“ 18 Albert Embankment / London / SE1 7TJ / Tel: +44 (0) 20 7958 8000. „
The Riverbank Park Plaza is a mid-price four-star hotel located on London's Embankment, about 10 minutes walk (with heavy suitcase) from Vauxhall and 20 minutes from Waterloo. It is a comfortable hotel with plenty of lifts, which are definitely needed if you find yourself on the seventh floor.
This is not a cheap part of the world to be staying in, and the prices here reflect that. However, if you book ages in advance, then you may be lucky like we were and find a special deal. We went here in July 2009 and the rooms cost about £80 per night. To get this deal, we booked several months in advance and found a special offer which was valid if we booked two consecutive nights. According to their website, the current discounted price is about £110 per night. The hotel itself had many facilities; sadly we did not have time to appreciate the gym.
The room itself was accessible and spaciously laid out with two extremely comfortable queen sized beds, a wardrobe, a desk, cable television and a fridge containing mini-bar and television. In our group, of the three rooms, two of the three fridges opened automatically, but the third remained locked even after we had called down to reception several times: they require a credit card to open, but sometimes the system is faulty, so even if you have left a credit card with them, it doesn't always work. Allergy sufferers beware - you have to phone through especially for non-feather pillows - be prepared for a very long wait for them to arrive.
The en suite bathrooms were spacious and excellently provided with both a shower and a bath; however, they had a light that could not be put out!
Our room looked out onto an alleyway and if we leaned out and craned our neck, we could see a bit of the river. If you are prepared to pay for an upgrade (as one of our party did), you can get a room with the much prettier river view and see the nearby Houses of Parliament. The view really wasn't at all bad for the price though.
Also available for a (very!) increased price were a cream tea and a birthday cake waiting in the room. Sadly, by the time we had checked in, this had been in the room for several hours and the tea was cold and stewed, but the food was nonetheless most welcome after a long journey. Expect to pay several tens of pounds for this.
The food and drinks at the bar and restaurant associated with the hotel were extremely expensive and breakfast is not included as part of the discounted price (and, sadly, not advertised on their website for me to confirm the current prices, but it was well over my usual £5 for a cup of tea and slice of toast limit.). There is a supermarket in walking distance if you want a cheap breakfast.
The main attraction of the hotel for us was its convenient location to the West End. Indeed, when we were staying there, the tube lines were out of action for the second and third days, so we got to see how convenient it was as we took taxis everywhere. A cab to the West End takes about 5-10 minutes and cost about £10 a go (even on a Saturday night) - extremely reasonable when split amongst four or five people. There are also many buses available along that route if you don't want to get a cab.
There is a late checkout available, and if you are lucky, you do not even have to pay for this. However, the flip side of that was that when we arrived at 5pm, only two of our three rooms were available; this will inevitably sometime happens, so we just made do with two rooms at the time, but when we returned to the hotel at 11, they at first denied all knowledge of our third room and when we insisted, coded keys for the wrong room!
They have a desk there dedicated to booking activities to various London attractions. We used them to book tickets to Madame Tussauds. Sadly, they proved overoptimistic when they assured us that they were selling us tickets that allowed immediate entrance: it was well over an hour wait and there was another level of ticket above ours that did allow immediate entrance.
In conclusion, this was a very comfortable hotel and extremely reasonably priced for the area it was in. The staff were keen to please, but the service was a little lacking in quite a few places. I would probably go back again if I wanted a hotel close to the West End.
For my birthday treat this year Mark took me on a long weekend to London; he'd sleep in a barn but knows I like a nice hotel so gave me a budget and left me to search out somewhere nice. A friend online mentioned special last minute rates available at the 4-star Riverbank Park Plaza so I decided to check out their website, where I was lucky enough to grab a brilliant deal on an Executive Room with 'river view, desk and breakfast' which wasn't too short notice and coincided nicely with the time we'd put aside for our break.
Riverbank Park Plaza was only built in 2005 so is pretty much brand spanking new, very imposing looking from the outside despite the fact that it's no bigger than it's surrounding buildings - I think it's the unusual shape and design of the hotel that gives this impression, it's definitely an attractive building and absolutely gorgeous when lit up at night.
