I get so many questions when I'm writing about all these amazing places to eat out in London, where to stay in the city on a visit. Until the end of this Spring I was living in East London, so hotels were not really my thing. However, now I'm commuting and some days I want to go out in the evenings without having to worry about trains, occasionally I'm going to treat myself to a hotel stay. So, this is going to kick of my new 'Places To Stay In London' column, where I'll be showcasing some of the places I'll be overnighting to give those of you wanting a city break in London something of an idea of where to stay, from small boutique, to luxury and concept hotels. As this blog is a travel and food blog, I hope to showcase a few world hotels on my travels, too!
Last month when I had two days of back to back meetings and an evening event I quite wanted to go to in Hoxton, after a quick bit of Twitter research on fun places to stay in the city I checked into the citizenM hotel on Bankside. A Scandinavian concept, they also have hotels in Amsterdam, Glasgow, New York, Paris and Rotterdam, so I figured if I liked the hotel in London, it might be a great stopping point for some of the future travel plans I've been brewing! (I need to get to know Paris a little better.)
The hotel has a great lobby, which I would also recommend to Londoners as it is nice and open. I held one of my meetings there, and it is a great space where you can go and work (the Wifi is free!) either at desks or long computer tables, grab a drink from the bar or sit down and relax with your newspaper. I might be using it as a meeting space in the future, too. They also have meeting rooms you can book out.
Check in is really easy, using touch screen computers. I was a bit intimidated at first in case I messed up, but there are friendly staff on hand. Check out is also done at the computers, it is seamless and takes seconds.
The wall to wall, extra large king size bed (which comes as standard) was super, super comfy. One of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. As far as amenities, there is a mini fridge with bottled water, and a copy of Time Out on the desk. However, the best bit about the room is it's galaxy tablet (after I'd got over the confusion of how different it was to use and hold aside from my iPad!) As well as browsing the internet, it acts as a controller for everything in the room. The curtain and blinds on the window? The television channels, free movie screening (they have great current and classic titles)? However, my favourite was that it controlled the temperature and the mood lighting. The mood lighting was such fun to play with, and also included a colour wheel to choose whatever colour you wanted aside from the prefixes, and a movie mode that automatically closes the blinds, blacks out the room and puts you on the movies menu. Just one word on the temperature part of the controls, though. It was very, very hot in London the night I stayed, and the controls won't let you go cooler than 17 degrees; because of this I woke up in the night too hot.
I was really, really impressed with the shower. The regular shower head was nice and powerful, and the temperature could be controlled really easily. It also had a rain head, which felt amazing, just like being in a very, very heavy rain shower; I'd never been in one before! They also provide by way of toiletries (aside from more than enough lovely, soft fluffy white towels) two big pump bottles within the shower of their house shampoo/ shower gel, in two scents designed for morning and night. I was really impressed with the quality and scent of both, and fell a little in love with AM. Don't bother to pack shower gel.
Check out is at 11am, so it gave me a good amount of time to wake up in my own time (my first meeting was not until a bit later), check my emails in bed, watch Sky News while I was getting dressed, and head down to breakfast with time to spare to get back to my room to sort myself out before check out. And of course, to wander the halls for a bit (they're all super cool in black and red with little quotes about unusual world customs on the walls) to take photos!
Breakfast is a serve yourself affair from an array of pastries, granolas, cereals and hot cooked breakfast items. All you can eat is £15.50 if you buy it on the day, but only £12.50 if you book it at the same time as your room or on check in. Honestly, while I did grab a nice fresh juice from the chiller cabinet, the breakfast is not really very good at all, and I'd be unhappy paying half of the £12.50 for what was available. It is the only thing I'd tell you to avoid at the hotel, especially as the hotel's location gives you so many better options for breakfast that you could walk to on Southbank, at Borough Market, or even from places for a much lower price at M&S Food opposite the hotel, or Pret A Manger just down the street.
Rooms for the night start at £109, and if you sign up to their 'citizens only' programme (which is free to join) you can get 15% off of your stay at their best rate every time you check into one of their hotels. While I did not use mine last month (I was off to an evening hosted by a wine company!) as a member you also get a voucher for a free welcome drink on arrival. For a weekday night in July my room plus breakfast came to £190, so I think compared to many of the other options in the city, it is a really, really good value place to stay if you like modern, no frills traveling and want a comfortable base from which to explore the city. However, they don't have car parking, so it is more of a base for people who use public transport.
Have you got any recommendations for some awesome and unique hotels in the city I might want to review in the future? I hope to be able to stay at The Ampersand Hotel at some point, and at 40 Winks in Stepney Green; I used to walk past it en-route to Sainsbury's from my old flat in Mile End! Also, as this is my very first hotel review, I'd love some feedback as to if I've included the sort of things you'd want to know about a hotel, or if there are any questions you have about my stay that I have not answered here and I should be looking to answer in the future!