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I recently visited London for a couple of days (Monday to Wednesday) and rather than sleeping on a friends sofa decided to try out a website I had seen reviewed on Ciao (priceline.co.uk). After trying the site a couple of times to see the variation in price I booked a 4 star hotel in the Kensington area for £41 (plus taxes etc). When the confirmation came through I was informed that the room I had booked was in the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum (for anyone who has never seen this site before I recommend reading some of the reviews on it, it will save you loads of money.). The only downside to the site is that you don’t know what the hotel is until you have booked it so I was relieved to see that it was part of the Holiday Inn chain and felt confident of having a pleasant stay.
** Background **
The Holiday Inn chain of hotels is owned by Six Continents. Other well-known hotel brands owned by the company include Crown Plaza and Holiday Inn Express.
According to the TV message in the hotel room this Holiday Inn is the tallest hotel in UK (27 Floors) and is also the largest Holiday Inn in the world. It is certainly an impressive hotel and has been renovated as recently as last year (2003).
** General Appearance and Location **
The hotel is ideally located close to Gloucester Road Tube Station, which offers easy access to multiple tube lines (Circle, District and Piccadilly). The Piccadilly line offers easy access to central London (Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus) as well as Heathrow airport. The Circle and District lines offer access to stations along the river as well as the main railway stations (Kings Cross, Paddington and Liverpool Street).
The hotel is a very short walk from the tube station and is set just off the main road.
Located near Kensington and Knightsbridge the hotel can be accessed by car with relative ease, as it is a short distance from the end of the M4. The hotel is also outside the congestion charge zone so no need to pay £5 to drive to and from the hotel.
On arriving at the hotel you are greeted by a porter who can offer any assistance needed. When you enter the hotel you arrive in a grand looking reception and lobby area. There is a small shop selling newspapers, a large reception desk and a concierge counter that can be used book theatre tickets. The whole lobby area is large, open, spacious, light and airy. It incorporates a café bar and large seating area.
** Surrounding Area **
In the short distance between the tube station and the hotel there are a variety of shops and café’s ranging from supermarkets, pharmacies and other small shops to restaurants and burger bars. There are a variety of bars and restaurants a little further from the hotel offering great variety without the need to travel too far.
A short walk or a quick tube ride will take you to Hyde Park and Kensington High Street offering you a wide range of shops and parkland.
** The Staff **
When I arrived at the hotel I was surprised by how friendly and efficient the staff were. There were plenty of staff available on the reception desk to check guests in. I was called to the counter straight away and dealt with in a very helpful manner. I had arrived at the hotel early and was aware that I may have to wait for my room. They were happy to check the status of my room and offered me alternatives when it wasn’t ready. I decided to wait for the room I wanted, as I wasn’t in a rush to leave the area. When I returned to the hotel an hour later I was upgraded to an executive room without delay.
Porters were on hand to carry luggage as required and were always helpful with getting taxi’s etc as required and were very efficient.
I spent two days in the hotel and even when coming in late at night was impressed with the number of staff available. The reception desk was always well manned and as far as I could see no need to queue for anything.
The staff in the bars were also very helpful and polite. Overall I was very impressed with the service I received.
** The Room **
The room was on the fifth floor and was fairly large (for a hotel room). It was very clean and well presented and came fully equipped with everything I wanted. It had a TV, mini-bar, iron, ironing board, hair-dryer, sofa and additional pillows. Everything in the room worked as designed including the heated mirror in the bathroom, which is by far the best feature I have seen in a hotel bathroom. No more steamed up mirror when you get out the shower. Fantastic! (Simple things)
The bed was very comfy and there was more than enough bedding and towels provided in the room. There were plenty of lights around the room and a large window. The view from the window was pretty good out over the London skyline but I imagine it would have been a lot better from the higher floors.
The only thing that was missing from the room was a facilities guide, listing the facilities offered by the hotel. This wasn’t a big problem as everything was well labelled and signposted in the hotel but it would have been nice to have. There was supposed to be one in the room but it was missing from the room I was in.
** Eating and Drinking **
There are 3 restaurants in the hotel including a Tavern style pub with a carvery. As mentioned earlier there was also a café bar in the hotel lobby serving food and drinks. I didn’t actually eat in the hotel so can’t comment on the quality of the food although I was in the Tavern when they were still serving the carvery (around 9:30pm) and it smelt fantastic.
** The Facilities **
There is a car park on site with around 76 spaces. The car park is charged on an hourly rate and is open to the public as well as residents. There are slightly discounted rates available for residents with a 24-hour stay for your car costing £25 (or £30 for non-residents). The car park is underground and with the entrance and exit being near the hotel lobby it is well observed. Having looked at other car parks in the area this seems to be in line with other NCP prices.
There is a gym available on the first floor in the hotel and has a good range of equipment available. The gym is open to all residents.
There was a business centre on the ground floor with internet access and dry cleaning laundry services were also available.
** Opinion **
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the general quality both of the hotel and the service provided during my stay here. The recent refurbishment was obvious and in my opinion, money well spent. Everything about the hotel seems clean and well kept. All the little bugs you find with hotel rooms (where things don’t work properly etc) were missing from my stay and in their place there was an impressive display of extras (most notably the heated mirror in the bathroom).
I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again nor to recommend to anyone else looking to stay in the area. I found the location of the hotel near ideal for experiencing the life of London’s city centre while being close to the quieter parts of the city.
If my recommendation of this hotel is not enough then during my stay I also saw that American Airlines cabin crew uses it. That must say something positive about the hotel.
** Other Links **
If you want anymore information on this hotel check out the website: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/hd/LONHI?_franchisee=LONHI&iata=99501931¤tBrandId=HI