A quintessential hotel in London that delivers exactly what you would want. The impressive reception is awe inspiring and makes you feel like royalty. I've stayed her twice now. The first was in the Queen Mary suite which is on the second floor. The HUGE queen size bed was the most comfortable bed I have ever been in and the opulent decor made it feel even more special. The second time however I was on the top floor in a smaller, modern room painted in rich red with glass and lights. It was still impressive but not exactly what you want when staying in such an amazing building. The staff are lovely and friendly and will go above and beyond to help out, especially if you need somewhere to keep your bags when you check out. The only big problem we felt was the breakfast. It was horrendously cold and this happened on two consecutive days!! It's really not worth the extra money, especially when London is on your door step with millions of cafes. A what with Russell Square underground a 30 second walk away, it really is a fab place to stay.
The Hotel Russell, situated along one side of Russell Square in the Bloomsbury area of the city was to be my home for my recent short break in the capital. Being in the hotel industry myself, I don't like to pay a fortune for hotels and I booked the hotel about two months prior to our arrival and managed to secure two double/twin rooms at the rate of £85 per room per night, through a contact. However this special rate was also available on the website, and so is achievable. Given that this rate included breakfast, seemed to be a luxurious four star hotel but at a price not dissimilar to some of the budget accommodation in London, was in walking distance of the theatre district which was the main reason for our trip and because Covent Garden/Leicester Square were also a stone's throw away, we decided to book and indulge.
The hotel is easily accessed from the main railway stations such as Euston, and King's Cross/St Pancras, and is in fact one short tube stop away on the Piccadilly line, or if you prefer to stay above ground, then is well served by buses from the stations. Travel time from Heathrow is around 40 minutes on the Piccadilly line.
The hotel itself takes up the entire block at the side of Russell Square and is one of the most imposing hotels within this location. This purpose built building dates from around the turn of the 20th century and its architecture is renaissance in style, with stunning terracotta brickwork. The hotel is large in size, with almost 400 rooms, and many overlook the square, including ours. The original floor to ceiling window frames do open out onto a small balcony area, if you want to absorb some of the atmosphere in the square below, but once closed, act as relatively good sound barriers.
Access to the hotel is via a small flight of steps and there is a wooden revolving doorway, which most people tend to use, despite the fact the adjoining doors are easier to manage and were always open. In reception you can find porters and a traditional London concierge, and the centrepiece of the reception area is the magnificent marble staircase.
Check in was efficient and I was provided with all the information needed about dining times and breakfast. The reception area also houses a small business centre/internet point, which was £6 for around 40 minutes access, so ideal if you have urgent matters to attend to. The rooms also had wired broadband points, although I did not try these out, having decided to leave the laptop at home for this break. I had been upgraded to a twin ambassador room, which was decorated in contemporary styling with neutral tones. The beds themselves were pushed together and were quite wide, although simply covered with neutral duvets. I was fighting side effects of flu and did in fact need both duvets to keep warm, luckily I was not sharing my room with anyone else! The room had a very generous hospitality tray, a laptop safe and ample storage for a stay of a few nights. There were two separate dressing table areas and a small seating area, and the bathroom was very contemporary and had a powerful shower complete with dustbin-lid shower head as well as a regular shower head. The toiletries provided were reasonable, although they were not of a brand I had heard of before.
My sister's room was more traditional in style, but tastefully done nevertheless. She had a family style room with two double beds, again with simple white duvets and overlooking the square.
We did not have any evening meals or drinks in the hotel, however I did partake of a cup of coffee in "tempus bar" on my final morning before departure. Coffee was £4.95 a cup, which seems expensive, but in fact is probably in line with most four star hotels even outside the city. The Tempus bar drinks menu was extremely comprehensive, and generally seemed reasonably priced, with a fairly decent wine available from £20 a bottle. There were special offers on champagne in the evening during our stay, a "two-for-one" promotion. The bar itself seemed to ooze the history of the hotel, and it was easy to spend time in there reading morning newspapers, and absorbing the character of the place.
Breakfast was actually served until 12 noon on the Sunday during our stay, something which will have been very welcoming to a lot of guests. We did make it down for breakfast at a far earlier hour. As well as the restaurant, the hotel was serving breakfast in an adjoining function room, ensuring that there was no waiting for a table. The restaurant Fitzroy Doll is allegedly similar to a Titanic dining room, being designed by the same architect and it certainly is of grand proportions although when set up for breakfast, it is hard to imagine it for a more intimate dining experience. In terms of the actual breakfast offering, this was buffet in style, although a la carte options were available. The hot plate was continually attended to, and items such as eggs were quickly replenished as they ran out. All in all it was a pleasant enough experience.
The hotel itself is now part of the Principal Hayley small chain of hotels, and their properties tend to be upper four star and five star hotels, but there is nothing standardised about this hotel in my opinion. The building oozes olde world charm and hospitality but offers up to date guest services whether you are travelling on business or for leisure. If you are stopping in London for more than one night, then it is worth checking for special offers, as the accommodation was outstanding especially given the price I paid.
(Note, it is no longer Le Meridien Hotel Russell, but is simply known as Hotel Russell)
The Russell Hotel is a large, imposing, renaissance style hotel located, yup you guessed it, just opposite Russell Square in London (imaginative these hoteliers eh!).
I stayed here on business a couple of weeks ago so I can't say I had much say in the choice, although having been told where I was staying and had a good browse around the website, I must say I was quite pleased with the choice, the only question was would the hotel live up to expectations (and price!)
