One of the best in London: it’s only about 100 yards from the plaque that marks the official centre of London, set right on the edge of Trafalgar Square. The world-class National Gallery is across the square and you can take your morning stroll in central London’s prettiest park, St James’s. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are about five minutes’ walk away, and Covent Garden and the bars and restaurants of Soho not much further.
The corner rooms overlooking Trafalgar Square are the real draw - unless you work at one of the embassies, there probably isn’t anywhere better from which to watch the parade of life down there. All the rooms are decently sized and well furnished with sparse walnut furniture and deep colours. However, they don’t give you much sense of the history of the building. I like the elegant bathtub, with central tap to encourage sharing, but £15 a day for internet use seems a bit mean. Thick walls meant I didn’t hear a squeak from the DJs in the ground-floor bar when I stayed.
As part of the ‘boutique’ branding, Hilton replaced the formal reception counter with a casual desk of check-in computers in one corner of the ground-floor Rockwell bar. It’s a pretty civilised space during the day, serious-minded in its dark colour scheme, but with witty touches like the old fashioned phone box. There can be a proper racket here at night, though, if the bar is in full swing.
Eating and drinking
The ground-floor Rockwell cocktail bar gets brash and loud at weekends with DJs playing, but is civilised at other times of the day and week. Downstairs, breakfast is always a thoroughly soothing affair, sometimes accompanied by live bossa nova guitar or harp music. If you missed out on a room with a view, peer down from the rooftop bar, which is open in summer and around Christmas.
The hotel gym is equipped with machines from Technogym, official providers of training equipment for the London 2012 Olympics. But if the weather's good, joggers might enjoy zooming round lovely St James's Park - or charting a route from St James's through Green Park and even into Hyde Park.
The ‘open’ reception caused me and some fellow guests a few delays and a bit of confusion, but otherwise solid.
Who stays there
The younger side of the business crowd, with more leisure travellers at weekends.
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Business travellers
- Culture vultures
Pros & Cons
- Great views from the corner rooms
- Superb location
- Most rooms lack good views
- Confusing 'open' reception