Continuing my re-read of the Pratchett oeuvre...Monstrous Regiment and Going Postal add a few more of the pence per page to my commitment to the Alzheimers fund...both already reviewed on here. Seek them out if you've not already read and rated.
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Grand... but not perfect
Location, gorgeous public areas
Service below par when staff are stressed
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On a previous visit to London I'd stayed at the Hyde Park Executive Apartments in Bayswater. I seem to remember that they were a bit of a let-down on 'sell' but actually did a decent enough job for what I wanted.
I only mention it here, because while I was staying there I looked across the road a few times and wondered about the "Grand Royale". Inverness Terrace is an eclectic kind of a street. The sort of place that you think is heading either up-market or down-market and it's hard to tell which. I think that maybe it has already settled for "eclectic". It feels nice and safe despite having what are clearly short-term backpacker types hanging around on the steps of the hostel, and some of the kind of hotels that have no problem with the staff hanging around on their steps out front, smoking, mid-shift. And there are still buildings that might just be in private ownership. And there are still places like the Grand Royale.
Savour that name.
Doesn't it just have something about it.
Unlike the aforementioned Executive Apartments. The Grand tries to live up to its name. It doesn't always succeed, but it does try.
Before I go any further, I should say what should go without saying. This is a very personal review. The things I LOVE about this place are the things that many of you will hate. I know that. I'm tempted to say "and I don't care" – but it isn't that… it's more that "that's cool". I'd hate it if we all loved the same things.
My boyfriend thinks I'm a hippy, despite my being far too young and far too rat-race-employed to be any such thing. He also used the word 'bohemian'. Oh I wish. Genuinely. I wish I could live up to that side of my nature.
But there is another side. The side that loves Art Deco AND Art Nouveau. The side that yearns to take a trip on the Orient Express and dress for dinner every night. The side that wishes she could actually 'do' glamour.
And the side that hates all of the nasty political and prejudicial and class-ridden aspects of our former generations, but loves the art and architecture and style they left behind.
So, some time later (October 2012 to be precise) I booked myself into the Grand Royale.
Where & Why
The address is 1 Inverness Terrace, Bayswater, London W2 3JP – which probably means not a lot to you. More helpful is to say that
it is just a couple of minutes' walk from either Bayswater (Circle & District lines) or Queensway (Central Line) tube stations.
The "why" in London was a combination of work and pleasure. There was no particular reason to be in that particular part of London, other than, well, actually I quite like it. I like the busyness of the streets. I like being on the edge of the park and being able to walk in the early morning and the late afternoon. I like that it's on a couple of underground routes which means it's easy to get to and from the heart of town. In fact, most of the sites are walkable from there on a good day.
The "why" of the Grand Royale was that I'd loved the fairy-tale outside of it, seven stories squashed into what should only accommodate three, all wedding-cake stucco and icing-plasterwork. I loved the balconies and the golden yellow lamplight peeking through the windows.
Check-in was not a good experience.
The staff on duty were obviously busy when I arrived at around 6.30 to 7pm. It was suggested that I might like to wait in the lounge. At first I was happy to wander through into the grand wood-panelled, chandeliered, chesterfield sofa'd drawing room… but it quickly became evident that this was simply a stalling mechanism.
Other guests were attended to.
I got the message and decided that loitering at the desk was the only way to get attention.
When they couldn't ignore me any longer they came clean and admitted that due to 'maintenance issues' they couldn't let me have the 'de luxe' room I'd booked, but they should be able to move me for the second night.
By this stage I didn't really care. I just wanted to get checked in. I would rather they had just explained, and given me a choice of staying in the lower-grade room for the two nights with a suitable discount or moving after one night. I'd have chosen the former.
If I'm honest, I couldn't tell the difference. If anything I had more space in the first room.
I know that 'stuff happens' and sometimes rooms become unavailable. I know that staff can get stressed trying to sort out the resultant logistical nightmare. But, forgive me, that is what they are paid for. The surly attitude of the three people on duty that night was unacceptable.
Of course, being British, I didn't complain. I retreated into sarcasm. In fairness, it seemed to work. They got the message and were far more attentive for the rest of my stay.
