Background The Hilton Garden Inn brand has operated in the US for nearly 20 years, and there are more than 400 hotels around the world with 120 in development. The reason you won’t have seen any in Europe until recently is because the brand was run by the US Hilton Group. In 2006, Hilton Hotels Corporation bought the lodging assets of the Hilton Group to become Hilton International. The Hilton Garden Inn Luton North, which opened in July last year, is the only one in the UK but there are more to come. The brand is positioned as a mid-range offering similar to Courtyard by Marriott, and aims to make guests feel at home with a casual and relaxed atmosphere. It is one of only two Hilton brands to offer free internet access, the other being Hampton by Hilton, and all the properties will be new-builds.
What’s it like? The design is contemporary and the lobby features a fire flickering behind glass in a modern hearth, surrounded by pale green sofas and chairs. In keeping with the home-from-home ethos, there’s a 24-hour Pavilion Pantry on the ground floor selling snacks and ready meals. Upstairs there is a small room with a microwave. Next door is a laundry room with a washing machine and dryer, an ironing board and a shoe polishing machine, all of which are free to use. Staff are known as “guest service agents”, meaning anyone can help you.
Where is it? The hotel is in Butterfield Business Park, 5km from Luton airport. Butterfield houses offices for the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Aerospace, among others. A taxi to the airport costs roughly £10 and takes about 15 minutes.
Room facilities All rooms have the same facilities, but the six corner rooms at the front are slightly larger. My corner room had a fridge, tea and coffee-making facilities, free wired and wifi internet access, air conditioning, a large desk with a Herman Miller ergonomic chair, two armchairs and a coffee table. Room service is available from 5am-10pm. The bathroom was large with thick towels, a powerful shower, plenty of toiletries and a hairdryer. Hilton Garden Inn has Garden Sleep System beds, which feature self-adjusting technology allowing the mattress to conform to your body shape, cradling your neck, back, legs and spine. You can adjust the firmness, and it is claimed that six hours’ sleep in one of these beds is the equivalent of eight hours in another. I didn’t have a chance to test the theory as the fire alarm went off at about 4.30am, and everyone had to wait outside for 40 minutes while firefighters checked the building (someone had tried to remove a smoke alarm in their room).
Restaurants and bars The 123-seat Pavilion restaurant is an elongated room behind the lobby, overlooking a terrace. Cooked-to-order breakfast costs £9.95 and is served from 6.30am-10.30am during the week (7am-11am Sat-Sun). I had an excellent evening meal here with a large salad to start followed by beautifully cooked salmon – really top-notch and the staff were attentive. The Pavilion bar is attached to the restaurant. Snacks in the pantry are sold at minibar prices – from cans of Coke (£1.50) and chocolate (£1.80) to chilled ready meals (£7.25).
Business and meeting facilities There are ten meeting rooms catering for up to 100 people for a sit-down dinner. All are decorated differently and have natural daylight. A 24-hour business centre on the ground floor has two PCs, free wired and wireless internet access, and free photocopying, fax and remote printing.
Leisure facilities The gym (open 6am-11pm) is spacious with large windows. The cardiovascular machines have 60-channel individual TV screens and iPod docks. If you’d rather exercise in your room, the hotel has free “stay fit kits” available from the front desk, including a workout mat and exercise DVD.
Verdict Luton airport has an Ibis, an Express by Holiday Inn and a Days Inn on its doorstep, but for something a little different, if a little further away, try this excellent offering.
How many rooms? There are 157, including six corner rooms and ten accessible rooms.
Room highlights Free internet access, the Garden Sleep System bed, and the amount of space.
Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in September started from £96 for a Queen Guest room.
Contact Hilton Garden Inn Luton North, Butterfield, Hitchin Road, Stopsley; tel +44 (0)1582 435 300; hiltongardeninn.hilton.co.uk