I was in London over the weekend and needed somewhere to stay last minute.... I must admit - this hotel was fantastic... From the moment you find it... and walk in, there is an aura about the place which is gives it that 5* plush luxurious feel....
It is easy to find your way around and whilst I chose not to eat at any of the restaurants (as I already had plans to meet friends) there were a few to choose from, and had I been staying longer, I would have done.
The purpose of my trip was to see a friend for their birthday in a bar very closeby and being walking distance was fantastic - Valet Parking is expensive at £35 for the night, but there is plenty of off road parking close by which on a Sat night doesn't cost anything and the area is so quiet that cars are safe.
I must admit that while the foyer and courtyard are lovely, the view from the room is awful - there is nothing to see because there are secured windows and outside of those is a white wall... you literally have a tiny window outside as a view and because you have to look up to see it - there is no view at all... a shame really but I guess they must have their reasons for doing that... luckily i was not staying in the hotel for very long - literally to get ready and go out, so this did not affect me on this trip.
The Renaissance Chancery Court has one of the most important things for a London hotel - a great location. It's only a 10 minute walk to Covent Garden, the British Museum or the River Thames. Also in terms of transport, its in between Chancery Court and Holborn underground stations and masses of buses pass by. (TIP: When you come out of Holborn station look out for an orange stand which gives out great maps of the area and has attendants that will help you if you're lost or need a restaurant).
I got a special deal on the price of the Hotel, so its a bit difficult for me to comment on the value of the rooms. I will, however, say that the hotel is very grand, the lobby is huge and there's marble everywhere. I've stayed here more than once and the room sizes vary quite a bit but even the smaller rooms have a special feel. The service is also great, all of the employees seem very well trained and if there are any problems they are quick to respond.
On the downside, the view from the rooms isn't always great, sometimes you'll be facing a wall and even the view out onto high holborn is a view of a very busy business street. Other than that, its a great hotel which would make a good choice for a special holiday retreat.
This hotel opened a couple of years ago, to great interest. The Pearl Assurance building on High Holborn had been converted to a hotel, and The Times described the result as one of the most exciting hotels in the world. Such a bold claim couldn't help but cause some curiosity and we decided if we fancied staying in a 5 star hotel in London we would try it. I made a booking through the Marriott website paying £158 per night for a weekend Leisure break in a classic room including breakfast. Shortly before our stay we booked a slightly cheaper special rate, which was £150 per night. We noticed that other London Hotels, such as Grosvenor House, The Savoy, The Waldorf and Claridges were offering amazing rates this weekend, so we were a little surprised that the Renaissance's last minute offers were practically non-existent. We had been in contact with the hotel prior to our stay, as we had some Whitbread Leisure Vouchers that we would have liked to use to pay for our room. This caused some confusion, and we got various misinformed replies before we got clarification from Leisure Vouchers themselves that we could use them. We found e-mailing the hotel rather hit and miss. Indeed Marriott do not even publicise the e-mail addresses of their hotels on their website. The hotel is situated a very short walk away from Holborn tube station, and as this is only two stops from Kings Cross on the Piccadilly Line it is probably one of the most convenient 5 star hotels to get to. Approaching it along High Holborn you can hardly miss it, as the huge light building with large clock tower and extravagant ornamental detailing is stunning. You enter the hotel through the central arch into a courtyard, and through the rather understated main entrance on your right. The lobby is large with concierge and bell desks on either side and the reception desks straight ahead. While we were there the lobby was rarely busy and so you certainly made an e
ntrance! We wanted to leave our bags, but were told that because they had been so quiet the night before our room would be ready (was there a hint of desperation in her voice I wonder?). So used to other great hotels offering upgrades without any subterfuge on our part, it didn't occur to us to ask for an upgraded room if they were so quiet. We were checked in quickly, with efficiency, if not great enthusiasm. We then found our room on the 5th floor. The corridors are fairly wide and look very very new - the décor being stylish and understated, without the particular luxurious feel of long standing landmark hotels. The hotel is actually quite strange as it has all the hallmarks of a great landmark hotel ? the opulence, the sweeping staircases, the marble, but somehow it all looks a little too new. Maybe it would have helped if there were more people around too, to give the building a bit of life. Our room was a large square space, with a view overlooking the central courtyard. Outside our room was a corridor built in a modern glass addition to the building with a great view looking towards the Thames and the Millennium Wheel. What a pity these rooms look inwards! Although we were struck initially that the room was a little smaller than we expected, looking at the plan on the back of the door confirmed that in fact there were plenty of rooms smaller. We perhaps were misled by reading that the hotel rooms were generously sized, and did not take into account the relative compactness of European hotel rooms, especially compared to North American ones. The bedroom was very comfortable and stylish, but perhaps had more of a corporate image rather than being necessarily luxurious. The room had the Marriott brand written all over it, and perhaps if the designers had been a little bolder, the overall effect would have been more distinctive. The carpet was a dark green colour with a cream floral pattern, (perhaps a little too old
