“ Address: 34A-36 Kilburn High Road / London / NW6 5UA / Tel: +44(0)2071590314 „
I recently decided to book a flying visit to London - primarily to do some shopping but also to catch up with a friend who lives in Maida Vale.
As I booked the trip "short notice", there were no deals to be had with the budget hotel chains - and I draw the line at paying £100 per night to stay in a Travelodge - they quite simply aren't worth it.
So I decided to check on the website www.laterooms.co.uk and decided to narrow my search to the Maida Vale or Kensington areas. Through the site I found the SO Quartier aparthotel which claimed to be located in Maida Vale.
The price was right at £119 per night for a Friday and Saturday stay and whilst the reviews left by guests were mixed on the site, I decided that overall it sounded a decent bet so I booked it.
Well first and foremost I have to say that SO Quartier Maida Vale isn't actually in Maida Vale. The hotel is located on Kilburn High Road. In fact the Overground station for Kilburn High Road is quite literally 30 seconds away from the hotel. Maida Vale is a ten minute stroll down the road so it's not too much of a stress but the fact is, this hotel is in Kilburn.
The entrance to the hotel is actually on Springfield Lane, just off Kilburn High Road but it's quite easy to spot, with a little café beside the entrance.
I knew this when I booked the hotel - but it's worth bearing in mind if you don't know London well.
The aparthotel is in a modern building and the reception area is very small. The desk was manned on our arrival but someone else was checking in in front of us making the area feel very cramped.
There are a couple of chairs so I despatched my daughter there while I dealt with the formalities of check in. You have to pay for your room upfront - my reservation with Late Rooms had done just that - merely reserved the room. I don't like paying for a hotel room upfront if I don't know what to expect so I was a bit wary I must admit.
You get a traditional key for your room and you are asked to lea
ve this at reception when you go out.
There is a lift beside reception but it is quite small. We took it up to our first floor room but thereafter just used the stairs as there is only one lift and it does get busy.Check in is from 2.00 pm and check out is at 11.00 am.
You don't strictly get a room at SO Quartier - you actually get an apartment. As someone who is too used to cramped Travelodge rooms in London, this place was a breath of fresh air, with space in abundance.
On entering the room we found ourselves in a hall, with three rooms leading off. On the left was the kitchen/living area, straight ahead was the bedroom and on the right was the bathroom.
We went to the bedroom first and we were staggered by the size of it, with the bed looking a little forlorn so large was the space it was in. There were bedside tables, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe.
Next we went to the kitchen/living room and this was home to a very comfortable sofa bed - well we never used it as a bed but it was a very comfortable sofa - a dining table and chairs, a TV with full complement of Freeview channels and a DVD player. The DVD player was a bit decrepit (it didn't help it was a Matsui) but it did manage to cope with the one DVD we had taken with us.
The kitchen area had a cooker with hob, large fridge/freezer, sink, kettle, toaster , enough cutlery, crockery, pots and pans for at least 4 people and a microwave. There was even a washing machine in the kitchen, which really surprised me - I hadn't expected that at all. The apartment even provides washing up liquid and some cloths for doing the job.
The microwave was positioned on a table between the obvious "kitchen" area and the "living" area and looked great where it was. Unfortunately when I actually went to use it, I realised it wasn't anywhere near a plug socket and nor could the flex stretch to one nearby. So I had to lift the whole thing over to close to the sink and plug it in there. The one thought that continually ran through my head when doing this was "bad planning".
The bathroom was equally spacious with bath and shower over, toilet and basin. There were enough towels in the bathroom for four people and there was a handy bathroom cabinet in the room too which provided the bathroom mirrors and also helped keep the room tidy. Soap, shower gel and shampoo were provided. Finally there was a heated towel rail and a pull out washing line should you wish to do your laundry here.
The one thing the room didn't have which I would have appreciated was a safe.
There isn't any. Well, unless you include the SO Café downstairs which is really a little take away selling coffees, croissants and sandwiches. We didn't use it.
