Secret Hotels of London
20 places to lay your head while saving a few quid.
When it comes to budget lodging, London frankly disgraces itself next to other European cities like Paris and Rome. Recently, the mayor, Ken Livingstone, hit at London's "shabby" value-for-money hotels and pledged to give the industry an injection of cash. For Americans used to great amenities and a wide range of budget accommodation, digs on the Thames can induce sticker shock. But there are some little gems, tucked away, not advertising, and surviving on a loyal clientele who knows it has discovered a bloody good thing. We've ferreted out 15 examples of them, where for about [British Pound]60 ($86) or less you can obtain a double room with the sort of warmth of service and comfort more usually found for [British Pound]100 or more. And then we've added five "big splurge" suggestions where [British Pound]70 ($100) per double room does the trick. In every price category, remember that we're quoting published (rack) rates, so negotiate, negotiate, negotiate; London hoteliers are often happy to cut prices when business is slow. In the article that follows, hotels are listed in roughly ascending order of cost; the first 15 budget selections are followed by five "big splurge" choices. A phone tip: When dialing from the U.S., preface all of the following numbers with 011-44-20.
New Dawn Hotel 95 Inverness Terrace, Bayswater, tel. 7229-9156, fax 7221-3130, s-h-systems.co.uk/hotels/newdawn.html. Tube: Bayswater. 28 rooms; double with bath £40 ($57). Continental breakfast included. Under refurbishment at press time, the convenient, cheap, and quirky New Dawn, once done up, promises to be a find. The rooms are small and functional, the bathrooms tiny but clean. The common areas are a vibrant and eccentric shade of yellow. There is a warmth here in a way that few budget hotels in the area can match. Mrs. Layla Melegy, the Egyptian owner, is an ebullient presence. She has hung paintings and embroidery by her friends on the walls--no Van Goghs, but an endearing touch--along with lots of vine-like plants. It's popular with younger people (though not backpackers), and the hi-fi in the breakfast room encourages the occasional get-together. Spot the New Dawn by its quirky little garden outside, its fountains and exotic plants holding out alongside a fairly busy road.
Enrico Hotel 77-79 Warwick Way, Victoria, tel. 7834-9538, fax 7233-9995. Tube: Pimlico or Victoria. 26 rooms; double with bath £55 ($78), double with sink £40 ($57). English breakfast included. This bright little button of a hotel is great for folks who want to be in the thick of things, touristically speaking, located as it is within five minutes of Victoria Station and close to Buckingham Palace, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Its Israeli owners offer all sorts of services that go above and beyond what is expected of a budget hotel. Every room is impeccably clean, with direct-dial phones and lots of helpful information (from emergency doctors' numbers to theater booking services) printed on a card on the wall. Rooms are light with big mirrors and pretty bedspreads, and original '50s Formica fittings that actually look pretty funky in 2002. There is 24-hour room service offering soft drinks, snacks, and pizza. Downsides: The only TV is in a somewhat dark lounge, and bathrooms are a bit of a schlep down the stairs and are shared by up to ten people.
Chelsea Lodge Hotel 268 Fulham Road, Chelsea, tel. 7823-3494, fax 7351-2467, londonlodgehotels.com. Tube: Earl's Court or Fulham Broadway. 14 rooms; double with bath £55-£65 ($78-$93). Continental breakfast included. A budget hotel on the Fulham Road--wow! This is the street where Prince William and various spoiled aristocrats like to cavort, and not the sort of place where budget hotels thrive. It's a five-minute walk to Hyde Park, ten minutes to Oxford Street, and there are good and fast bus connections to all the tourist sights. If shopping is your thing, then the fashionable King's Road and Knightsbridge for Harrods and the museums are a short walk away, as is the River Thames. There are kitschy '80s-style pictures on the walls featuring red-lipped women in sexy black clothes (which clash badly with the striped Regency wallpaper), so don't expect King's Road style. The bedrooms are great though--big, light, and modern with airy bathrooms to match, all decked out in white and blue. The hotel has recently been taken over by the popular Fulham Tup pub below, where you eat breakfast, and meals are available until 10 p.m. The staff is young, slightly chaotic, but lively and friendly. Though Earl's Court is just down the road, this is well off the beaten tourist track. A stay here would be a fun insight into real London life.