London Bridge Hotel - Superior Room ***

If you read my review from last week‘s stay at London Bridge Hotel, then you know that this week I stayed there again. Due to their standard rooms being booked, I took a category up, which they call „Superior Room“.
So I‘ll just go into the differences to the standard room - please read my review of that first.
The room was to the rear of the hotel and on the top (5th) floor. I‘d requested a rear room before checking out the week before, because the street noise was surprisingly high in the front.
This room seemed a bit larger than the standard room, but not to the point where I would call it a major upgrade. The bathroom was identical, with all the caveats - especially setting the shower to the right temperature was annoying, but I had learned form the previous week.
The view was of rooftops and a huge metal exhaust stack to the right (I was in room 502). I learned quickly what this exhaust is when I returned after dinner, having turned off the AC on my way out (no need to burn energy keeping it running): it is the exhaust from the restaurant. Turning off the AC apparently removed the overpressurization from the room, as it smelled of food quite badly when I returned. I ended up leaving the AC on the rest of my stay.
The TV was a different (likely newer) model without the glaring blue LED clock in the standard room. Good thing, too, as it was mounted on the wall and would have been difficult if not impossible to cover up at night.
I didn‘t have breakfast this time round either, so I can‘t comment on that.
All in all, the comfort level - even in the superior room - just doesn‘t match the very high cost of this hotel.

London Bridge Hotel - London ***

Stayed: June 2018

The hotel is located right in the vicinity of both London Bridge Station and the Tube station by the same name. It isn‘t very far from the Thames. The vicinity to the train and tube stations has a negative aspect: you do get train noise, at least if you have a room towards the front (as I did).

The room was a standard room but was still quite comfortable with a queen size bed and a large screen TV. The bathroom was on the smallish side - definitively only for one person at a time.
Unfortunately, despite the price of the room (259 GBP standard - I paid a corporate rate), all wasn‘t as expected or hoped for.
The hotel advertises free Wifi, but this comes at a price: you have to set up a profile with your name and email address. As a tip: if you don‘t care about resetting your password, you can enter just about any legal email address - you don‘t have to verify it at any point; had I known, I would have done just that. It‘ll be interesting to see how many emails I get in the future addressed to a Mr. Noneof Yourbusiness! What was really annoying is the wait for the login screen to come up after connecting to the Wifi using iOS devices - since my PC was much quicker, it must me some compatibility issue. Wifi speed was ok but not spectacular.
The second annoyance was the faucet in the bathtub/shower. I‘d read in some reviews on this hotel that people had issues getting warm water. This was the case on my first morning as well, until I turned the temperature dial of the thermostat all the way up - then, the water turned tepid. No hot showers here!
The thermostat for the AC only gives you a scale from -3 to +3 … something. There is a „K“ at the bottom, maybe it‘s in Kelvin, I don‘t know. You‘ll have to experiment, „0“ was too cold for me.
You get a surprising amount of noise from the street below if you‘re to the front - anything from yelling people to cars screeching their tires or with their radios turned all the way up. Considering that the road is simply a drop-off road for the train station, this was surprising and annoying.
Even more annoying was the silly noises coming from the room above me (at least that is what it sounded like) on both nights at right around 23:30h. It sounded like someone was dragging furniture around - not sure if there was a storage room above me or what, but I can‘t recommend room 117 for that reason!
The bed was completely inundated with pillows, each side had two regular white pillows, a large rough-covered one and a small decorative pillow. I‘m absolutely not a fan of this trend to „lux up“ rooms by dumping pillows on the bed - I only need one, anything more is too much. The issue is: where do you put them at night?
The TV was a pain, as well. For one thing, it had a bright blue LED digital clock that was just completely too bright. I found that the small pillows were just the right size to cover it up at night. Also, there was a complete column of pixels that was black - almost down the center of the picture.
For the positive, the closet hat plenty of hangers (though not so much space for longer clothes) and an iron with board (didn‘t need it).
I didn‘t have breakfast at the hotel, so I can‘t comment on that.
I will stay here again next week, so look for an update on this review as I‘m in a superior room (regular rooms were booked). I‘ll likely have breakfast on one of the two mornings as well.

Thistle Kensington Gardens, London, UK **

As I came in from the city, I walked from Bayswater station to the hotel (which is only about 5 min.). I spotted the hotel sign right away, but all I saw was a construction site and a gas station wedged under a building… the entrance to the hotel is actually around the corner (not sure why the address is Bayswater Road, then) and you need to go up on the 1st floor for reception.

The girl at reception apparently had a long night, she seemed to fall asleep twice while getting me checked in. Very odd. The room was on the 5th floor and faced Kensington Gardens, which sounds nice but actually just means you get a lot of noise from Bayswater Road, as the trees across the street are so high you can't see anything of the park. There was a sliding window on the inside of the room and a regular window on the outside, but that didn't help much to keep road noise at bay. My guess is that the windows are both quite old, as it wasn't possible to sit comfortably at the desk due to cold air coming off the closed windows - I had to pull the drapes closed to stop the cold air.

The AC isn't the newest either - it was quite loud for being set on low fan, it didn't heat the room all that well and it smelled funny - probably needs a cleaning. Also, I turned it off at night because the noise was bothering me, but it just kept running. It actually shut down at some point, though that was at least 15 min. later.

The shower is also a bathtub, which will make getting in and out for some people a challenge. Also the narrow end of the bathtub is where the shower water hits, so you're forced to stand with your feet quite close together while getting wet. For me, that was uncomfortable, for anyone that has issues with balance, it isn't going to work well.

Other than that, the room - even though it was supposedly a "luxury" room was borderline too small. It was clean enough, and the bed was quite comfortable. There is a biggish TV (didn't use it) and free Wifi (with reasonable speed for emails, likely you won't be happy streaming video).

