“ Address: 130-134 Southampton Row / London / WC1B 5AF / England „
Finding a good hotel in London is not an easy task. You can, of course, easily find a decent hotel if you are a lottery millionaire, but for the rest of us, it can be a real struggle to find anything more than a fleapit for less than a hundred pounds. The budget hotel chains have started to establish a strong London presence but the trouble is that the likes of Travelodge now charge around £80 per night, as standard for what is often a very basic level of accommodation. Fortunately, there are much better deals to be had out there, without spending millions.
The Aquarius Waverley House occupies a prime site, across seven floors in the heart of Central London. Based on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, the hotel is well situated for a host of major attractions, primarily the British Museum, which is just across the road. Oxford Street is not far away and the hotel is approximately five minutes' away from its nearest Tube station at Russell Square. Loads of different buses go past the hotel and it is extremely well connected to all the major mainline railway stations. A taxi ride to the Aquarius Waverley House costs no more than £4.00 from Euston station, for example.
The Waverley House has a fairly innocuous little entrance that opens straight out onto the busy street outside. At peak times, the taxis struggle to find somewhere to stop without having abuse hurled at them, as the road immediately in front of the hotel is a bus stop. A couple of steps lead up to the main front door but do apply caution if you approach from the left or right-hand sides as there is a drop of about 2 feet down to street level. I'm sure this could catch out anyone who has had more than a few beers. The reception area is quite small, with one or two tables and some padded sofas to lounge on whilst you are waiting for your friends. The reception has a warm, friendly feel to it, with a nice air of calm that comes in complete contrast to the bustle of the street outside. As a fairly small and relatively unknown hotel, there are seldom queues to check in, but the receptionists are all smart, efficient and friendly. Tucked in a little corner, behind the reception desk is a little room for the concierge, who will consistently peer around the corner of his little room like an injured puppy dog. There are various notice boards around the reception area displaying the current satellite movies and the weather outside, which are infinitely tacky, but I did chuckle at the choice of words one day for "It pissing it down today." I have always been checked in very promptly, and soon find myself whizzing upstairs in the glass lift to my room.
Despite the relative age of the hotel, the décor inside is of a good standard. The carpets are clean and soft (a rarity for most London hotels) and the place has a very Georgian feel. The corridors are quite cramped, with an awful lot of doors in a very short amount of space, and this is probably the first clue that the rooms aren't going to be enormous. You get given one of those plastic key cards, into which holes are punched to let you into the rooms. These are always very temperamental and I generally find that a sly kick will often speed things along.
It has to be said that the rooms of the Waverley House could never be described as plush. The fixtures and fittings are very dated, and the flowery wallpaper and curtains make you feel like you are visiting Grandma. The rooms are also quite small but I have to say that they are strangely cosy. You get all the basics like a bed, wardrobe, desk and portable television set and all the rooms have their own telephone. The last time I stayed here I had a room on the top floor, which felt as though it was part of a converted attic. The ceiling was very low at the sides, and the en-suite bathroom was positively claustrophobic. The bathrooms themselves are not particularly well-fitted with an abundance of cracked tiles and rusty pipe work. The lighting is often very dingy, as few of the bathrooms actually have windows to let in natural light. You are provided with complementary toiletries, but they are rather cheap, and I would prefer them not to bother. The towels are soft and fluffy, but just a tad too small and I need two to dry off after a bath, which rather defeats the object of saving on the wash bill. My last room had extremely temperamental taps on the bath, which would either both come out cold or both come out boiling hot. This meant that a shower was completely impossible, because I would have either suffered from frostbite or third degree burns. Nonetheless, I was able to run a bath, and given that the bath was quite a good size, I was uncharacteristically chilled about the whole thing.
The televisions are those portable ones that sit on a trolley on the floor. This is all very well providing you are sat on one side of the bed, but if you happen to be on the other side then you can't see a thing. It also means that the remote control doesn't work if you are sat in bed, and you have to lean out the bed and aim before you can change channels. The hotel has three different satellite movies showing each day, for the princely sum of £6.00. You would be better off walking to Leicester Square and going to the cinema. The good thing about the phone is that there is no connection charge for using a modem. This means that I don't pay a sausage for connecting to the Internet; a very favourable comparison to Travel Inn who even charge for calling 0800 numbers. After you have checked in, you do need to get reception to activate your line to make outbound calls though. I once struggled for ages before I worked out that this might be the problem.
As a lone traveller, I either opt to have some grub in my room, or eat out, but a diner adjoins the hotel, and is also open to the public. The diner has a modern, bright feel to it and with hindsight would be perfectly acceptable to sit in alone, as it is quite busy and you wouldn't feel conspicuous. The diner is also used to serve breakfast in the morning, so the whole thing works rather like a Travel Inn. On my last visit, I ordered some food to be brought up to my room and found the room service to be very accommodating. The room service menu comprises basic dishes, such as lasagne, fish and chips and omelettes, and there is a small selection that can be ordered 24 hours a day. My food was rather slow in arrival (some 30 minutes after I phoned down to order it) but the waiter was very apologetic. The food was good, simple enough, but fresh and hot and not ridiculously over priced. I had a pint with some breaded Camembert, followed by fries and a cheese and mushroom omelette, and the whole lot came to approximately £8. This is fairly cheap by London hotel standards. That aside, if you have a luxurious palette then you will probably find the menu here rather dull.
Breakfast in the morning is served buffet style, which means that only a continental breakfast can be brought to your room. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the breakfast buffet, which includes juice, cereal, toast, fruit and meat as well as all the hot breakfast items such as sausages, eggs and beans. The food is hot and fresh and the scrambled eggs are made with real eggs. Result! The waitresses scurry around serving tea and coffee and cleaning tables and there is a constant bustle that you might find quite welcoming after a night alone in my room. The diner itself is bright, clean and modern and has a licensed bar at street level.
It is only fair to review this hotel within its environment. If I were to stay in this hotel elsewhere in the UK I would not expect to pay more than £40 per night, because the quality of accommodation doesn't merit it. In fact, I used to pay £70 per night here, but because it's in London, I think that is probably good value. The normal room rates are higher (about £115 I think) but a good travel agent or discount web site will secure you a discount. The standard of accommodation is roughly the same as a Travel Inn, but you have the benefit of things like room service, a concierge and a good breakfast. It's also worth noting that the £70 room rate included the breakfast. Coupled with the fact that my Internet access wouldn't be free in a Travel Inn, this means that the Aquarius cost me about 34% less than a night at the Travel Inn Capital in Euston would have done. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty good!
The Aquarius Waverley House would not be my first choice in hotel accommodation, as I would prefer to stay somewhere a bit more comfortable. Nonetheless, I would certainly stay here again if I needed to watch the cash.
Within walking distance from the hotel are the British Museum, Covent Garden, Soho, Oxford Street, and Theatre land.