First impressions were definitely good. The hotel is absolutely huge, and looks very impressive on the way in. You go up several steps, past the doorman into a fabulous foyer/lobby/entrance hall (please let me know what these things are supposed to be called, I'm so confused!). There is lots of marble, lots of plants, lots of gold (or gold paint...) and most surprising of all, lots of staff. I've stayed in quite a few hotels recently, and it never ceases to amaze me how few people are actually manning reception at the busiest time of the day, around 6pm when grumpy, tired people arriving on business trips check in. I've had some nightmares where it's taken over 30 minutes of queuing just to get to speak to a receptionist, let alone argue about whether you have a reservation and finally get a key to your room. On this occasion, check-in was pretty flawless, no queue, friendly, pleasant staff, and they even found my reservation details, no mean feat when compared to some other hotels I can assure you.
So, check-in complete, off to check out my home for the next four nights. As I was on the fourth floor and carrying an epic suitcase (how do people manage to pack for a week in a flight bag? I always turn up with a trunk full, what am I doing wrong? but I digress...) so despite my lack of recent exercise, I spurned a perfect opportunity to work my thighs a little and took the lift up.
I was then pleasantly surprised not once but twice in the space of a few seconds, and I don't normally surprise easily. Not only did I have a room within 10 metres of the lift, the sign posts for room numbers were actually clear to follow, so I didn't take an unplanned tour of the hotel, including kitchens (don't laugh, it has been known on my travels) and managed to reach my room without incident.
Then roll on surprise number three, the room was massive. The last time I stayed in London I had stayed at the Euston Hilton, just up the road, where the room was about 1ft bigger than the bed and the bathroom didn't have room to swing a dwarf mouse, let alone a cat. This room was very impressive, with a 6ft bed (is that super-king?, I think so), plenty of room between the foot of the bed and the TV, more space between the bed and the window (you could have fit another bed in there) and even an annex with a desk. The bathroom, although not massive, was definitely respectable. Now I can't say if all the rooms were like this (there are 373 bedrooms in this monster and I was only staying for a week) but this one definitely ticked the boxes on first impressions.
The room had all the conveniences you would expect from a 4- star hotel, safe, iron, trouser press, TV, high speed internet (more of that later!), loads of toiletries to restock my home bathroom, air con and the essential Gideon bible. The room was clean, well decorated (all dark wood and reds, a bit glum for my tastes but a good change from the beige, beige beige at home!) and most importantly of all, smelt OK (you might think this is not worth commenting on, but I stayed at a hotel in Blackpool recently where, when you flushed the toilet, you could see water bubbling up through the bottom of the shower, and the smell reflected where I though that water might have been coming from, yuck!)
Now for the most important two bits, the bed and the shower. As I've mentioned, the bed was a 6ft monster and I have to say was exceedingly comfortable, although I always feel a little lost in these huge beds and don't think I used more then 3ft of it throughout my entire stay, so I can't be sure it was ALL comfy but there's only so much I can tell you, you'll just have to find some things out for yourselves! The bed is obviously important as I spend a lot of time there when away from home, the shower may not seem as important, but after a fully expensed dinner including the odd glass or six of wine, a decent power shower that doesn't alternately freeze you to death or scold you to a nice lobster red is all important to ensure I can get to work looking vaguely human. This shower was actually very good, powerful enough to exfoliate at least three layers every morning, and controllable to ensure I didn't re-enact several thousand years of freeze-thaw action in one session.
So, the room and showers are OK, what about the rest. Let's start with the next most important thing on any stay, food. The Russell suffers in the same way that all city centre hotels suffer, and that is price. I mean £22 for an English breakfast, not even Turpin himself got away with such robbery. I know my company is paying, but it's still absolutely disgraceful that a hotel will charge such exorbitant prices for what is essentially a hot buffet. As it happens, these aren't always even hot, although in the Russell's case this was true. So, breakfast was as you would expect, lots of it, normally hot, but not exactly cordon bleu, let's face it, how far wrong can you go with bacon and eggs? Staff were pretty attentive so overall not bad. I'd like to comment on the restaurant for evening meals, but I normally find hotel food mediocre and overpriced and could not bring myself to sample the Russell's fare. For what it's worth, the menu looked tempting but at £8 for a starter and £17 for a main, I wasn't going to get many glasses of wine from my expense budget, so I took myself somewhere cheaper each night. Again, you'll just have to try for yourself and see if you like it. I know this is a review but you can't expect me to find out everything for you, oh you do, erm, oh bug^&r.
Right then, onto service. Good overall, as I've said, check-in was smooth, staff were pleasant at breakfast, concierge was good at recommending local restaurants, rooms was clean and tidy upon my return everyday, (no mean feat considering the mess I manage to make in 12 hours!) and check-out went OK, although the queue was a bit longer than when I arrived, at least there were no nasty surprises on my bill. This was mainly because I chose not accept their kind invitation to spend 50p a minute, or £25 a night on their high speed internet. £25, who are they trying to kid? I know the installation costs aren't cheap, but really, £25! No way Hose, Alice, John or whoever.
Location is pretty good, you're about 10 minutes walk from Euston, 20 minutes from the Strand, and there is a tube station right around the corner. You're not in the middle of touristville or the City, but both are within reasonably easy reach.
Cost, now here we come to the crux of the matter. I got a discounted rate, and it still came to £150 a night. £150! Good grief. I know this is London but please! Add on breakfast and internet, maybe an evening meal and a kitkat from the mini bar and I might have to sell a kidney! The rack rate for the room I was in was £215, that's two kidneys! Now as you've probably gathered, the stay was quite pleasant, but for £215 standard rate, give me a break.
Anything else? Well, there's no gym which is a bit of a disappointment, but in compensation there is a very pleasant, gentleman's club style bar, lots of leather seats and cognac. Very easy to while away a few late evening hours on the odd nightcap, no wonder I need those showers in the morning.
So, overall, pretty good, large rooms, friendly staff only let down by the price (rooms, food and internet). Definitely recommended.