Breakfast was ok though there were no rolls or bread available. The only baked goods were toast, croissants and some type of cake. Full English breakfast was the main stay. Coffee is ok and get-it-yourself from a machine.

I've no idea what the average hotel runs for in London these days, but for the amount I paid for the night, I could have gotten a 5-Star top-of-the-line hotel in Berlin with a huge room and a fitness center. Had the rate been lower, I would have given three stars.

Hilton Terminal 5, Slough, UK ****

Stayed: February 2014

The name alone will make you believe this hotel sits right on Heathrow Airport property, possibly right next to Terminal 5. This isn’t the case; it’s situated outside of Airport property in Slough. Even though it isn’t very far away from the airport, going there takes surprisingly long, as the route is all twists and turns (about 15 minutes). There is a shuttle available, the ride costs money, though; the last time I took it, it was 10 pounds per person (one way!).

To be sure, the hotel is very comfortable. The room was large enough and modern, with exception of the bathroom (see below). Despite planes flying quite low over the hotel (depending on the wind direction), the noise was never a problem. The room also features an interesting brew-your-own coffee system: you unfold a little filter with coffee grinds in it in your cup and pour boiling water from the electric kettle over it. The process is actually quite fun and the result absolutely drinkable.

The bathroom was surprisingly poor: for one thing, the shower is also a bathtub - which is fine. Unfortunately, the tub isn’t sunk into the floor at all, so you’re stepping over a good 60cm of tub to get inside. Easier on the way in than on the way out. I would think that anyone not very flexible would have serious issues here.
The second annoyance is the sink. The sink itself is pretty small and covered by a good 10cm by a construction that also holds the mirror (as well as some unnecessary ambient lighting). Add to this the faucet, which is tiny and set so far back as to let the water barely hit the side of the sink:


You may see this in a tiny bathroom, where there just isn’t room to mount anything larger. Here, it is completely unnecessary and extremely annoying. Washing your hands becomes a real challenge; give up on the idea that you’ll be washing your face in this sink!

There are several restaurants in the hotel, of which I frequented two: the
River Bar, which tries to be a bar and a pub, and Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen, which features Indian cuisine.

I had a hamburger at the bar one night, with some beer to go with it. The quality of the food was fine, though the pricing is quite high, even for a hotel bar. I decided to leave quickly when they cranked all TV’s in the bar up loud to show a soccer game; for some reason, the sound wasn’t synchronized between all the TVs, which caused a very loud, train station effect which was excessively annoying.

I’d also had the chance to eat in the Indian restaurant with a couple of colleagues, one of whom is Indian with parents that run an Indian restaurant in the UK. While the food was very good, it was completely unusual for Indian cuisine: for one thing, they served some dishes with beef (usually a no-no!), for another they didn’t offer many of the standard dishes you would expect to see on the menu.

The menu was one of the most unusual I’ve ever seen in any restaurant: each dish had several paragraphs of text describing a situation or event the dish had been involved in at some point in human history. Figuring out what the dish really was turned out to be a challenge, especially because the print is so small, I had issues reading the menu in the subdued lighting at all. Very strange indeed.

On the subject of restaurants, breakfast needs to be mentioned as well. This takes place on the Mezzanine level, which is used by one of the other restaurants as “outside seating” in the evening. My room was booked with breakfast included, so I have no idea wether breakfast is usually charged separately or what it costs. It is, however, spectacular. The variety of dishes and foods is enormous, with everything you might be looking for in a Continental and English breakfast. Lots of different types of fresh fruit and a large selection of warm dishes. Perfect.

The hotel sits in a pretty nondescript area, which means there are very few restaurants or pubs in walking distance. Unfortunately, walking from the hotel is somewhat hindered by horrible walkway conditions as well the complete lack of pedestrian walkways in some sections starting at the exit from the hotel lot. There seems to be a problem with taking responsibility between the hotel and the city of Slough which ends up being a nuisance to any hotel guest looking to be on foot.

All in all, the hotel is quite comfortable and I can recommend it. If you have a park-and-fly deal, beware of the fact that the shuttle is a chargable item and that you’ll need to drive someplace to eat out the night before flying, unless you mind the elevated cost of the hotel restaurants.

Arora Park Hotel Slough ***

The hotel is very near to Heathrow airport and extremely close to BancTec’s UK headquarters (just around the corner).

The area around the hotel is mostly apartment buildings and some industry. There is a pub with Thai food across the road and an Italian restaurant down the road. I’ve eaten twice at the pub - the food is quite good, though the term “haute cuisine” comes to mind when looking at the size of the portions.

Being so close to the airport, the overhead traffic is ridiculous, the nearer runway brings 747s and A380s thundering an estimated 200 meters right over the street. Despite this, the noise level in the room (my room was towards the road) is extremely abated, thanks to double windows. Unfortunately, the windows can’t be opened because of this, but during the airport’s operating hours, this isn’t to be recommended anyway.

The room was clean and quite spacious, with a handy clothes iron in a flat cabinet against one wall. As with many hotels, the availability of electrical outlets is a negative point. While there are outlets on the floor under the small desk (get on all fours, please), there are none at all on either side of the bed.

The bathroom is ok, the bathtub has a shower curtain (which I can’t stand), though to be fair, it was quite clean and not as clingy as some I’ve encountered.

Breakfast is pretty much a joke measured by continental Europe standards, but may be standard in the UK at this time. It is labelled “continental breakfast” which consists of bread (a toaster is supplied - but only one), some packaged cereals, some (fat-free) yoghurt, fruit and little packets of jam to spread on the bread. Some prepackaged muffins and croissant are also available, as well as (very strong) coffee. We were the only guests in the “restaurant”.