If you have business in the City but also fancy a walk along the river, a night at the theatre, maybe a visit to Tate Modern or St Paul's Cathedral - then you are in a good place to do all this with ease. Despite the traffic pounding across Blackfriars Bridge, and the construction of a new landmark railway station that is slated to open at the end of 2011, I had no issues with noise. With Blackfriars Underground station currently closed, you'll have to make a short walk if you want to catch the Tube - but a stroll through these history-rich streets can only be beneficial to mind and body.
The hotel has seven floors with most rooms falling into a Standard or Deluxe category - their sizes are similar with the latter offering extra amenities including complimentary WiFi. On each level five slightly larger rooms look onto the atrium rather than the street. The sixth floor is given over to an executive Club level offering additional benefits such as marble bathrooms, Continental breakfast and a Club Lounge with drinks, snacks and business facilities. All rooms have a bath and the Crowne Plaza brand is keen on ensuring guests sleep well - you can look forward to a comfortable Hypnos bed and a free pack of sleep-improving aromatherapy oils. The hotel is currently upgrading all its guestrooms and this should be completed by spring 2011. I find the new look fresh and inviting, but it is nevertheless clear that the hotel belongs to a major international chain.
With its large lobby and soaring atrium, and a decor that has Oriental touches, the hotel would not be out of place in Hong Kong. There's room for improvement on the art front, and when I stayed the fireplace wasn't lit even though snow was forecast. However, the atmosphere is commendably serene with speedy lifts and plush, grey carpets leading to your room.
Eating and drinking
There is a good range here, starting with two street-level dining venues that offer much more than the average hotel restaurant experience. With direction from the Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli, Refetterio serves robust Italian dishes in a warm, functional setting with lots of booths and dark wood. Next door the Chinese Cricket Club is more relaxed and will appeal to fans of spicy Szechuan cuisine (breakfast is also served here). You can also get meals, both light and substantial, in the airy Lobby Lounge, while NineteenBelow is a long, low-lit bar that's a popular spot for that much-needed drink after work.
The Fitness Gallery on the lower ground floor is an unstaffed, windowless, suitably-equipped gym where there's just no excuse but to get on with that daily workout.
Polite and efficient, the uniformed staff know their job.
Who stays there
Business travellers predominantly, although the hotel's calm environment and central location makes it a good option for a weekend visit.
Rates generally exclude VAT and breakfast (Continental £16, Full English buffet £21.50). The earlier you book the better the price.
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Business travellers
- Mature travellers
- Design and architecture
Pros & Cons
- Calm ambience
- Conveniently placed between City and West End
- Business-focused hotel
- Blackfriars station closed till the end of 2011