Background Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Holiday Inn brand is the official hotel provider to the London 2012 Games, and is also the first hotel brand to be chosen to run the athletes’ village within an Olympic Park.
IHG officially opened this joint Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites property within the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre next to the Olympic Park earlier this month (see online news June 12).
The only other hotel within what is now Europe’s largest urban shopping centre, is the Premier Inn London Stratford, which opened in September last year at the same time as Westfield itself (see online news September 13, 2011).
Due to the unusual nature of this property, this review covers both hotels. I stayed in a room at the Staybridge Suites property, but ate at the restaurant within the Holiday Inn, and was given a tour of both hotels during my stay.
What are they like? The two hotels form part of a mixed-use building, with retail outlets on the ground floor, staff facilities on the second floor, the reception of the Holiday Inn on the third floor, and that of the Staybridge Suites on the 12th floor.
Guests enter via the same main entrance, where there is a manned desk advising which of two separate lifts to take to the relevant hotel. The public spaces for each hotel are located on their reception floors, with both hotels having terraces looking out towards the Olympic Stadium. The view from the Staybridge Suite terrace is particularly impressive, with a vista taking in the Olympic Park, Canary Wharf, the O2 and Excel.
The Holiday Inn reception area is bright and minimalist, using the brand’s revamped logo and signage, while the Staybridge Suites’ public areas have more of a homely feel, particularly the Hub Kitchen which resembles a large country-style kitchen.
Both hotels offer free, limited-bandwith wired and wifi internet access, a brand standard for Staybridge Suites but highly unusual for a Holiday Inn property. It’s fine to browse email and for general internet surfing, but those looking to stream content or download anything will need to pay to upgrade to the higher bandwidth, which costs £7 for 24 hours, £29 for a week and £60 for 4 weeks at the Staybridge property, and £6 for 4 hours or £10 for 24 hours at the Holiday Inn.
Where are they? The entrance to the property is on the ground floor of the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, on Chestnut Plaza next to the Liberty and Nike stores. There is no designated parking for either hotel, and guests are advised to arrive via public transport.
With the London 2012 Olympic Games taking place next door, it’s not surprising that transport facilities to the centre are excellent. There are two stations serving the area – Stratford Regional station with links to the Central and Jubilee Underground lines, Docklands Light Railway, and Greater Anglia, C2C and London Overground rail lines; and Stratford International, with links to Southeastern rail services, the Docklands Light Railway and the Javelin service between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet during Games time.
Canary Wharf is just four stops away on the Jubilee line, with London City Airport eight stops on the DLR, and Liverpool Street Station just one stop on overground rail services.
- Staybridge Suites
This is the third Staybridge Suites property in the UK, joining hotels in Liverpool and Newcastle. Similar to Marriott’s Residence Inn (the first UK property of which opened in Edinburgh earlier this year), the Staybridge brand is a hybrid between a hotel and a serviced apartment, offering extended-stay facilities including a fully-equipped kitchen, alongside hotel amenities such as breakfast and daily maid service (except at weekends where this is on request).
My ninth-floor studio suite featured a kitchenette running alongside the hallway wall (see below for facilities), past which was the bedroom area with a comfortable king-size bed with a stylish dark leather frame.
Room facilities include an armchair in one corner, a cupboard with hanging space, iron/ironing board and safe, a small desk under the TV and another larger one to the side of the kitchen doubling up as a dining table (the drawer to which contains the cutlery), and where the wired internet socket is located. Bathrooms feature large walk-in showers, and full size tubs of shower gel and shampoo.
The hotel says it is also the first in the UK to offer Apple TV facilities, allowing guests to stream content from Apple devices through the TV, as well as access films through their personal iTunes library.
Kitchen / dining equipment in my studio apartment included a basin, a fridge with a small freezer compartment, a small dishwasher, two hobs, a toaster and kettle, a microwave/grill/convection oven, a knife set, six bowls and two plates, mugs and egg cups, four glasses and tumblers, cutlery, a chopping board, pizza cutter, colander, cheese grater, a Pyrex bowl, several plastic containers, a small kitchen bin, paper towels and oven gloves.
