BACKGROUND Citadines Apart’hotel is one of three extended-stay brands under the Ascott Limited banner, along with high-end Ascott the Residences, and family-orientated Somerset Serviced Residencies. Citadines is a mid-range home-away-from-home offering ideally suited to corporate guests, with fully furnished apartments fitted with kitchens, bathrooms and either separate or combined bedrooms and living areas. Minimum stays are from one night.
Citadines is currently undergoing a multimillion-pound European revamp programme.
In London, its South Kensington and Holborn-Covent Garden properties have now been completed, with Trafalgar Square due by the end of the year. Its Barbican apartments were redesigned in 2007. In France, its properties in Montparnasse and Les Halles are also undergoing renovation, with completion set for the end of 2011, while the Citadines Louvre will be refreshed later in the year, along with a number of smaller properties in Belgium, Grenoble, Lyon and Lille. The Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi’an in China is opening this year, while the Citadines Rasuna Jakarta will be unveiled in 2012.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? The newly revamped Holborn-Covent Garden property, which originally opened in 1997, has more of a hotel feel than many serviced apartments in that it has a dedicated ground-floor lobby and 24-hour reception area, with a buffet breakfast served 7am-10am weekdays and 7.30am-10.30 weekends (the smell of the do-it-yourself waffles is very alluring as you come down in the lift), plus a small gym, a handful of meeting rooms, and a category of Studio Club units that come with added amenities such as iPod docks, robes and slippers and DVD players.
The décor throughout the public areas and apartments is a great improvement on the older Citadines offerings that look positively dated in comparison, with drab eighties furniture, tired upholstery, patterned carpets and a garish orange, sea green and brown colour scheme. The new look is far more contemporary and sophisticated, with apartments ranging from fresh and airy Studios with white and pale green interiors, Studio Clubs with red, grey, beige and black, and one-bedroom apartments with wooden floors and olive green feature walls.
The ground floor also features a lounge with seating for about 50 people, luggage storage, a deli in reception selling with crisps, drinks, chocolate and souvenirs, and a 24-hour laundrette with two washing machines and three dryers. There is underground parking with 20 spaces (£25 a day). In terms of food, there are two Sainsbury’s at either end of the road, a Pizza Express next door, the option of ordering takeaways and a good selection of restaurants and cafés nearby.
WHERE IS IT? In central London on High Holborn, a few minutes’ walk from Covent Garden, Russell Square and High Holborn tube (zone 1, Central and Piccadilly lines) station.
APARTMENT FACILITIES My one-bedroom apartment had a small double bedroom with large double-glazed windows that opened and a mirror at the end of the bed (I would have liked a TV though). Adjacent was a compact bathroom with clean white tiles, a heated towel rail, a combined bath and power shower, and some mini bottles of shampoo and shower gel. The only problem was that the taps for the shower/bath were behind a glass screen at the far end by the sink so leaning in to turn them on was rather awkward as you could not pull the screen back properly.
The living room had a lime-green sofa upholstered in rather scratchy fabric, a flatscreen TV with a DVD player (provided upon request), tall double-glazed windows that opened (but only afforded views of an office building opposite), a one-metre-long table for working or dining, a telephone and a little kitchen area. I decided to put this on the test and despite it being very small – with only two hobs and one small work surface for preparing food, I managed to knock up a very nice Thai green curry, followed by pancakes. However, the table wasn’t really suited to dining at, as it was rather narrow for two people and I had to move it to the centre of the room to do so as opposed to having it against the wall.
Essentials such as bin bags, washing up liquid, sponges, tea, instant coffee and milk are all to hand, but you will need to do a bit of shopping if you want to fill your fridge. Crockery, cutlery, glasses, pots and pans were stored in cupboards, and there was a microwave on a shelf above the fridge. Note, though, that if you are less than 5ft 5in tall, you will struggle to reach the higher cupboards and may well have to resort to standing on a chair to do so.
All apartments benefit from daily light cleaning (except Sundays), air conditioning, and free wired/wifi internet. All are non-smoking. The open-plan Studio Club rooms have American-style breakfast bars of black marble, which can comfortably seat four people on high stools – a set-up I preferred to the one-bedroom apartments for either dining or working. Guests staying in these rooms also get iPod docks, DVD players, robes and slippers as standard.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are five meeting rooms – an unusual bonus for a Citadines property – on the ground floor, two of which have natural light and range from 12 delegates seated boardroom-style to 150 people standing when three rooms are combined. There is also a ground-floor business corner with two Mac computers, newspapers and free wifi throughout the public areas.
LEISURE FACILTIES There is a small 24-hour gym on the ground floor with natural daylight and five Life Fitness machines and some free weights.
VERDICT The revamped Citadines properties are hugely improved and Holborn-Covent Garden provides business travellers not only with a well-located base for longer-term stays but some of the added amenities they are used to having in hotels. For this reason, the Studio Club rooms are an excellent choice, even though they aren’t that big. Staff also go out of their way to make you feel welcome and provide any assistance you might need.
- HOW MANY APARTMENTS? There are 190 apartments including 40 one-bedroom (36 sqm), 18 Studio Club (29 sqm) and 132 Studios (27 sqm) across six floors.
- APARTMENT HIGHLIGHTS The well-designed kitchen complete with mini dishwasher and good-sized fridge, the free wifi, and the stylish contemporary décor.
- PRICE No Minimum stay requirements. Internet rates for a one-night stay in May started from £180 for a Studio, while a seven-night stay was £1,082 (which works out as £154 a night). A Studio Club was from £226 a night, and a One-Bedroom from £303. Note that after 29 days VAT drops from 20 per cent to4 per cent. Breakfast is an additional £11 a day.
- CONTACT Citadines Prestige Holborn-Covent Garden; 94-99 High Holborn; tel + 44 (0)20 7395 8800; citadines.com, the-ascott.com