Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Amba Charing Cross

3 Feb 2020 by Jenni Reid
Amba Charing Cross

Background

If you’ve been to London, you’ve likely passed this railway hotel. Both adjoining and sitting on top of Charing Cross station, the French Renaissance-style, Grade II-listed building has been here since 1865. Business Traveller last reviewed it in 2011 when it was called the Charing Cross Hotel, and an extension called the Buckingham Wing had opened after a £2.5 million refurbishment. This is connected to the main building by a distinctive elevated walkway over Villiers Street, the small road leading down to Embankment Station and the Thames.

Amba Charing Cross

Less well known is the hotel’s current branding. Amba is part of UK-based group GLH, which operates Thistle, Guoman Hotels, and the new Hard Rock Hotel in London. There are just three Amba properties, all in the capital: Charing Cross, which launched the brand in late 2014; Marble Arch, which joined in 2015; and most recently Victoria, following the renovation and rebranding of the Grosvenor Hotel in 2019.

Where is it?

On the Strand, next to Charing Cross Station. For tourists the location would be hard to beat – Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery are a stone’s throw away, as are numerous theatres, restaurants, pubs and the river.

For transport you’re near the Bakerloo and Northern lines from Charing Cross, the Circle and District lines from Embankment or the Piccadilly line from Leicester Square.

Bear in mind that this is one of the busiest parts of London, so it’s not exactly peaceful outside. That being said, I found the hotel (including my room) sufficiently soundproof.

Amba Charing Cross lobby

What’s it like?

The style throughout is very grand and feels in keeping with the nineteenth century exterior, with portraits on the walls, floral curtains and carpets, high ceilings and chandeliers. It could feel dated, but a multi-million pound refurbishment in 2014 plus more recent refreshes mean it’s in good shape.

A doorman welcomes you in through an initial set of revolving doors. I found staff in reception to be friendly and accommodating, though there was a short wait to check in and out. Reception leads to an impressive, six-storey winding staircase which takes you to the first-floor bar, restaurant and meeting rooms, and then up to the 239 guest rooms. Space is well utilised, with armchairs, tables and free newspapers dotted around corridors.

Amba Charing Cross

Rooms

The 239 rooms are split into Standard (18 sqm, pictured below), Deluxe (20 sqm), Executive (24-28 sqm) and Studio (34 sqm), each of which offer double, twin or king options. There are also 33 sqm Family rooms which sleep four, and 21 sqm Accessible rooms which can be connected with another room.

All rooms have free wifi, Nespresso machines, blackout curtains, rainfall showers and mini fridges. Soft drinks and snacks in the fridges are complimentary. The decor is quite plain; beige carpets and headboard, grey armchairs, wooden desks, white bedding, a couple of blue cushions and some London-themed artwork.

Amba Charing Cross

My top-floor studio felt very roomy and would certainly have been comfortable for a long stay, although I was only there for one night. I could barely hear any noise from outside and there was a nice view over the Strand from the four windows.

Amba Charing Cross

The main room contained a king-size bed with two bedside tables which faced a large Smart TV mounted to the wall. In between was a sofa, armchair, coffee table and chest of drawers. To one side was a large desk with plugs, UBS ports, an ethernet cable port and large mirror (though it was slightly offset from the position of the chair so I didn’t find it too distracting to do some work while facing my own reflection).

Amba Charing Cross

There was ample wardrobe space, plus an iron, hairdryer and safe.

The bathroom was clean, well-lit and modern. There was a separate bath and shower, plenty of towels and a set of the hotel’s own-brand shampoo, conditioner, body wash and moisturiser in mini bottles (I’ve tried these twice now and have found them all good quality).

Amba Charing Cross

Food and drink

One of the hotel’s most distinctive features is the conservatory that juts out above the main entrance. This houses the Terrace restaurant, and is also where breakfast and afternoon teas are served. The restaurant and adjacent Terrace Bar have both recently been given a refresh, with new furniture brought in.

The Terrace restaurant, Amba Charing Cross

The Terrace menu features hearty, crowd-pleasing dishes; pizzas, burgers, club sandwiches, fish and chips, steaks. There was a pleasant atmosphere when I ate there late on a Thursday night, a few solo business travellers quietly eating while looking out at the bustle of central London through the large windows. When I popped in earlier in the day it was busy with groups chatting over afternoon teas.

Scallops at The Terrace restaurant, Amba Charing Cross

I went for double seafood, starting with four tasty, meaty scallops, the saltiness nicely offset by a carrot puree. My main of sea bream was well cooked.

Sea bream at The Terrace restaurant, Amba Charing Cross

I ended with a homemade cheesecake which looked a little odd on the plate thanks to its gelatinous rhubarb topping, but was very nice and not too heavy.

Cheesecake at The Terrace restaurant, Amba Charing Cross

Wines start from £7 a glass or £26 a bottle, and there was also Prosecco or Taittinger Champagne (see the wine list here).

The Terrace Bar next door has a cosy, traditional feel, though it was quite crowded when I had an early evening drink (see the menu here).

Terrace bar

The main restaurant is a pleasant space to eat breakfast in thanks to all the natural light. The buffet was standard British hotel fare, with cooked items (sausage, beans, egg, etc), pastries, fruit, yoghurt and cereals.

On the ground floor is a lounge for those in Executive rooms. There are no windows in here and it is small, but the service is much more attentive and personalised, and it’s quieter and more private.

Amba Charing Cross meeting room

Business

The hotel is big on meetings and events, and there are some very nice spaces that definitely feel a cut above some of the bland rooms you may have found yourself working in. The nine meeting rooms have high ceilings, huge windows, decorative mouldings and chandeliers, while the star of the show is the lovely 200-capacity ballroom, designed by Royal Opera House architect E M Barry.

The hotel has a full-time Events Manager and AV team. A virtual tour of the event spaces can be seen here.

Amba Charing Cross

Leisure

There is a 24-hour gym.

Verdict

This classic railway hotel feels traditional but not dated. The location is excellent for business or leisure.

Fact box

Best for Old-school English grandeur in the centre of London

Don’t miss A drink in the newly-refurbished Terrace Bar

Price A one-night stay in February starts from £180

Contact 0800 330 8397, amba-hotel.com

The Strand, London, WC2N 5HX

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