Come out of Aldgate East station and turn left, and a one-minute walk around the corner on Commercial Street you’ll find the smart new foyer of the Ibis. Opened in June 2005, this 348-room hotel is definitely at the budget end, with prices starting at £69, but it doesn’t feel cheap and is excellent value. Arriving at 5pm on a weekday there was a five-minute wait in a queue at check-in, but this was primarily because one of the helpful reception staff was giving detailed directions to Heathrow to a non-English speaking guest.
Once I was in the lift I thought it was a nice touch to have a diagram on the wall of the lift showing the busiest times for check-in and check-out, allowing guests to time it to avoid queues. The hotel has ten floors with all rooms of a standard size, both outward and inward-facing and, although they all have good soundproofing, there is construction work occurring next door – so for those wanting a lie-in perhaps an inward-facing one is to be recommended.
There is wired internet access available at £4.99 per hour but better value is £9.99 for 24 hours, which also includes movies through the Quadriga entertainment package (there are 12 free television channels). You can also plug a MP3 player in to listen to music through the speakers in the TV.
The bathrooms are made from preconstructed pods, with a step up into them. It reduces construction costs, no doubt, but can mean that the room ends up smelling of the bathroom, or whatever was used for cleaning it. The shower cubicles are large and there is a Lux shower gel dispenser on the wall.
The bed, which was nice and firm, had good reading lights by it. A workdesk had a kettle with tea and coffee nearby and the room was a decent size, with a picture on the wall and a full-length mirror, as well as a spacious wardrobe.
Downstairs there is a bar and the French restaurant, L’Estaminet (open 6.30-10am for breakfast, 12-2pm for lunch and 6-11pm for dinner), which was unexpectedly good with its bright red gingham tablecloths, a simple menu of classics (French onion soup, steak and frites etc), as well as daily specials (the set three-course meal costs £15.50).
The staff were friendly, and there was sport playing on television screens for solitary diners. Breakfast here is £5.50, which is cheap, but it suffers by comparison with the Premier Inn. (If you are an early riser, the continental breakfast is available from 4.30-6.30am for £2.75.)
As you’d expect from a hotel in London, the staff were of all nationalities, although they included plenty of French natives, which is unsurprising given that the parent company, Accor, is French.
VERDICT A great location for this budget City hotel, and there is a very can-do attitude among the staff. Highly recommended.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 348 rooms on ten floors. All are identical standard doubles, although 19 are wheelchair-accessible.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS Good-sized workdesk with UK, US and European plugs. Ability to plug MP3 player into TV for playing music, and a good price for 24-hour internet access and entertainment package (£9.95).
CONTACT 5 Commercial Street; tel +44 (0)207 422 8400; ibishotel.com.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in October started from £109 for a Standard room.
OTHER IBIS HOTELS IN LONDON Earls Court, Excel, Heathrow airport and Euston St Pancras.