As soon as I walked into the hotel I saw how modern and classy the place looked. The reception area is the first place you'll see; the décor is in beautiful neutral browns and creams with fabulous marble touches and beautifully lighting, using natural light in the daytime and warmly lit at night. We paid on arrival and check-in was a piece of cake; there was a problem with the room we'd originally booked but this was fully explained on arrival and we were given an alternative room which I was assured had a better view than the first room. The staff on the reception desk are professional, well groomed and as you'd expect in a 4-star hotel - actually better than in most 4-stars I've stayed in as no-one in the Riverbank Park Plaza looked down their nose at me!
Our room was, quite simply, amazing. It was hugely spacious and had everything I could possibly need to keep me comfortable on a weekend away from home. The bed was huge and after the trip from Birmingham I felt like I could have dived straight into it and slept away my first day in London! A large plasma screen TV complete with surround sound and DVD player was located in a brilliant position for comfortable viewing from most of the room, the TV had cable television connected and this gave an excellent picture with no fiddling about with wires or having to call down to reception because only half of the channels are working! The carpet in the room was plush and well maintained, obviously regularly cleaned as there were no stains or dirty footprints visible even around the mini bar or door which are usually the spots I find fault with when it comes to hotel carpets.
The Plaza have provided some great amenities in the rooms to make a weary travellers time away from home more comfortable including air conditioning, alarm clock, work desk with lamp and direct dial telephone, hair dryer, iron and ironing board and coffee making facilities. This is provided as standard in even the cheapest room so you don't need to worry about packing the kitchen sink if you decide to visit.
Initially we had a problem with the mini bar as it wouldn't open but a quick call down to reception reassured me that it wasn't a fault with the equipment, as we had paid cash for our stay we hadn't logged our credit card so couldn't use the mini bar. This was not a problem, Mark simply popped back down to reception (as an excuse to get back into the super-duper trendy lift I think!) swiped his card and within minutes the very well stocked mini bar was open for business.
The view from our rooms huge window was gorgeous. I could see the Thames, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and generally had an excellent view of much of this area of London. During the day it became obvious just how big and bustly our capital city is, but at night the view was even more spectacular. Seeing the London skyline lit up at night (in a not very environmentally friendly way I suppose!) took my breath away as all the harsh lines and brickwork of the City were softened and it just looked amazing - who needs the countryside for spectacular views when you can spend hours looking out at a lit up city at night? Stunning.
I wandered through to the bathroom and was gob smacked. One thing which can easily make or break a hotel room for me is how good (or bad) the bathroom is and the Riverbank Park Plaza definitely did not disappoint. The bathroom was superb both in looks and amenities with a large bath, separate shower cubicle, plenty of thick fluffy towels, towel warmer and lots of very good quality toiletries supplied. The bathroom was spotlessly clean; the black floor tiles were shiny and the glass shower cubicle was so clean the light from the powerful halogen spotlights didn't show a single smear on the glass or even a speck of soap scum. As you'd expect from such a high quality hotel, the toilet was also spotless and well stocked with excellent quality soft loo roll. I actually couldn't wait to get back from our sightseeing that night and jump in the bath, the bathroom was so gorgeous!
After we'd spent a few hours wandering around the capital making use of our London Passes we decided to go back to the hotel and have something to eat. We'd planned to get a meal in the lounge but it was fully booked (and would be for the duration of our stay apparently) so decided to try out the in-hotel restaurant Chino Latino Brasserie which is on the ground floor. If you decide to stay at the Riverbank Park Plaza then definitely try to make one of your meals a Chino Latino meal; ours was absolutely superb. The basic premise for this restaurant is authentic Asian food with a Latin twist. A two course meal for Mark and myself cost £75 which included a couple of drinks each and a tip for the excellent service we received during our meal. Sounds pricey but by London standards both the quality of the food and general atmosphere of Chino Latino made the cost well worth it.
