Background Igal Ahouvi and Partners, operated under management agreements by Hilton Worldwide’s Hilton brand, are investing £20 million on refurbishing 16 Hilton properties across the UK by 2011, including the bedrooms, bars, restaurants and public areas. The Hilton London Gatwick Airport South is one of the first hotels to be revamped and the property now has a new restaurant, redesigned lobby and atrium area, and Costa coffee shop.
What’s it like? The new public spaces are impressive. As you walk into the hotel you pass the gym on the right and Costa Coffee on the left before entering the larger atrium area, with Amy’s bar, which has green, beige and blue décor and smart wooden floors. The check-in desks are on the left, and as I approached at around 6.30pm, there was a short queue. A member of staff greeted me and then directed me to a free desk. Check-in was fast and I was informed that I could drop my key through a post box in the lobby if I wished to make a speedy check out. There are live flight information screens from the terminals.
Where is it? The Hilton London Gatwick Airport South is a true airport hotel (some are several miles from the airport), and is connected to the South Terminal. If you enter the airport from the Gatwick Express station, turn down the corridor (behind you), which leads to the short-stay car park, drop down a level and follow the small yellow signs for the hotel. The final approach is up a long corridor with the welcoming sliding doors of the hotel ahead of you.
The hotel is right next to the long-stay car park but if you are visiting for a meeting or a short stay then the hotel has discounts available for a smaller car park round the corner.
How many rooms? There are 821 rooms including the standard 23 sqm Guest rooms and 25 sqm Deluxe rooms. There are also 211 (25 sqm) Executive rooms and four 68 sqm suites that all offer guests access to the Executive lounge.
Room highlights Quiet on the executive floor, good size and all the amenities you need.
Room facilities All rooms have internet access (wired £15 for 24 hours) a workdesk, minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities, an iron/ironing board, a safe and a TV. My Executive room was on the fourth floor – Executive rooms are on two floors and the hotel is considering converting a third floor into an Executive level as it is so popular.
The Executive rooms are in the six-year-old extension of the hotel (the hotel is 29 years old), which is quite a walk from the lobby as the building is shaped like a figure eight so you feel you are walking almost a full circle when you navigate from the lift to the newer section of the hotel. The corridors are lighter and wider, and these higher category rooms also come with thick white bathrobes and slippers.
My room was comfortable and a good size. There were several plugs by the work area and a useful one near the bed. A hairdryer was under the desk in front of a large mirror. The TV was on when I arrived so I set the wake-up call and then went to the lounge for a snack. The alarm went off as promised the next morning but I could not switch it off. Every time I tried to turn the volume down the TV turned it back up. I switched off the TV in exasperation but it only came back on at full volume again.
The lounge The Executive lounge was busy on this Tuesday night (at 7.30pm) but about 20 minutes later it had calmed down a bit. As you walk in, give your surname (I was pleased I did not have to give my room number in earshot of everyone in the room).
The venue is L-shaped and has a large circular fish tank, which you can see from the corridor outside. However, you only really benefit from the calming fish if you manage to get a seat right next to it. There were small tables with upright chairs and more comfortable seating near a large TV, which was on quietly.
I chose some sushi (the fish was good but the rice had dried out a bit), some smoked ham and a drink. There were also crisps and grilled vegetables, cheese and breads, and soft and alcoholic drinks, all served from 6pm-9pm and free of charge. A complimentary continental breakfast is available 6am-10.30am.
There was also free wireless internet, personalised check-in and check-out (from 6am until 11am, and 4pm until 11pm) and dedicated executive hosts.
Restaurants and bars The reception, restaurants and bars were updated last November. Amy’s bar in the centre of the atrium is a nice place to sip cocktails (made, apparently, by the second-best UK hotel mixologist), and the fine-dining restaurant Amy’s is a lovely space with low seating and green tree print wallpaper. It’s open 6pm-11pm and reservations are recommended. The Garden bar one level down is a more relaxed space showing sport on TV, and the Garden restaurant is where breakfast is served 6am-10.30am and dinner 6pm-10.30pm.
Business and meeting facilities There are a few computers in the atrium but the main business centre is on the lower level. Staff are there to help from 7am to 7pm. There are 21 function rooms too including 15 Hilton meeting rooms. Costa Coffee also offers wifi access and is open from 5am. There is wifi internet access in the lobby – purchase a card from reception for different times.
Leisure facilities There is a small Living Well gym which is open 24 hours and accessed with your room key.
Verdict Excellent service and a good location with the big benefit of being actually attached to the airport. The refurbishment has given the hotel a fresh and modern feel, and Amy’s restaurant was especially tempting. The executive lounge was quite busy and it could do with a bit more space, especially if a third executive floor is added, but I had a very comfortable stay.
Price Internet rates for a midweek stay in May started from £95 for a Guest room. Breakfast is £14 extra, or dinner and breakfast for £44.
Contact Hilton London Gatwick Airport South Terminal, Crawley; tel +44 (0)1293 518 080; hilton.co.uk