“ 103-109 Southwark Street / London SE1 / England / Tel: 44-20-74012525 / Hotel Fax: 44-20-74013322. „
When my darling brother informed me he was flying to the States for 3 months on the very day I was due in London, I was in a bit quandary as to where on earth Id stay for the night, a bench on the Embankment appeared to be beckoning when I started to look at the prices of hotels in Central London. Thankfully the handy special offers email I get as a Priority Club Member of the Holiday Inn group showed up in the nick of time.
Holiday Inn Express (HIE) is a great mid range hotel group, all the hotels offer practically the same facilities and you know what your getting for your money, a decent hotel with basic facilities and a free continental breakfast being the order of the day. Having stayed in several up and down the country Im reassured by the fact they dont tend to differ much in design, facilities and price. Its nice to know youll be checking in somewhere that isnt a flea pit. Size of rooms does vary from hotel to hotel Ive found and the HIE Southwark had perhaps one of the smallest bedrooms Id stayed in, but this didnt mean it was a pokey or cramped room.
One thing I have found when booking HIE in this country is the cheapest place to book them is the web site, which is extremely easy to use. After searching for a hotel in London I came across the cheapest option for my dates and that was the HIE Southwark. After looking on the handy map the site had along with other details of the hotel it didnt appear to be too far out of central London nor did it look to be a complete nightmare to find! In fact it looked perhaps a little too easy to find! With the link from my special offers email I booked the hotel for £59 for the night, this did mean I had to pay up front and if anything had stopped me from going then Id not have been able to get a refund. Other non restrictive tariffs were in the £79 a night range. On check in I did notice that the turn up at the desk rate was £180 - Im not too sure how many people really would pay that rate unless they were really desperate! Once my booking was confirmed, I printed out the email they sent for reference just in case anything went wrong when I attempted to check in!
The hotel is about 10 minutes walk from Blackfriars tube and it is also close to Southwark tube on the Jubilee line plus Waterloo. But to be honest any of the tubes on the Embankment could be used as we found it only took about 25 minutes to walk from Charing Cross to the hotel and this was a leisurely stroll taking in all the sights the South bank of the River had to offer. Once you have found Blackfriars Bridge, the hotel is a gentle 5 minute stroll and seen as soon as you turn into Southwark St from Blackfriars Road. The hotel does have limited parking facilities advertised on a first come first served basis at £12 per 24 hours. Nearby attractions include the Tate Modern, the London Eye and it is not that far to walk into the west end of London from the hotel.
Check in is from 2pm, when we arrived at 10pm the desk was manned by two very friendly members of staff who had us checked in in minutes given that the booking was done throw the Priority Club, I was not asked to fill in the customary card with home address details nor was my credit card swiped. I was given a key card and the receptionist informed me that breakfast was served between 7.30am and 11am and that check out was at 11am.
The ground floor of the hotel is open planned, with the reception desk being situated by the bar which opened till 2am, having prevailed myself of enough alcohol during the day I wasnt enticed to sample any more so can not comment on the prices. Soft drinks were available 24/7 from the fridge near the reception desk a can of diet coke being £1. The sitting area for the bar was small and to be honest if more than 8 people were sat down on the rather comfy looking sofas it would have appeared cramped. This area was a smoking area but smoking is banned during breakfast serving times. The dinning area again was small but nicely furnished, I did wonder if all the occupants of the hotels 88 rooms came for breakfast at the same time how theyd cope! The public facilities were of the usual standard youd expect at a HIE, nothing special but definitely not dated or tatty. Within this area were several computers which HIE class as their business suite, having no need to access the net I couldnt say
Having located the room, I encountered the first problem for some reason the key card wouldnt work after several frustrating swipes it did eventually work. By the door is the key pad which you need to put your card in. This activated the lights plus the TV came on with the standard personalised welcome. The TV had the usual terrestrial channels a limited range of satellite channels plus several pay to view chanels.The room was small but not to the point where you had to squeeze passed things in order to move around it. The furnishings were your standard hotel fare, nothing great but definitely not dated or tatty. One thing that was missing and would have been nice if you were staying a few nights was a chest of drawers. But for a one night stay the hanging rail with plenty of hangers was adequate to hang jackets on the other items Id bought with me remained in my bag. Most hotels have a desk in the rooms due to the size of the room this was just a working shelf which could probably have just about taken a lap top . The room also had a working hairdryer plus tea and coffee making facilities. Unfortunately the management seem to think you only need one drink per person as the milk cartons were rationed to two!
