The Harrington Hall hotel is part of the Spanish nh hotel chain. Situated just round the corner from Gloucester Road tube station near Kensington in central London, the hotel takes up much of the whole block.
==== BOOKING ====
I was in London for work as part of a large party, so the booking arrangements were handled by the people organising the trip. I have looked at the website, and booking seems very straightforward on there, with an easy form with drop-down menus with options for the quality of room.
Our group were all given standard rooms, which cost £130 per night, not including breakfast. Since it was a work trip, this was in the ballpark of costs for the type of hotel that MEPs would consider acceptable. I know London is hideously expensive for hotels, so £130 was not that outrageous when compared to chains like Holiday Inn or Novotel.
==== RECEPTION, CHECK IN, CHECK OUT ====
The reception area is understated to the point of being inadequate. On entering through double doors, there is the reception desk on the left, next to week is a secure room for luggage. The staff on the desk were efficient, if not overly friendly, but check-in was completed quickly and without hassle. Check-out was equally efficient, and there were no problems with the bill, or with leaving luggage secure to be collected later.
If you turn right on entering (instead of left for reception), there is a cluster of sofas with a big flat-screen TV on the wall. Quite a number of people watched the England-Croatia match there during our stay, but otherwise it was never very crowded. Beyond this there is the bar, and beyond that the dining room. In this area were piles of newspapers and magazines, free for guests to take. - Telegraph, Evening Standard, Newsweek, Economist.
==== THE ROOM ====
My room was on the sixth floor, and was really rather nice. The first impression was one of space. The room was decorated in an traditional style (Laura Ashley was the comment of a Spanish colleague), with three windows in what I guess is a Mansard Roof. The room had a queen size double bed, bedside table, writing desk with upright chair, and two high backed armchairs either side of a high coffee table. The bed was nice and firm, with sheets and blankets rather than a duvet, and extra cushions and blankets were in the wardrobe.
The wardrobe was in an alcove so long it was almost a corridor. There was plenty of hanging space, and additionally, inside the wardrobe was a trouser press, and iron. The minibar was in this part of the room, ticked away, and there was an additional chest of drawers at the far end of the alcove.
In addition to the minibar, there was a flat screen TV mounted on the wall, with all the main UK Channels plus a few from Sky (Sky News, Sky Sports News, Sky 1), plus an eclectic smattering of foreign language channels (TVE, RAI, TV5, RTP, DSF, ERT, BVN). You could access 3 radio stations through the TV as well. There was a kettle with a few sachets of instant coffee and tea bags.
The bathroom had the shower above the bath, which proved problematic when the plug would not shift, so the bath steadily filled as I showered. Although I reported the problem, and the water was drained, I had the same problem the following day. I guess this may have been due to my not having a clue how to make the plug shift, but it seems more probable that this was due to metal fatigue. There was a reasonable range of free shower gel, shampoo and body lotion, and even a comb and hairbrush in addition to the customary shower cap.
The sound insulation was very good, and the room was not too hot. Overall, it was a very pleasant room. If I were being picky, I had a couple of niggles over and above the problems with the bath. There was no folder with all the hotel information in one place. Instead, there were various leaflets on different surfaces across the room, and these had the information in Spanish first, with English and sometimes other languages after that. I don't have a problem with Spanish being the first language since this is a Spanish chain, but there was no consistency of which and how many languages were used (sorry - this is a bit of a personal hobby horse, living in Flanders in Belgium and working in the European Parliament, where language use is a very sensitive issue!). I would have found it much more useful to have all the information in one place. The other gripe was with the desk and chair. These were very nice, solid, old-fashioned style, but they didn't go together. In fact, to sit at the desk, I had to get two extra cushions to get to a comfortable height and I'm over 6 foot tall. But these are small gripes.
==== FOOD AND OTHER FACILITIES ====
Breakfast was a hefty £17, for which you were served a hot drink at the table, before helping yourself to the breakfast buffet. This had a very good spread - pastries, cereals, cold meats, cheese and hot English breakfast. The sausages were particularly tasty for a homesick exile, although had they had Cumberland sausages as well, that would have been even better. The hash browns were very crispy too.
There is a bar menu, with sandwiches and salads, plus the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, although I personally didn't try it. The lunch buffet for £19.50 got good reviews from those I was travelling with who did try it.
As a business hotel, this was a bit of a mixed bag. The meeting rooms seemed dark and slightly cramped. The business centre is really a small home office with two desktop PCs and a fax machine. The hotel does give guests 15 minutes free internet access from those PCs a day, but WiFi, access which is available throughout the hotel, is costly, the minimum being £6.50 for an hour. The signal, on the other hand is good.
==== OVERALL ASSESSMENT ====
Considering the sheer cost of hotels in London, the nh Harrington Hall is not bad at all. The room was elegant and comfortable, and the small number of gripes did not completely take away the favourable impression. The staff were efficient, if not the most friendly, and though there were clearly foreign nationals, language was not a problem.