includes films on the hotel’s entertainment system. Deluxe and Executive rooms have CD/DVD players.

There are 25 Executive Rooms which have free internet access and also entry to the Executive Lounge on the ground floor, where there are complementary drinks and snacks, and you can bring in one guest. These rooms almost form a hotel within a hotel since they are accessed most easily from a lift at the rear of the hotel. There are also eight Executive suites, seven of which are duplex, at the rear of the hotel and with their own balconies.

RESTAURANT AND BAR The bar – Bar 92 –  is on the ground floor and is modern with an open fire, turquoise lounge chairs and a large flat-screen TV for watching sport or news. The bar also serves Starbucks coffee. The restaurant is in the basement (lower ground) and is called The Level – it is open for the buffet breakfast in the morning and in the evening from 5.30pm. The space has no natural light but is attractively designed, and to encourage guests to eat there and not to stray to neighbouring eateries there are various food promotions. This also has another meeting / private dining room which was set up for a breakfast meeting when I stayed.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES On the ground floor the business centre has two computer terminals with free airline check-in access and the ability to print boarding passes. These printers can also be accessed from your room using the hotel’s internet network allowing you to send documents down to be printed, and then you simply come down, key in a code and they are printed off with the charge being made to the room. I have heard of this in other hotels in the US, but it’s the first time I’ve come across it in the UK and it seems a very good solution for business travellers who need to print off confidential documents. By the entrance to the business centre is a mobile phone charging box where those who have forgotten chargers can place their phone in a safety box and for £1 charge their phones for as long as necessary. Of course if you’ve forgotten your charger, there’s also a chance that when you leave the hotel you might forget your phone as well.

There are a total of 15 conference rooms on both the ground floor and lower ground floor, the largest of which holds 100 theatre style, and a ballroom for 150 dinner dance style.

LEISURE FACILITIES A Doubletree brand standard is the fitness centre with Precor equipment and this one is a fair size with towels, water and headsets for us on the machines.

VERDICT A very good hotel and nice to see The Bonnington finally refurbished to a standard it deserves.

FACT FILE

HOW MANY ROOMS? The 215 rooms are in three main categories – Standard, Deluxe and Executive, and there are eight apartments, seven of which are duplex.

ROOM HIGHLIGHTS Being able to print documents down to the business centre printer and then key in a code to have them charged to your room. Free use of computer terminals for printing out airline boarding passes.

PRICE Internet rates for a mid-week stay in June started from £175 for a standard room.

CONTACT 92 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4BH; doubletree.hilton.co.uk

Tom Otley


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