Snug as a thug in the jug
2-star * *
To start off on a positive note, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton Hotel is conveniently located in London’s Fitzrovia section very near University College Hospital, University College London, and the Warren Street tube station. From the hotel, it's a reasonably short walk to several points of interest for visitors, such as the modernistic British Library, which houses many historical documents including two of the four existing original Magna Carta manuscripts. It's a slightly longer (20-30 minutes) but still quite easy walk from the hotel to the magnificent British Museum.
Unfortunately, I found the hotel's location to be its best feature, while the cramped, tiny single room in which I stayed for several days was by far the worst. My room at the Grafton seemed to approximate the size of a prison cell in the solitary confinement wing of a maximum-security penitentiary -- which some might term "cozy" or "snug" but to me was decidedly claustrophobic. The narrow bed was jammed against the wall like a prison bunk, and sleep did not come easily. Noise from the street, hallway, and adjacent rooms added to the difficulty of sleeping on the uncomfortable bed.
There is little drawer, shelf, or closet space in the single rooms, so you will have to live mostly out of your suitcase if you can find a place in the room to open it. Presumably the double rooms are somewhat larger than the singles, but I never got a look at them and I can review only my own experience. I suspect that the Grafton’s single rooms were originally constructed for a different purpose (best guesses by members of my group: student housing, servants’ quarters, overnight punishment, or indefinite penal confinement). But that would have been long before the building was remodeled and transformed into its current identity as a vintage hotel.
To be fair, there were a few modern -- and welcome --touches in the in my Lilliputian room -- touch-card electronic entry, a small desk, an easily adjustable room thermostat, an in-room safe, a flat-screen TV offering a good selection of local channels and cable networks, an iPod / iPad direct charger that usually worked, and a variety of electrical outlets including one that accommodated a 110V device and a North American plug. Another switch activated power to a hair dryer, which unfortunately could not be removed from its anchor in the desk drawer. So bring your own mirror if you want to see in real time what the immobile dryer is doing to your hair.
The room had good lighting but some dark corners. I needed my small flashlight / torch in order to see and operate the temperature control and the safe's combination lock. Housekeeping service varied -- it was spotty over the weekend (e.g., used towels and washcloths were removed on Saturday and Sunday but not replaced), but on weekdays service was more thorough and the staff was responsive to requests for early cleaning. An empty complimentary bottle of mineral water was replaced daily on weekdays, but -- like the towels -- not during the weekend. Oversights by part-time staff rather than policy, I hope.
The bathroom was as minuscule as everything else in the cramped quarters, with the sink, shower stall, and toilet all crowded together so tightly that it was difficult to navigate among them. But the bathroom did offer a set of towels, shower cap, facial tissue dispenser, and a heated towel rack. Hot water in the sink came up quickly at some daytime hours but most of the time required running the faucet for a while. There was a gel dispenser at the sink rather than soap. The shower stall offered a good, simple spray, along with separate dispensers for gel (no soap here either), shampoo, and conditioner. The shower floor was slippery, but no matter -- there was not much room to fall in the narrow stall, and it did have a safety bar to grab onto.
The hotel provided ice buckets in the rooms and ice machines near the elevators / lifts, and several conference rooms in the basement along with a small gym. I had a few meals in the hotel restaurant but was not impressed. It offered a limited, unappetizing selection for the breakfast buffet, although helpful servers were on hand to bring toast, tea, or coffee to the table. At lunch, I found a hair in my potato/leek soup on my first day and quickly lost my appetite. A group dinner featured a lamb dish, but the meat was tough and gristly. Service at our group dinner was uneven. Waiters brought rolls to some tables but not to others and were slow and often unresponsive to requests. At one point I had to walk over to the bar to borrow a pitcher of water in order to refill the water glasses at our table.
All in all, the negatives outweighed the positives for the hotel’s common areas -- and that was especially true of the front lobby, which is small with limited seating, not to mention limited civility from the staff. Upon arrival, my check-in was quick but indifferent and not very friendly or welcoming. No bellhop, doorman, or concierge seemed to be on duty at the time (late morning), although I did see some personnel performing those functions from time to time in the lobby. They must have been otherwise occupied when I arrived. I witnessed more than one occasion where front desk personnel were surly or unresponsive to various guests. That happened to me on one occasion when I asked the front desk to change a £10 note into smaller-denomination bills and coins for gratuities. The clerk brushed me off with advice to take it to a bank, although the banks were already closed for the weekend by that time. I changed it at a nearby pharmacy.
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s Radisson Blu brand now includes a number of vintage British hotels that, like the Grafton, are designated "Edwardian" -- presumably a reference to the post-Victorian reign of King Edward VII in the first decade of the 20th century. But marketing an aging property like the Grafton as "Edwardian" does not excuse such 21st century shortcomings as an indifferent and poorly trained staff and inferior accommodations. King Edward’s descendants deserve an apology from Carlson Rezidor for what it offers the public in his royal name.
I've stayed in a number of Radisson Blu properties in various parts of the world, and all of them (until now) were paragons of upscale luxury. The Edwardian Grafton is well-located in London and may have been a profitable addition for the hotel chain. But in the absence of a structural renovation and proper staff training, it is not currently a property that enhances the Radisson Blu brand, however much -- in the short run -- it enhances the hotel group’s bottom line.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Historic building in trendy Fitzrovia, guests enjoy free high-speed WiFi on unlimited devices; stylish singles, doubles, family rooms & suites; & Steak & Lobster, serving mouth-watering steaks, lobster, salads & toasted brioche rolls. 11 meeting rooms host 2-150 people. 10 mins’ walk from Regents Park & London Zoo, & world-famous attractions like Madame Tussauds & Oxford St. Superb transport links from Warren St opposite, Euston station (5 mins’ walk) & Paris/Brussels Eurostar. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Radisson London
- London Radisson
- Radisson Edwardian Grafton Hotel
- Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton Hotel London, England