Newest Review: ... a lot of floor space. The view was amazing, we checked in around 10pm and got a lovely view of the lights of London from the 12th floor. ... more
Hilton Metropole Does The Business
Hilton Metropole Hotel (London)
Member Name: Hishyeness
Hilton Metropole Hotel (London)
Advantages: Attentive and friendly service. Good value for money
Disadvantages: Size makes it a bit impersonal. Less than salubrious location. Lacking atmosphere.
The company I work for organises an annual Christmas Party which serves as the focal point of a two or three day off-site motivational event. Being a contingent of around 500 strong in our region, our little soiree was held at the Hilton London Metropole, a massive hotel located in the "cosmopolitan" surroundings of London's Edgware Road. I was booked in for a three night stretch, during which I had ample opportunity to explore everything the hotel (and local area) had to offer.
The hotel, which towers over the junction between the Westway (an extension of the A40) and Edgware Road is ideally situated for London's West End, with excellent transport links. Both Edgware Road tube stations (one for the Bakerloo Line, and the other serving the Circle, District & Hammersmith & City Lines) are only a couple of minutes walk away, and several bus routes lead down Edgware Road towards Marble Arch and the top end of Oxford Street. The property is just outside London's Congestion Zone, and has a secure underground car park with space for 170 cars - but space is on a first come first served basis and is charged at an eye-watering £35 per day (£25 at weekends). In addition, the Heathrow Express at Paddington, which gets you to the airport in around 20 minutes) is only a five minute taxi or tube ride away.
WIDE OPEN SPACES
The hotel has a number of entrances, but the main one is located on the corner of Edgware Road and Praed Street. To be frank, it's rather ordinary, hidden behind some massive pillars and characterised by a low, slightly claustrophobic ceiling, however, it all changes once you get past the massive revolving doors into the lobby. The Metropole is an award-winning conference centre, and one of the largest in Europe - and it shows. The inside is cavernous - several reception desks are arrayed against the left wall, with a spacious seating area, the concierge desks and a bar off to the right. The lobby is ringed by a first floor gallery, giving it a high ceiling and a pleasing sense of openness and space.
The overall impression is one of contemporary, understated refinement, with the beiges, browns, and blacks so beloved of the corporate world the predominant colour scheme. On the ground level, there is an additional sports bar, an in-house Costa Coffee concession, the Fiamma Restaurant (where breakfast is served) and a small selection of hotel shops (more on these later). The hotel is so large (over 1000 rooms) it has three wings - East, West & Tower - served by two banks of four lifts. To say that it suffers from a lack of intimacy is something of an understatement - wherever you go, people and crowds are not far away, stripping the place of any real ambience, atmosphere or indeed, personality. The hustle and bustle and the comings and goings make the ground floor feel more like an airport terminal than a hotel lobby.
Despite the crowds, check-in was quick, friendly and efficient, and the receptionist answered all of my queries with patience and professionalism. For the record, our corporate room rate was £155 per night, which included breakfast. Normal rates - on Hilton's web site (http://www.hilton.co.uk/londonmet) - are around £165 per night and up, but better deals can be had on other sites. My room was in the Tower Wing, on the tenth floor, so with electronic key card in hand, I made my way to the lifts to check out my digs for the next three nights.
A ROOM WITH NO VIEW
I was lucky enough to get a room very close to the lifts. It took several tries for my key card to work (a recurring theme during my stay), but once in the room, I was mildly disappointed. Given the size of the hotel, it was surprisingly cramped, and the cynic in me wondered whether they had shoehorned as many rooms into the building as they could - maximising revenue at the expense of comfort. The room had two twin beds, bedside tables, an LCD TV perched on a mini-bar, a desk with tea-making facilities laid out on a tray and quite limited wardrobe and hanging space - some of which was given over to an bulky in-room safe and storage for an ironing board and iron.
I had to squeeze between one of the beds and the mini-bar to get to the desk, which had adequate lighting, the hard connection for broadband, but little space to work in comfort once a laptop is set up. On opening the curtain, I found the window was fogged up with condensation, and it pretty much stayed that way the whole time. Wiping some of it off didn't improve the view out over a roof, and as I was going to be spending most of my time elsewhere, I didn't much mind.
The bathroom was fairly well appointed with a bath and a broad rain head shower, but with the type of nasty thin white shower curtain that billows in and sticks to you when you turn the shower on. Lighting in the bathroom is decent, but there was no shaving or make-up mirror, and the distance of the mirror from the sink didn't compensate. At least the water pressure was excellent, the fluffy white towels felt and smelled brilliant, and there was a generous selection of Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. That said, Hilton had skimped on the toilet paper, which seemed to be the kind of value product you'd buy at Aldi and then wishes you hadn't the first time you used it.
