WHAT’S IT LIKE? Nothing you’ve ever seen before, at least not in this country – entering the UK’s first pod hotel is like stepping from the familiar hustle of Gatwick airport into a new and altogether stranger world, where cutting-edge technology and lilac mood-lighting reign supreme. Here, so the theory goes, the weary traveller can find everything he or she needs to sleep, wash and relax in one of a succession of tiny windowless cabins, which can be booked for as little as four hours. The pod concept has been imported from Japan by Simon Woodroffe, the man behind Yo Sushi, and the new brand, if successful, seems likely to be rolled out across Europe. A second Yotel is already due to open at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 at the end of this month, and plans for an airside property at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport were announced this summer (see online news, August 6).
WHERE IS IT? In the South Terminal, underneath the arrivals hall and next to the Continental and US Airways lounges. From the station, turn right at the top of the escalator and take the lift to the lower level.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 42, including eight Premium (10 sqm) and 32 Standard (7 sqm). There are also two Accessible rooms, with bunk beds and a large wet-room – these are kept back until the last minute, when they are available at Standard prices.
ROOM FACILITIES As the sizes suggest, there’s a big difference between the room classes. All have the same basic amenities, but Standard cabins are very small, with a single bed and TV in a bunk arrangement, and a tiny wet room. Premium cabins are much less claustrophobic, with double beds which retract to make comfy sofas, and a decent-sized bathroom. The décor throughout is great, rather like a hip Sixties designer’s vision of the future – not a sharp corner in sight, and everything suffused in a lilac glow – but with clean white surfaces, white linen, big fluffy duvet and piles of pillows. This is a minimal-service hotel, so as many facilities as possible are automated, from check-in to ordering room service. However, the tiny Galley at the entrance is manned round the clock by young and friendly staff, who will show you to your cabin and explain the concept to Yotel newcomers. Not that much needs explaining – the technology in the rooms is remarkably intuitive. I stayed in a Premium cabin (pictured), and had no problem finding and working the bedside switches which extend and retract the bed, activate four lighting combinations, and allow you to dock your iPod. Everything else is controlled via the 23-inch flatscreen TV, using either an ordinary remote or a mini-keyboard, and the system is equally easy to use. The entertainment on offer is slightly disappointing: there were only six film choices, most of the 54 TV channels were unexciting freeview options, and the signal cut out (briefly) several times in an hour and a half. On the other hand, three Sky Sports channels were a pleasant surprise, and the 5,000 music tracks have something for almost every taste. The bed was comfortable both as a sofa and when extended, and the black-out blinds are effective. If you’re sensitive to noises, however, the lack of sound-proofing could be a problem – you can hear every word spoken in the corridor, as well as other cabin doors opening and shutting. Wet rooms are equipped with large white towels and soap dispensers by the basin and shower, and hairdryers are provided. Premium cabins also have plenty of storage space for luggage, as well as a full-length mirror and three coat hangers.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS A selection of food is available to order through the TV, including hot meals, snacks and breakfast boxes. My handmade steak pie with rocket salad (£7) came in a cardboard box and was tiny but tasty. The drinks list includes wine, beer and energy drinks, as well as a good selection of coffees and teas (served in a full-sized takeaway cup).
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES All cabins include a chair and fold-out workdesk with power sockets. Wifi access is free throughout the hotel.
LEISURE FACILITIES None.
VERDICT A thoroughly original concept, ingeniously executed. You wouldn’t want to stay there every night (there’s a reason why they call it “cabin fever”), but it’s perfect for a quick recharge on your way through the airport. Book now for the Heathrow one, it’s likely to be a sell-out…
PRICE Premium rooms are £40 for the first four hours and £7 per hour thereafter (capped at £82 for an overnight stay); Standard rooms are £25 for four hours and then £5 per hour (capped at £55).
CONTACT Tel +44 (0)20 7100 1100; yotel.com.