Islington Meets Rajasthan (Kind Of)
Tommy Miahs Raj Hotel (London)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Tommy Miahs Raj Hotel (London)
Advantages: Good price; met our needs for a short stay; breakfast included; useful location
Disadvantages: Breakfast basic; no windows in economy rooms
I am quite impulsive when it comes to travel. Take my recent trip to London; I snapped up some bargain train tickets to the capital then thought of looking for accommodation. Of course, the prices for hotels were not so attractive as the price I paid for the tickets and I was just becoming resigned to spending more than I really wanted to when I came across Tommy Miah's Raj Hotel.
Last year we passed a hotel billed as an 'Indian themed hotel' in Edinburgh and when we got home I Googled it and read some reviews. As my other half is India/curry obsessed I thought a stay at this establishment might make a good place to stay for a surprise birthday treat but the reviews said otherwise and I forgot all about the place. When I saw Tommy Miah's Raj Hotel advertised when seeking out accommodation in London I did remember the Edinburgh place but didn't think the two were connected and on this occasion I didn't care about the Indian connection, I was merely thinking in terms of price and location. It wasn't until the day of our arrival when I needed to let the hotel receptionist know the time of our expected arrival that I spotted a link at the bottom of the homepage on the hotel's website that there was a link to the sister hotel in Edinburgh: so they are connected.
A look at the homepage from Tommy Miah's hotels reveals that the man himself is a chef who was born in Bangladesh but grew up in Birmingham where he did his chef's training. He founded the Indian Chef of the Year Awards and is apparently a celebrity chef on Indian television.
Tommy Miah's Raj Hotel is situated on Essex Road in Islington, N1; it's approximately halfway between Islington Green and Newington Green (about ten to twelve minutes walk in either direction) and about seven minutes walk from Highbury Corner if you know the territory and cut down Canonbury Street. This is my old stamping ground; I lived in nearby Holloway when I first moved to London and I tend to spend a fair bit of time in the borough of Islington when I visit London so the location of the hotel is ideal for my needs.
The nearest tube stations are the Angel on the Northern Line or Highbury & Islington on the Victoria Line. There are frequent buses passing by and it's about fifteen minutes from King's Cross St Pancras; the 73 bus passes right outside the hotel and this is a really useful service that passes through Islington Green, King's Cross, Euston, Bloomsbury, Oxford Street, Marble Arch, Park Lane and Hyde Park before it reaches its destination, Victoria.
Across the road is Essex Road overland station which provides another public transport option.
There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and shops nearby as well as a number of interesting and diverse attractions such as The Ettorick Collection of Italian Art and Islington's famous Almeida Theatre. Arsenal's Emirates Stadium is a twenty minute walk or a five minute bus ride from nearby Upper Street.
I booked through an third party booking site but I believe you can book directly with the hotel. There are a couple of different grades of room and we chose a budget room for two, though we didn't know until we arrived whether that would be a twin or a double. I did jump in and book without reading many reviews of Tommy Miah's Raj Hotel so I was relieved later when I did bother to check out some reviews that I had inadvertently done the right thing by booking a budget room because these are in the basement and therefore impervious to the noise from the busy Essex Road. Essex Road is a major artery through North London and I know from experience that barely an hour goes by that there isn't a succession of sirens to be heard; however, the price and location persuaded me that I could put up with that for a couple of nights; getting a quieter room by default was an added bonus.
We paid £65 per night for a twin room with private en suite in August 2013. Wi-Fi and breakfast were included in the price. This was approximately £30 cheaper than even a Travelodge and even many hostels in the area, none of which were offering breakfast in the price.
Although the fascia clearly indicates that this is a hotel, the exterior gives the impression that this is just a restaurant - which it also is. However, the restaurant area was in almost total darkness when we arrived just after 9.00 pm on a Friday evening and there were no diners there. In fact the restaurant is nothing more than a place to sit and eat food which the staff send in for from a nearby takeaway (they do the same thing in the Edinburgh restaurant). However, the website states that the hotel has connections with a number of Indian restaurants in London and can arrange reservations (and a discount).
