WHAT’S IT LIKE? The centrally located 15-floor hotel near the banks of the River Thames opened early 2010, and is a very good option for corporates. It is impossible to miss if you are walking over Westminster Bridge as its curved shiny black exterior stands out against the Perpendicular Gothic architecture of the nearby Houses of Parliament and Edwardian Baroque County Hall.
Before you get to the expansive reception zone up a flight of stairs from the ground floor, you will note doorways leading off to various meeting rooms. I was checked in with the minimum of fuss but once I had got the lift up to my floor and walked three minutes down a long, curved corridor, I found my key didn’t work, so had to go all the way back down. After providing some ID I was issued with another one, and rushed back up to get changed before my evening appointment.
Bedrooms are on levels two to 12, L is the first floor, G is for the conference centre and -4 is for the Mandara spa and gym. Although there is a bank of lifts I often found I had to wait a few minutes for one to arrive. The corridors of the hotel are built around a vast triangal central atrium, at the bottom of which is the rather clinical executive lounge with a giant window facing Big Ben.
The dominant colours throughout the property are of black, slate grey, burnt orange and cream, and furnishings are of a high quality. While standard Superior rooms are not huge (at 27 sqm) the hotel itself feels big – in fact it is one of the largest in the city.
WHERE IS IT? Next to the Park Plaza County Hall hotel on Westminster Bridge Road. The nearest tube station is Westminster, which is on the other side of the bridge on the District and Circle line.
ROOM FACILITIES Bedrooms all come fitted with business travel essentials such as free wifi, 37-inch flatscreen TVs, minibars, laptop safes, tea- and coffee-making facilities, separate baths and showers, irons and ironing boards, 24-hour room service, and comfortable beds with fresh cotton sheets and black-out curtains. Standard category Superior rooms are all inward facing so if you want the views you need to book a Studio room or suite. (The ones facing Westminster Bridge Road are best.)
I was staying in a Studio King Premium View room that had bathrobes and slippers, floor-to-ceiling windows, a sink and microwave above the minibar, glasses and cutlery for if you want to prepare you own meal, and a separate living room area with a sofa bed, coffee table and TV. Upgrades to rooms on floors eight to 12 are available. Daily newspapers are available at a charge. The single and double bedroom suites have dining tables, Elemis bathroom products, kitchenettes, Nespresso machines and great views.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS For fans of raw fish there is the upscale Ichi Suchi and Sashimi Bar. It is open for lunch and dinner every day and is a good place to have a quick bite with clients. As an indication of price, a 12-piece sushi roll platter costs £19, and a 135ml carafe of sake costs from £11. There is also the all-day 1WB lounge and patisserie, Espressement Illy coffee bar (open 6.30am-8pm), and Primo bar for cocktails and live music every night.
I ate in Brasserie Joel, on the first floor, which was unveiled in June 2010 and is open daily for lunch and dinner. It features moody lighting, stark black and white furniture and pots of fresh herbs on each table. This was actually the second time I had eaten here and remembered that on the previous occasion I enjoyed a delicious chilled gazpacho soup with tomato sorbet and micro basil (£7.50) to start, so ordered it again to see if it would live up to a second sampling. It did – being inventively put together and full of flavor.
For the main I went for the wild turbot with roast new potatoes and shallot confit (£27.50). This was also very tasty and went well with a side order of green beans (£4.90). The service was attentive and the wine menu, which ranges in price from about £20 to £200 a bottle, offered a good selection of vintages. Visit brasseriejoel.co.uk for the latest set menu offers.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The hotel can rightly be proud of the event space it has on offer, with a 1,400-capacity ballroom and another 31 smaller venues all with free wifi. On the ground floor there are seven Park suites ranging from 25 sqm to 155 sqm, while 11 City rooms (all 29 sqm) are spread across levels two to 12. On the lower ground floor are 13 Plaza suites that can accommodate 38 to 72 delegates theatre-style in each. A business centre is on the ground level.
The executive lounge is open from 6.30am-8pm daily and offers breakfast, lunchtime pastries, afternoon tea and coffee, and alcoholic drinks and canapés in the evening. Wifi and newspapers are free and there is a meeting room available on request. I had breakfast here in the morning and found it to be empty of other guests. There was a self-service buffet with a modest range of cereal, bread, cheese, scrambled egg, bacon, fruit and yoghurt, plus juice and coffee from a machine.
LEISURE FACILTIES There is a 15-metre indoor pool (open 6am-10pm), which was quiet on the weekday evening I visited, as well as a 24-hour fitness centre equipped with cardiovascular and weight-resistance machines and a Power Plate. The adjacent 700 sqm Mandara spa, which opened in February 2011, has nine treatment rooms, two pedicure and three manicure stations. It features light contemporary décor that successfully adds to a feeling of tranquility. I had a 50-minute Balinese massage (£85), which was very relaxing and performed by a calm, professional masseuse.
VERDICT An excellent hotel for business travellers with extensive dining and meeting options, smart, sleek design and welcoming staff. The location on the South Bank near the Houses of Parliament is also good.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 1,021 rooms including 422 Superior rooms (from 27 sqm), 545 Studio rooms (36 sqm) and 54 suites.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The views of Big Ben, free wifi, the stylish boutique-style interior design, and the separate living room area.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in October started from £269 for a Superior room.
CONTACT Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, 200 Westminster Bridge Road; tel +44 (0)844 4156 790; parkplaza.com