With any hotel room what can make or break a stay is the bed, no one wants a poor nights sleep due to a lumpy mattress, thankfully the bed was more than comfy. Plus additional pillows were available in the room in a storage bag. The bed linen was clean and no evidence of it not being fresh was gratefully found! Having once spent the night in a hotel where the linen appeared not been changed this is one of my pet hates! I like nice crisp linen minus stains or other peoples hair!
Bathrooms in hotels can be a bit hit and miss, the room had an adequate bathroom with a power shower and toilet, all were in good working order. Around the wash basin they had 3 mirrors - just what you want when you stumble into the bathroom first thing in the morning half a sleep - a little mirror and subdued lighting would have done me! If your after a bunch of freebies to take home then the HIE isnt the place to go. I had hoped there would be a sample bottle of shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom as in my bid to travel light Id only bought the bare essentials for morning ablutions. There was a body wash dispenser in the shower plus a hand/face wash dispenser. The bathroom also had an adequate supply of towels, the larger ones were definitely of bath sheet size so were easily wrapped around you after a shower! Another of my pet hates is hotels supplying a hand towel the size of a tea towel and a bath towel the size of a hand towel - I like to be able to wrap the towel around me once Ive come out of the shower. I love showers but always end up either scalded or frozen due to the temperature dials. The shower didnt have markings on the temperature dial but within a minute the acquired temperature was found and unlike some so called hotel power showers this shower definitely blasted out the water!
Overall I would say the room facilities were good if you were staying for one or two nights, any longer and due to lack of storage you would probably end up with crumbled clothes!
Having previously stayed at several different HIEs Im used to the usual contential breakfast fare they provide. This was served in the dinning area on the ground floor from 7.30am - 11am during our stay. Stumbling down to breakfast at just after 10am we made our way to the dinning area, having located a table that still had the previous persons used breakfast crockery on the table we then ventured to the breakfast bar which had a choice of 4 cereals, fresh fruit juice, but where was the Grapefruit juice that I always assumed was standard HIE fare! There were a selection of rolls, bread for toasting and croissants plus a limited selection of jams/marmalade and butter packs. In other HIEs the fruit bowel normally contained a range of fresh fruit such as apples, oranges and Bananas - all that was available was here were some rather sad looking oranges. Thankfully the coffee machine was working so I could top up my caffeine levels. The machine did a range of coffees plus hot chocolate for the tea drinkers there was a selection of teas. One thing that would have been nice would have been a supply of cutlery, this was only put out when tables were reset so did mean we had to wait a few minutes for spoons to eat our cereal with. Knives for the rolls were pinched from another table. Overall the breakfast was good, nothing special but a bargain as it is included in the room price.
Having a room that looked out onto the back of the hotel did mean that any noise from traffic etc was kept to a minimum I would suspect that you might suffer from some early morning traffic noise if you had a room that over looked the main road the hotel is on. Noise from other residents was also minimal. Infact the only person probably waking anyone up was me when at 2am I decided to get a can of coke from reception and then attempted to get back into my room to find out it wasnt actually my room but the one next door, thankfully the nice Irish man that came to the door wasnt looking for a fight and laughed and my now rather red face!
Should you want a reasonably priced fairly central hotel then I would recommend the HIE Southwark to you.