Care has been taken to present Tommy Miah's as a smart establishment, at least as far as the public areas are concerned. Although there isn't much space they've managed to fashion a small reception area to one side of the restaurant in which there are a couple of comfortable chairs and lots of well tended plants. With the exterior painted a rather a la mode charcoal the overall impression is as good as any of the upmarket Islington gastro pubs.
As it was an extremely warm night I wanted to see the room before handing over any payment; I suspected that our room would be windowless but I wanted to check that there was at least a fan. The receptionist was absolutely fine about the request and showed us the room, even allowing us to take a moment in the room and pay later on our way out for the evening (or what was left of it).
A Room with No View
Our room was pretty much as I expected. Having seen photographs online of both the London and Edinburgh hotels I was aware that the establishment could only very tenuously be referred to as a 'Raj' hotel, though you have to admire their chutzpah for trying. A slightly spangly runner at the base of each bed, a contemporary but vaguely ethnic canvas print and a kind of Indian influenced wooden mirror surround were the only decorative nods to the Raj theme and had I not know what to expect I might have felt let down.
Still, I had taken a chance with this hotel knowing that we'd spend very little time in the room and it was at least clean and equipped with what we'd need for a two night stay. The en suite bathroom looked newly refurbished and it was larger and more practical than those pods bathrooms you find in some of the budget chains.
There was a wardrobe should we need to hang any clothes and a decent amount of storage space for our bags and for non-hanging clothes. A hospitality tray was well provided with tea bags, coffee, milk and sugar and I was surprised to find that these were replenished while the room was serviced; given the low cost I was even surprised that the room was serviced since we were only staying two nights.
We skipped breakfast at the hotel on our first morning in favour of a rather more upmarket affair at nearby Ottolenghi but in the aftermath of a day splashing out on some of the best ethnic dining the capital has to offer, we reined in our spending and took breakfast at the hotel on our second morning.
It was a basic breakfast and to describe it as 'continental' as the receptionist did was pushing it a little. Coffee was provided but pots of tea had to be requested. There were two types of juice including what I know was Rubicon mango, even if it had been decanted into a jug, so there was none of the usual watery fruit drink served at many cheaper hotels (and some not so cheap ones too).
I avoided the cereal in case of contamination with nuts and satisfied myself with a yoghurt, a banana and a crumpet pilfered from my partner's plate since I could not be bothered to wait myself at the very slow toaster. One toaster was really not sufficient for a place this size and I heard more than one guest moaning about having to wait. I might have had a croissant but it was a long time since they'd been warmed up, if at all.
Value for Money
I can't really find much to complain about given the price we paid.
Breakfast was basic but since it was included in an already reasonable room price it seems picky to complain; at these prices you can afford to skip breakfast if it doesn't appeal and there are plenty of places nearby if you would rather have a cheap cooked breakfast (though the hotel will rustle one up for an extra charge) or a more refined healthy breakfast muffin and a cappuccino.
The room could have been unbearable as it lacked a window but there was a decent electric fan and a small air conditioning unit and it didn't take long to cool the room before sleeping. The only thing I really didn't like was not having a window and that was only because, on waking, it was not possible to have an idea of what time it might be without sitting up, turning the light on and finding my watch.
Due to the arrangement of the rooms over the floors there wasn't as much noise as I had been dreading and though we did hear our neighbours come back in the early hours, there was minimal noise and the doors seem to close quietly.
If you need to be in this part of London, or don't mind a short bus or tube ride to get into the West End, and are looking for something that is cheap but comfortable Tommy Miah's Raj Hotel is a good option. There are various room options from single to triples and family rooms as well as a small studio apartment situated near the main hotel.
Parking is problematic and as many nearby streets are 'residents' parking only' I would suggest contacting the hotel for advice if planning to travel to London by car.
I know this place won't suit those visitors looking for luxury and I wouldn't personally want to spend much time in a room the size of ours. The more expensive rooms do have windows and are larger but don't seem to offer much more in terms of facilities.
I would (and probably will) stay here again and would recommend it to budget focused travelers who just want somewhere secure and comfortable to sleep and wash.
Summary: Good budget B&B in Islington