The room felt a step up in terms of style and furniture from the Holiday Inn property, although there were teething issues – the seal on the shower door kept coming off, resulting in the bathroom floor getting soaked.
Nevertheless the room felt comfortable and spacious, and from the ninth floor there were views across to the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf. Artwork in the rooms and public spaces is of East London landmarks.
- Holiday Inn
Facilities in standard rooms include air conditioning, flatscreen TV, workdesk and lamp, safe, iron and ironing board, and wired / wifi internet access.
For an £20 flat rate charge guests can upgrade to one of 18 executive rooms, which are larger, feature a sofa bed, and offer free mineral water, chocolate bars, minibar (chargeable), iron and ironing board, bathrobes and White Company bathroom amenities.
Rooms at the Holiday Inn have been themed by floor, with sporting-related artwork varying from swimming to track and field events, and cycling.
Restaurants and bars
- Staybridge Suites
The hotel does not offer a restaurant or bar, but complimentary hot and cold breakfast is available from the Hub Kitchen on the 12th floor. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 6.30pm and 7.30pm guests can attend the Managers Reception – a signature Staybridge offering allowing guest to mingle / network with others in the adjacent Lobby Lounge, chat to members of staff, while enjoying free wine, beer, soft drinks and snacks.
A 24-hour Pantry is located next to reception, offering groceries, drinks, etc. With several nearby supermarkets including a Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencers and Waitrose I’m not sure how much use this will get, although it’s a convenient options for those arriving late at night.
Guests can also relax in The Den (pictured below), a room at the far end of the 12th floor with armchairs, coffee tables, games, newspapers, magazine and books, and a flatscreen TV.
- Holiday Inn
The Holiday Inn property offers a restaurant and bar on the third floor, with Twenty Twelve serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I visited with a guest the restaurant was packed with several large groups, which did mean dishes took quite a while to arrive. Staff were friendly if a little inexperienced, and the food was okay if uninspiring.
With so many food and beverage choices within Westfield, it’s hard to see why individuals would opt to eat at this restaurant, other than for breakfast where there was a good range of hot and cold buffet choices, although it could be a convenient dinner choice for larger groups.
The adjacent Stadium Bar was also busy when I visited, and was showing matches from Euro 2012. The weather was pretty awful during my visit, but on sunny days the outdoor terrace would be a pleasant place to enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the Olympic Stadium.
Business and meeting facilities
There are no official meeting rooms at the Staybridge Suites property, although The Den can be used for small, informal meetings, and guests can also rent out iPads at £12 for 24 hours, £36 for a week or £80 for four weeks).
The Holiday Inn has seven meeting rooms on the third floor, all with natural daylight. Rooms are named after previous Olympic host cities, and the largest combined space can accommodate up to 60 delegates for dinner. There is also a small business centre with two PCs, and the outdoor terrace can also be hired for events.
Both hotels have gyms on the same floor as their receptions, open 24 hours per day via keycard, and with views out towards the Olympic Park
Verdict These hotels may have opened in time for London 2012, but their legacy will extend well beyond the Games. The excellent transport links, proximity to both Canary Wharf and London City airport, and huge choice of shops at Westfield Stratford City will attract both leisure and business travellers.
The Staybridge Suites offering in particular is well suited to business travellers looking for extended-stay facilities, and the views from the 12th floor balcony over the Olympic Park are a must-see.
- How many rooms? 162, of which 94 are Studio suites, 15 are Deluxe Studio suites, 44 are one-bedroom suites, and nine are accessible suites
- Rooms highlights The large walk-in showers, well-equipped kitchens, and free wifi
- Price Internet rates for a one-night flexible midweek stay in November (post London 2012) started from £324 for a Studio suite, including breakfast. When booking for a one-week stay over the same period the rate reduced to an average of £192 per night.
- Contact staybridge.com
- How many rooms? 188, of which 160 are standard rooms (36 twins and 124 doubles), 18 are executive rooms, and 10 are accessible rooms
- Rooms highlights The free wifi and views of the Olympic Park from selected rooms
- Price Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in November (post London 2012) started from £292 for a standard room.
- Contact holidayinn.com