WHAT'S IT LIKE? Apart from the Hilton at T4, the new low-rise Sofitel London Heathrow is the only property attached to any of the terminals, lying parallel with the entrance to T5. It’s owned by Arora International Hotels and is managed under a franchise agreement with Sofitel (similar to the arrangement at the Gatwick Sofitel). The hotel is split between five atria, which are joined by the central “Avenue” along which the restaurants, bars and reception areas are located. Standout features in the building include five water sculptures and a Zen garden which takes up the entire ground area of one of the atriums. This and the other indoor gardens (there are 32 trees in the building) have been designed to counter the normal “airport-hotel feel”, and it works.
WHERE IS IT? For those arriving at T5 by air, rail or Tube, the hotel is accessed via a lift opposite Marks and Spencer on the Arrivals level, which takes you up to Level One. From here, head down a covered walkway, past a meet-and-greet desk and down a set of escalators to the main reception. Just across from here is the entrance for those arriving by car or taxi. The hotel has 21 reception desks, which should ensure there is never a long wait for check-in.
ROOM FACILITIES The rooms are arranged around the five atria, with Luxury rooms and suites towards one end of the hotel, where premium services such as a separate check-in desk and Club Millésime (an executive lounge for suite guests) are located. I was staying in Luxury room 5308 – the “five” referring to the atrium, and the “three” to the floor level. Rooms are well signposted, and the advantage of only having four floors of rooms is that guests never wait more than a few seconds for one of the many lifts to arrive. (In future, lifts will be keycard-activated as a security measure.)
The room décor runs to browns and beiges, with two-tone cherry and walnut timber furniture, and prints of London landmarks on the walls. All rooms include Sofitel’s signature “My Bed” (queen-size in Classic room categories, king-size in all others), a Hugo Boss armchair and footrest, a workdesk with wired and wifi internet access (£6 per hour or £15 for 24 hours), UK and US sockets, a “media hub” allowing guests to feed iPod and digital-camera content through the flatscreen TVs, a laptop safe, a hairdryer, an empty fridge (this can be pre-filled if requested), plenty of storage space, an iron and ironing board, and tea and coffee-making facilities (with large mugs and a cafetière). The switches on the wall by the door control the air conditioning, room lights, and electronic “Do Not Disturb” and “Please Clean” signs.
Bathrooms have polished granite floors, a separate bath and shower (with rainshower and normal shower heads), a mist-free main mirror, Hermès toiletries, and a bathrobe and slippers. Luxury rooms and above also have touchscreen LCD TVs at one end of the bath. All rooms are at least double-glazed (those looking out towards the airport are triple-glazed), and views are of the internal atriums, T5 and the runway, or the front of the hotel.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel has five restaurants and bars along the Avenue. At one end is Brasserie Roux, a fine-dining restaurant serving French regional dishes. The venue has been cleverly designed with a floating ceiling, allowing the area to feel intimate while still showing off the hotel’s four floors of open space above, and there is also the option of a private-dining room and chef’s table. Next door, the Library Bar has signature cocktails and the highest-backed chairs I have ever seen, while the Tea 5 Salon (get it?) is a tearoom offering over 40 different brews, an afternoon tea menu, and a “tea sommelier”. Further down the Avenue, Bar Sphere and Lounge has an Icelandic “fire and ice” theme, while Vivre offers five “live cooking-theatre kitchens”, including a rotisserie, wok station, pizzeria, grill and a deli, and is also where breakfast is served.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The Sofitel London Heathrow has the third-largest meeting and conference space in the UK, with 45 meeting rooms and a separate entrance and reception area. The largest room, the Arora Suite, can accommodate up to 1,700 delegates theatre-style and can be divided into seven rooms. Other features include a 117-seat tiered theatre, an office for event organisers, and a green room for performers. There is wifi access throughout the hotel (with 100MB of bandwidth), and the business centre is open 24 hours a day (there is also a cluster of PCs with internet access close to the main entrance).
LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel has partnered with Espa to offer five treatment rooms, as well as a relaxation area, sauna, steam room and hydro pool. (There is a charge of £25 for guests to use these facilities, unless they are booking a treatment or are staying in a Prestige Suite or above, when it’s free). There is also a 24-hour keycard-operated gym, which is free for all guests.
VERDICT Sofitel hopes its Heathrow property will become a destination in its own right rather than just an airport hotel, and it has certainly covered all the bases in terms of excellent facilities, both in-room and in the public spaces. The conference venues are extensive, the internal gardens are a great touch, and Brasserie Roux can rival T5’s culinary offerings airside. A significant addition to the Heathrow hotel scene.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 605 including 201 Classic rooms (26 sqm), 188 Superior (28 sqm), 164 Luxury (32 sqm), 25 Sofitel Suites (36-38 sqm), 24 Prestige Suites (54-64 sqm), two Opera Suites (95 sqm), and the Imperial Suite (165 sqm).
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The workdesk media hub will keep even the most geeky of business travellers happy, and the trendy Hugo Boss chair is a nice touch. Bathroom highlights include the large walk-in shower and mist-free mirror, and for those in Luxury rooms and above, a flatscreen TV is a bonus.
PRICES Classic rooms start from £223 on weekdays and £152 on weekends. There is a £35 supplement for Superior rooms and £75 for Luxury rooms, while Prestige Suites start from £700.
CONTACT Sofitel London Heathrow, Terminal 5, London Heathrow airport; tel +44 (0)20 8757 7777; sofitel.com.
By Mark Caswell