There are only a handful of decent channels on the TV, but a broad spectrum of different languages are catered for. Broadband is available in the room at £15 per day, and the connection proved easy to set-up and provided me with stable and quick connectivity for the duration of my stay. Unfortunately, there is no WiFi in the hotel rooms, but it is available in the public areas of the hotel, and if you pay for the daily connection, you can use it anywhere you like. As I was there for a business conference, I was surprised to find that mobile phone coverage was horrendous on all networks, even in my 10th floor tower room.
SLOPING OFF TO SLEEP
At most corporate events - with late night bar sessions and brutal 8am starts - sleep is not much of a consideration, but with two young children at home and a third on the way, I was quite keen to catch up on my sleep deficit. Unfortunately, even with two to choose from, I couldn't get comfortable in Hilton's beds. The first night, having taken the one against the bathroom wall, which corresponded to "my side" of the bed at home, I found it had a pronounced slope - so much so, I used an extra pillow to stop myself from rolling inadvertently onto the floor in the middle of the night. I used the other bed the following night, but ending up bashing my elbow painfully into the desk and knocking some stuff off the tea tray. I had no issues the third (and last) night, but that probably had more to do with the number of Mojito's and JD & Cokes I'd availed myself of at the free bar during the Christmas party.
FOOD & DRINK
Breakfast was served in the ground floor Fiamma Restaurant, and is buffet style, offering a huge selection of continental, American and English foodstuffs. There is manned egg, waffle and pancake station which cooks to order. Service is brisk and attentive. The acid test, for me, is how well the staff can poach eggs, and I was very pleased with the results each of the three mornings. The dining room is cleverly partitioned off into smaller sections, so despite its size, it didn't suffer from the cafeteria feel that often plagues similar establishments.
On our free evening, we had dinner at the Fiamma, which for a set price, offered a buffet with some interesting and varied choices for starters and mains (such as cold meats, smoked fish, quiche, antipasti and pasta, followed by lamb navarine, beef stir fry, and sea bass) and a cabinet full of chocolate, coffee and fruit mousse-type deserts. An a la carte menu is also available, details of which are on the web site. It was a satisfying, if rather unremarkable meal.
We inevitably ended up the in the contemporary Sports Bar next door, which, true to type had a large number of strategically placed TV screens showing the start of the cricket, but we were very surprised when we were turfed out just before midnight. Bar. It's the only part of the hotel that shows Sky Sports, so we were a bit miffed not to see more of the Ashes. Bar prices were reasonable by London standards, with a wide variety of cocktails, beers and wines available. The hotel also has a 24th floor Asian fusion restaurant called Minako at the Met, which offers panoramic views over the West End of London, looking out toward the City. I went up for a look at the fine view (I certainly wasn't getting one from my room!), and to snap a few photos, but didn't have the chance to eat there.
Being a Costa Coffee regular, I was initially chuffed to have the concession in the lobby, but delight soon turned to despair when I realised they had the front to charge over £4 for a medium-sized latte. You could just about understand the price gouging if they had a captive market, but just outside the front entrance, directly across the street from the hotel is, you guessed it - a Costa Coffee branch - where the same latte would cost you half as much.
To compensate for over consumption of food and alcohol, I resolved to go for a swim every day, and found that, despite the size of the hotel, there was rarely anyone who shared my enthusiasm. At 12.5 metres (half Olympic size) the pool was more than adequate, heated, and clean, as were the changing facilities, steam room and sauna. You'll need a pound coin deposit for the lockers, and towels are provided when you sign in. The fitness facilities, which are open from 6am to 10pm, include a small, but well appointed gym, are free to guests. The only disconcerting thing was that the glass lifts which serve the East Wing of the building overlook the pool as they go up, meaning I had an audience every so often as I did my laps.
Sometime in the wee hours on my departure day, an envelope was slipped under my door with my bill. As I had no additional charges, I used the express check-out, dropping my key and a copy of the bill into a box next to reception. My overall impressions of the hotel were favourable, but I would find it hard to recommend to anyone visiting as a tourist. There are other hotels in London that are better located, more intimate, atmospheric and have something more about them than the Hilton at this price point. Just down the road, on Praed Street, the Hilton Paddington would be a much better choice. However, as a conference centre catering for a large number of corporate guests, it more than comes into its own - and some niggles with the room aside - service, facilities and attention to detail are well above the average if my own experience is anything to go by. As such, I'd give it a qualified four stars for business folk, but a stingy three and a half stars for more casual guests.
Hilton London Metropole
225 Edgware Road
London W2 1JU
Phone: +44 20 7616 6448
© Hishyeness 2011
Summary: Great for conferences and business folk, but a bit too large and impersonal for casual tourists.