When you've spent much of your travel-writing life staying at London's rich bounty of hotels, you get pretty clued up on the best places to overnight in the capital
A Scottish-based travel writer, I make over 30 trips a year, so end up having to spend a lot of time passing through London. There are many poor value hotels in the capital that disappoint the unwitting, but if you choose carefully there are some great places to stay and they don’t always have to break the bank.
I recently stayed at the impressively revamped Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill. Rumoured to be a favourite of a certain powerful North Queensferry MP, or rather PM, this understated luxury bolthole enjoys a privileged location just north of Oxford Street on stately Portman Square. Guestrooms are equally refined, and the dedicated lounge on the eighth floor is worth the extra cost, with its all-day complimentary drinks and views. The on-site restaurant, the Montagu, is well worth staying in for, with Loch Fyne oysters and fine Scottish steaks completing the Scottish connection.
Another excellently located hotel that has also recently had a major facelift is the InterContinental London Park Lane. The rooms here are lovely, with one suite even having its own private cinema, complete with sumptuous leather chairs and a dedicated butler on hand with the popcorn and ice cream. The spa here is stunning, too, with a range of great treatments. My therapist was from Dundee and it may just have been the best massage I’ve ever had in London, with a great mix of relaxation and Dundonian chat. Internet specials start from £180 for a double, making this five-star great value.
One of a new breed of London hotels that have accompanied the new London is the Baglioni Hotel, which brings a touch of Italian style and class. This Kensington bolthole boasts 66 rooms and 50 suites, with 1,500 free music tracks in all rooms, plasma flat screen TVs and personalised butler service. Décor is a lot cosier and warmer than many of its contemporaries, with no danger of clinical minimalism here. A neat touch is the free broadband internet connection for anyone wanting to bounce back to reality for a few minutes.
Another stylish Kensington haunt is The Bentley Hilton Hotel - London. Amidst the white stone facades and grand 19th-century buildings of Harrington Gardens is a 64-bedroom hotel that looks very old world, but beneath the classical veneer lurks a chic oasis. Marble abounds, with thick carpets caressing you as you drift around public areas dressed with antiques and sculptures.
If you are looking for something more modern, then head for the stunning Soho Hotel, which has deservedly won a string of awards. Right in the heart of town, this boutique hotel has 85 rooms and suites. The lobby is dominated by a 12ft-high bronze cat and also on the ground floor are two drawing rooms with comfy sofas, where guests can relax and indulge in the honesty bar.
An impressive Scottish-owned hotel is the Apex City of London. This contemporary 130-room accommodation enjoys a great location near the banks of the River Thames, within a stone’s throw of the Tower of London. The rooms are ultra-modern, with DVDs, flat screen TVs and power showers, and the décor coolly minimalist. The Apex is great value, too, with room rates much lower than the London norm. There is also a bar and restaurant on site for those keen to enjoy spending time at the hotel as well as sightseeing.
Brown's, the famous Mayfair hotel that has stood proudly on its site since 1837, is owned by the same people behind Edinburgh’s Balmoral. It has recently undergone a major facelift that has returned it to its former glory, with a splash of modernity thrown in for good measure. The 117 bedrooms are spread across 11 Georgian houses in the chicest part of London, making this a romantic venue for a real splurge.
In these economically troubled times, one cost-effective way of staying in London not many people consider is getting a serviced apartment. I tried out a couple of nights in a fun single bed duplex apartment at Cramer House in Marylebone through the Apartment Service. They have a range of properties all over the capital and you can have your own pad, complete with kitchen and living room, for as much as you could pay for a crummy three-star in other parts of town.