There really isn't any need as there is a Tesco Metro downstairs and a Marks & Spencer and Sainsburys within a five minute walk. There's also a pub called the Old Bell across Springfield Lane which offers incredibly cheap pub grub. It also permits children up until 5pm so it's a good choice for family lunch or an early dinner. If you fancy something a bit more upmarket the Westbury is next to Tesco Metro.
We actually ate in twice, having dinner on the Friday night courtesy of Sainsburys and the microwave, and breakfast on the Sunday morning. Being able to cook for yourself is a nice choice to have.
There is much I liked about SO Quartier - the space is fantastic, with the apartment we had easily capable of accommodating four people. This makes SO Quartier an excellent choice for families, especially when you factor in the fact you can actually cook for yourself.
The bed was comfortable (my daughter and I just doubled up) and the sofa bed looked like it was comfortable. All bedding was provided for it too, along with extra pillows, so there was no traipsing to reception for more as is the way at Travelodges.
The furniture was quite stylish, but it did seem cheap. There was an air of IKEA about the place, and the dining table wasn't very sturdy. You could see signs of wear and tear in the apartment too - the carpet in the bedroom could have been cleaner for instance.
There were some issues however, the biggest one being hot water. We had both showered before departing on the Friday and as we had an early start to go shopping on the Saturday we didn't shower. I had done some washing up the night before without any issue, but when I went to turn the shower on on the Sunday morning there was no hot water.
I decided to call reception - except there isn't a phone in the apartment to call reception. I was running really low on time as we were catching our train home that morning and I realised I simply didn't have time to get dressed, go down to reception and wait for the water to come on.
Heating and hot water are provided by electricity in SO Quartier and my experience of electricity heating hot water is it doesn't come on straight away - in fact you can be waiting 45 minutes for hot water.
We had to overcome this by boiling up some water in the kettle and having a stand up wash, which seemed a bit primitive to me.
I told the reception staff when I checked out about the lack of hot water but they merely apologised and said I should have complained sooner. Which I would have done if I had had time. So there wasn't any monetary compensation offered and I can only hope they fixed the problem once I had left.
Service was non existent too. A maid came by on the Saturday and emptied a bin but that was the sum total of the service we received. I had made the bed on the Saturday morning (I have issues with unmade beds) but the maid clearly didn't think it was worth adding the professional touch. We also ran out of toilet paper which wasn't the end of the world because you could get some Value stuff in Tesco down the stairs but when you have paid £238 for two nights a decent supply of toilet paper isn't too much to ask really.
I had read some people had issues with noise here but it wasn't too bad for us. I did hear some people come in late on the Friday night and make a bit of a noise but it didn't last long. Similarly despite the proximity of the hotel to the railway line, we didn't hear any noise from that although I do understand this can be a problem in some rooms.
So overall the experience was a mixed one - the lack of hot water was particularly frustrating but the timing of things didn't help with me having to leave sharpish. I do feel SO Quartier could have handled this better however, and I have since learned from reading more reviews of the hotel that other people have had issues with it - apparently you have to turn the immersion on yourself. SO Quartier could solve this problem easily by providing instructions in each room for guests, instead of merely leaving a flyer for their overpriced coffee shop.
I do have to factor in the convenience of having a "home away from home" however - and the location. In addition to the proximity to the Overground train service, which took us to and from Euston in ten minutes, Kilburn Park tube station is nearby, along with a huge array of bus services, including a couple which took us straight to Westfield, which is where we wanted to shop. We travelled from there to Kensington and once again it was one bus all the way from Kensington to Kilburn on the way back. What amazed me about this stay was the fact it was the first time I had been in London in years when I didn't actually use the Underground!
Having lots of shops, pubs and restaurants on the hotel's doorstep was a great advantage too - along with cooking facilities in the apartment and could potentially save a family a lot of money on dining out.
Overall I would consider booking SO Quartier again, but the first thing I would do upon arrival would be to check the hot water was working and if it wasn't head straight to reception to inform them.
Because our stay was so brief it wasn't a huge problem - but for others it could be a deal breaker, and it certainly clouded my opinion of a place which apart from that was a good place to stay in London - even if it's not in Maida Vale.
There is another SO property in Paddington and apartments can be booked direct here - but I would recommend doing a price comparison with Late Rooms as you might get a better deal that way.