fashioned) and the bed covered in a rather mismatched rich russet shiny bed cover. The furniture consisting of headboard, bedside drawers, dressing table and TV/minibar unit were in a medium oak colour. The cream walls and ceiling, curtains in a russet striped fabric, rich coloured scatter cushions, modern art on the walls and the chair near the window covered in a claret colour fabric were the slightly more contemporary elements of the room. The combination of extremely conservative carpet, contemporary touches and the overall corporate image did not particularly contribute to a streamlined end result. The small-ish window, with double-glazing inside the original frame looked out over the inner courtyard. The internal view is usually a bit of a disappointment, but here the architecture is so very striking that we didn?t mind too much. In fact I would prefer to have this view than be on either side of the hotel where I am guessing the view is mainly of adjacent buildings. The perfect option would be to have a room on the front, but I am not sure if these are just the upgraded categories. The amenities in the room were as you would expect from a hotel at the top end of the Marriott chain. The room had three telephones (one in the bathroom), iron and board, umbrella, bathrobes, standard hotel hairdryer and minibar (which thankfully wasn?t the silly automatic Marriott kind). The TV was the normal interactive kind, with a cordless keyboard so you could surf the net, but unfortunately here the charge was £17, so was a bit steep to consider. The bathroom was of average size, with black marble vanity tops and light marble tiles accentuated by a black marble line round the room. The bathroom did not particularly impress, like the Rocco Forte bathrooms always do, but it was pleasant and practical. The layout was standard, no double sink, bidet or separate shower. As is often the case, the sound control for listening to the TV in the b
athroom was not working. I have lost count of the number of hotels where this has stopped working, and it always seems to be one of those things that is just left, perhaps because guests (ourselves included) never think it is important enough to complain about! Now for the most annoying thing about the stay ? the lack of hot water. I noticed whilst washing my hair in the shower that the dial had to be turned to high to get anywhere near the temperature required. However it was nowhere near hot enough for an enjoyable bath. I consoled myself that the next night it may be different, but I am sorry to say exactly the same thing happened. I always think one of the pleasures of hotel stays is the long luxurious hot bath, and I was disappointed that I had not been able to enjoy this. To be honest you can?t even make any excuses, as if the hotel can?t provide enough hot water for the quantity of guests that weekend there is not much hope for when the hotel is packed. The main feature of the hotel in the striking staircase that rises seven floors up. The staircase is actually fairly tucked away, and you tend to expect it to be in a prominent position from the lobby. You actually approach it from near the restaurant. It is a magnificent feature of the hotel, and as the hotel was so quiet, we flounced down the stairs each evening totally alone! You could almost imagine you had the whole place to yourself. Actually in the hotel you can get quite disorientated, especially trying to find your way to the restaurant through door after door, up and down staircases. Again if more people had been milling around, I am sure finding your way would be somewhat easier. The first evening we planned to have a cocktail in the Chancery Court Bar, which is at the front of the hotel. We did not realise (as we had not been told) until we got into the room that the bar was closed for refurbishment. As a result we decided to go the QC Restaurant bar, but QC Restau
rant was also closed that Good Friday evening. We had no choice but to go into the lounge where no cocktail menu existed. We were able to order a couple of cocktails however, which were very pleasant if not incredible. We noticed that a few tables had been decked out to form an impromptu dining area, and we commented that we would have been mighty annoyed if we had booked a dinner, bed and breakfast break which should have been served in the extremely attractive and critically acclaimed QC Restaurant. This seems to be an extremely annoying habit of the Marriott group ? the closure of their restaurants on certain days of the week! You very often are left feeling that you have only experienced a watered down version of the hotel due to the facilities that form it being closed. The Lounge, QC Restaurant where we had breakfast, and the Chancery Court Bar (what we could see of it) all are extremely attractive huge spaces, with high ceilings and opulent décor. Breakfast is a buffet affair, both for cooked and continental. The Marriott brand always tends to do this meal well, and the selection of continental items is extensive. We found the service rather disappointing at breakfast, as we had to ask for toast on the first day, and were brought only white when we had asked for a mixture of brown and white. On the second day we again were not asked if we would like toast, and the table service was practically non-existent. While we were at the hotel we wondered if it would have been better to have stayed at the Grosvenor instead. Maybe even if the Grosvenor is getting a little tired and in need of refurbishment, it would have had more atmosphere than the painfully quiet Chancery Court. The hotel is fairly competitively priced compared to other 5 star hotels. However, for less money I could also stay at the Chamberlain near Tower Bridge, where I stayed last year, that although it is only a 4 star hotel, has a lot of little in room touches that t
he Chancery Court does not (plasma screen in the bathroom, separate shower etc). Definitely if I was going to London in the warmer months, I would pay less and go for the best room at the Chamberlain (with a terrace) rather than the basic room at the Chancery Court. The location of the hotel is so convenient, for Kings Cross, restaurants in Covent Garden area (and Bank on Aldwych in particular). It is very simple to get to most places on a direct tube line, and this is a big benefit. I would like to return to sample the proper cocktail bar and QC Restaurant that has had good reviews. Perhaps though next time I would pay a little extra for one of the upgraded rooms, and if the price was right, a room on the private club floor. I also wish that the hotel was not run by a chain, as the corporate touches were perhaps not inkeeping with the style of the hotel. I have noticed that the hotel doesn't seem to be attracting as many guests as you might expect, and I wonder whether if it wasn't afflicted by the Renaissance brand the type of guests who stay at other more traditional 5 star hotels may be tempted to try it. Because you don't necessarily associate Renaissance with the luxury end of the market, the more pretentious guest may be put off. It is a fact that the hotel does seem to lack atmosphere, which is strange considering the huge amount of aesthetic character it has. I am not sure if more guests, giving the hotel some life, were the missing element, or if two years since opening the hotel is still far too new and sparkling to have that unmistakable landmark hotel feeling. Either way I still feel curious enough about the hotel to return to give it a second chance.