As we'd booked an Executive Room we were entitled to use the sumptuous and attractively designed Executive Lounge on the 11th floor. Views from the lounge were even better than those from our room and while I couldn't really see any further in distance, the landmarks of London seemed less towering meaning more of the background could be seen. We had an amazing breakfast each morning in the Lounge which was much better than the brekkie choices in many hotels; you basically choose what you want and the food and drinks are unlimited so fill yourself up in the morning and you won't need to spend the exorbitant London eating out prices a couple of hours later! You can have a full English, a continental breakfast (including some wonderful Pain au Chocolat) or if eating in the morning isn't really your bag then choose from a brilliant range of cereals, fruit or toasted sandwiches. Add a couple of cups of the Plaza's excellent coffee and an orange juice and you shouldn't feel the munchies come on until at least lunchtime! Remember though, this breakfast is only free to those of you who are staying in an Executive Room or Suite and will cost you upwards of £15 if you're in a standard room - still worth it in my opinion but probably only for visitors who are certain they can eat copious amounts immediately after getting up!
Our room was kept spotlessly clean with housekeeping coming in at a convenient time each day to give the room a once over. During these cleaning sessions the carpet would be vacuumed, surfaces wiped down, the bed given a complete change and the bathroom cleaned and restocked with towels and toiletries. The staff were efficient and trustworthy, I'd spilled a glass of juice on the carpet one evening and although had cleaned it up as best I could there was still a mark on the floor where it had soaked in a bit. I left housekeeping a note on the bed apologising and came back to a written reply of 'No problem at all, thanks for letting us know' - I thought this was a lovely response as I was a bit embarrassed that they'd think I was acting like a pig just because someone else had to do the cleaning up, so it was nice that I was able to let them know it was an accident.
When our stay at Riverbank Park Plaza came to an end I was really disappointed to have to leave. I felt we were brilliantly treated during our stay with all staff I had dealings with being warm and friendly, I got the impression they would bend over backwards to make our stay a good one. There were no problems at all, with even our complimentary morning newspaper being delivered on time! Check out was a straightforward affair, we were asked if we'd enjoyed our stay and given the opportunity of rebooking for a weekend in the near future at a hefty discount providing we booked at that time. At any other time I'd have ripped the receptionists hand off to sign the rebooking form the rate was so good, but with baby due just about anytime now I thought I'd better not start planning another jaunt away from home!
Room rates at Riverbank Park Plaza vary wildly depending on how short notice your stay is, how many nights you're planning on checking in for and even your method of booking. I'd definitely recommend phoning the hotel first or checking their website to find out about any last minute deals. Our three night stay in an Executive Room cost £276 which is a bargain as the average room rate is £197 per night when booking without taking advantage of any special deals. For the money I'd say we received excellent service, a brilliant room and generally had a fantastic time during our stay - in fact there's absolutely nothing I could fault about this hotel, which is unusual for picky old me!
Disabled access throughout the hotel is absolutely fine with lifts available to each floor and no steps inside whatsoever. This is definitely a bonus of staying in a modern purpose built hotel as disabled access requirements were taken into account at the time of building, rather than some of the older hotels in the capital which have had to adapt their surroundings to meet the legal obligations of dealing with wheelchair users. By the same token access is equally as simple if you're a family visiting with a pram, plus there are cribs available as well as a baby sitting service should you be visiting with your children.
Riverbank Park Plaza is located opposite the Tate Britain art gallery on the South bank of the Thames and makes visiting some of London's attractions a doddle. There are very good public transport links and I found it to be a brilliant base for seeing London as it was easy to get from this hotel to just about everywhere we wanted to be - and then just as easy to return in the evening. The hotel has a 60 space car park, although this is apparently ALWAYS full and you have to be up with the birds to find a space for even a push bike so I'd definitely recommend using public transport - works out cheaper anyway when you factor in London's naughty congestion charge!
So go. Have a lovely weekend away from home in a fabulous hotel and see the sights of London. Go now!
Riverbank Park Plaza
18 Albert Embankment
Tel: 020 79588000