As the Royal Horseguards Hotel has re-opened after a massive, £16 million renovation, I thought a detailed review of our six-night stay last week may be of value.
The £16 million was well spent and upgrades are evident everywhere you go. Each room, each door, each handrail has been painstakingly replaced, repaired or renovated. The result is a hotel that provides you with modern amenities, virtually new furniture and a location to die for. It certainly is a great value.
But, make no mistake about it. The Royal Horseguards is a business hotel. Located a few blocks from Parliament and key ministries, the primary clientele are persons doing business with the British government or surrounding embassies. Therefore, the hotel staff is appropriately professional, occasionally to the point of indifference, (but more about that later).
We stayed in a 5th floor executive king room overlooking the Thames (unless you are on the top two floors, your view will be partially blocked by trees). The room was quite beautiful and quite spacious - easily fits three (we had a rollaway for our daughter). Wonderful linens on the king size bed and GIGANTIC towels for the tub.
Of special delight are TWO reclining chairs that allowed us to relax our feet after a day of cobble-stoning it. In addition to two desks - one in the spacious entrance way, there are two double closets, free Internet, a French press coffee maker with all the supplies replenished each day, flat screen t.v., iPod plug in and many, many other “extras.” As I said, it really is a value.
The one major drawback of the room is that that although the riverfront rooms have two sets of French doors - none of the doors can be opened and there are no windows! According to our bellman, the terrace of this 125-year-old structure is so unstable that the government authorities forbid guests to walk out. That is perfectly understandable, but if so, why install french doors? Why not widows that let in even a bit of fresh air? Perhaps they will reinforce the terrace in the near future.
There were some other quirks. The delicious bathtub (separate from the shower) has a good sized television set above it. However, as the selection of channels in the hotel is minimal - catering to the business traveler, you will probably end up watching nothing but news or news/talk during your bath. The lights are also a bit quirky - you must refer to the instructional diagram several times before their sequence become familiar. (If you plan on coming in late from a pub crawl, I suggest you leave them on before departing, otherwise, it may be an eventful evening stubbing your toes in the dark).
The buffet breakfast each morning (included in our room rate) was first rate. Plenty of choices including fresh fruit, juices, freshly baked pastries, eggs, sausage, cereal, potatoes and more. On weekends, they serve until 11:00 AM, so you can eat enough to hold you until dinner with just a pint for lunch. We enjoyed a light dinner our first evening which was quite nice and reasonably priced.
There are plenty of sitting areas throughout the ground floor of the hotel - large comfy chairs make it ideal to sit and quietly plan your day or just relax and read. A small gas fireplace in the lobby is surrounded by a couch and chairs.
As has been mentioned in the previous reviews, the highlight of the Royal Horseguards is the location. It truly is perfect for a tourist. A ten-minute walk gets you to Covent Garden, the Strand, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The hotel, is literally around the corner from the Embankment Tube stop where trains takes you anywhere in central London in 15 minutes. Cabs are not plentiful at the hotel entrance, so if you do require one at a specific time, advance notice to the doorman is strongly recommended.
Finally, about the staff. Frankly, the service is uneven and that is my only complaint. Check in was efficient, but not the least bit gracious or welcoming. Breakfast service staff, however, were universally efficient, gracious and welcoming. And the breakfast hostess who managed the large, busy buffet breakfast dining rooms was a true delight - greeting each guest personally and warmly.
Ben, the doorman remembered our names the first day, and could not do enough for us. When Ben was not around, his replacement chatted with colleagues, failing to open the door even though we had packages.
Our bellman upon arrival was delightful and helpful. Our bellman upon departure looked throughly inconvenienced.
The rooms were serviced promptly, but each day, the empty drink glasses from pub downstairs were left in the room. Despite our request, no newspaper was ever delivered to the room.
The head concierge could not be bothered at all. I guess unless you are an MP, or dignitary, he sees no purpose in assisting you. His colleague, however, made a special effort to get my wife and daughter a BBC tour and recommended an outstanding Thai restaurant near our theatre.
There are many other examples, but as you can see, the service was consistently inconsistent. Nothing egregious, but definitely room for improvement.
In summary, by staying at the Royal Horseguards, you are enjoying a brand-new property within an historic building. It's not the Dorchester, but the value is probably as good as you will receive in London at this time. The breakfast will keep you fortified and the bar is intimate and warm. If you can ignore the inconsistency within the hotel staff, you can look forward to a great stay at the Royal Horseguard.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This majestic five-star hotel presides over the River Thames. From glittering chandeliers to contemporary design, this central hotel near the London Eye reflects a proud heritage. Expect more, with free wi-fi throughout the hotel, fully refurbished Victorian splendour, award-winning dining, afternoon tea and sumptuous river view suites. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Royal Horseguards Hotel London
- Royal Horseguards London
- The Royal Horseguards London, England