Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum

27 Feb 2011 by Tom Otley

The largest Holiday Inn in the world, with 906 rooms over 27 floors, the Kensington Forum has benefited from the recent global rebranding of the chain, as well as new flatscreen TVs and a wifi system installed at the end of last year (not available in all the bedrooms yet). The rebranding means new beds, a choice of soft or firm pillows, new white linens, curved shower rails (so the curtain doesn’t stick to you when you wash) and 1,670 sqm of fresh carpet.

It’s a two-minute walk from Gloucester Road tube station, which is on the Piccadilly, District and Circle lines, making it convenient for reaching Heathrow, central London and Earls Court exhibition centre.

The lobby is a large space with a concierge desk to the left, a long reception to the right, and a colourful picture of cyclists zooming along. At the far end is the Consortia restaurant. If you arrive at a busy time, you will have to wait here to check in – when I visited it was reasonably quiet but there were still queues waiting to be served, and when I tried to get the head concierge’s attention, I failed. (He instead greeted a friend.)

If you are a gold or platinum member of Priority Club, Intercontinental Hotels Group’s loyalty scheme, there is a dedicated desk. For check-out you can simply drop off your card and receive the bill later, although this isn’t ideal if you want to check the charges.

One-third of the hotel is booked each night by flight crews from various airlines, who take floors 17-27 and have a separate check-in on the other side of the hotel. Of the remaining 600 rooms on floors two to 16, levels two, six and 23 are smoking floors. There are two main room categories, Standard and Executive – there is no difference in size between the two, but the 180 Executive rooms have more amenities – 2pm check-out, a 37-inch TV instead of a 32-inch one, free internet (normally £15 per 24 hours for wired access), bottles of water, a Kit-Kat, a welcome note from the manager, and a safe. Guests can upgrade to one for £25, and it’s worth it. 

Views from the upper floors are magnificent, so ask for one of these if possible (while flight crew tend to occupy these floors, they do not do so exclusively). The upper levels are also quieter. If you can, avoid rooms overlooking the busy Cromwell Road.

As well as Consortia, which serves affordable food and drink all day (breakfast £7.95, gourmet burgers £11.95), there is a buffet breakfast restaurant on the mezzanine level. On the ground floor, English pub the Tavern is open every evening and is a great place to relax and get talking with flight crew.

The second floor is dedicated to meeting facilities – the Academy, a Holiday Inn feature across the brand, has 11 rooms with 840 sqm of space. The largest venue can cater for up to 400 delegates for cocktails. There is a small gym with good, new equipment, and jogging maps are available for those wanting to explore nearby Hyde Park.

VERDICT You wouldn’t think it from the outside but this is a great hotel, totally refreshed after the £25 million that has been spent on it, and in a good position – you are only 20 minutes by underground from central London. Very affordable, too.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from £139 for a Standard room.

CONTACT 97 Cromwell Road; tel +44 (0)871 942 9100;

Tom Otley

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