The Public Areas
The Grand does try to make a grand first impression. The entrance lobby is all polished mahogany and carved staircases and waistcoated servants, heavy chandeliers and stained glass windows.
It's held that Edward VII commissioned architect Charles Mews (who'd just completed the Ritz) to design the building as a private residence for a certain Miss Lilly Langtry in the 1850s, but the building as we see it today is the result of an early 1900s refurb, though the Langtry connection is alleged to have continued.
Taken from the hotel's website _The famed highlight of Grand Royale London Hyde Park is its mermerising ornate theatre bar. The jewel in the hotel's crown this celebrated theatre bar is housed in the upper ground floor rear room. It originally consisted of two rooms, the front circular and domed (the auditorium), the second (the stage) rectangular with a proscenium arch between them. Settle in to the Edwardian theatre seats for a quick tipple, and soak in the regal ambience under the lovely Venetian glass chandeliers, while you sit surrounded by the soft red velvets._ It's actually hard to disagree.
If you're in town for a special dress-up occasion, this is a place to get you in the mood.
The front lounge is similarly darkly opulent. As waiting rooms go, it's actually kind of irritating, but I ¬_can_ imagine being there with a group of friends, all dressed to kill, sipping cocktails before heading out and coming back to it for warming nightcaps…
I'd love to be able to sell the "de luxe" to you… but if pressed, I think I got a better deal on the downgrade. The difference was space. It was bigger. Fixtures- and fittings-wise there was so little difference, I couldn't spot it.
The real surprise is that the rooms completely lack the character of the public areas. What you get is what might pass for simple, understated elegance. Or might be considered hotel-chain-normale.
Clean simple lines. Cream walls. Chocolate drapes (nothing so common as curtains, obviously!). Crisp white cotton and wine-silk cushions and stretchers.
Dark wooden fixtures, such as they were (space allowed little in the way of furniture) did nothing to downplay the modernity. A touch of style might have been
Pictures of Grand Royale Hyde Park, London
Simple, elegant, or just plain normal
introduced on the hospitality tray – but wasn't.
Perfectly acceptable, perfectly comfortable, but it could have been anywhere.
I can't remember anything at all about the functionality of the TV or the wi-fi, which means they must have been adequate.
After the experience of check-in I wasn't at all happy about having to move rooms, but didn't have the energy to argue the case.
I arrived at reception in the morning, explained the situation to staff who immediately knew me by name, knew what needed to be done, checked that I had left my bags packed and ready to be moved, and how many bags there were.
They took my room key and told me all would be ready upon my return.
That evening, I had only got as far as saying that I'd stayed the previous night and had to move…. And they were on the case. Assured me everything had been moved – it had – and gave me a new key.
AND I finally got an apology for the inconvenience.
Check-out & Departure
Check out was simple and efficient. The bill showed the reduction for the downgrading (a complimentary something or other for the inconvenience wouldn't have gone a miss, but no). A quick swipe of a credit card, a print of bill and all done.
Happily, they were ok to hold my bags for the day. (This was a day off & I didn't want to be trailing work luggage around the Tate!)
I avoided breakfast so unfortunately cannot give any guidance on that score. Beyond breakfast all the hotel offers is light appetizers in the bar. To be fair, this is London, you're unlikely to want to dine in.
Rates vary widely, and as always you can get a better deal if you don't need flexibility. I couldn't guarantee my dates when I booked and paid £280 (incl VAT for two nights, in a double deluxe – reduced slightly for the move) in October 2012.
A similar room for April 2013 is today quoted at £320 – but can be had for £118 on their "best available rate" which doesn't appear to have any specific conditions attached.
My advice – see what the booking sites are offering, but then double check with the hotels own site: http://www.grandroyalelondon.co.uk/
I have to say you're mental if you choose to drive in London, but on the assumption that you might just be so: there's no on-site parking and the nearest public car park is quoted at £48 per day. (I rest my case.)
Yes, if you can get it at the right price – or if you're willing to pay for a little party pretentiousness (and why not?!).
I paid over the odds, and if I'm honest would do so again to stay there on the right occasion. Otherwise, I'd probably only be back if I can get a truly 'best rate'.