Pound for Pound, Bargains by London Standards
Sunday, December 17, 2006
A new wave of London hotels designed with budget travelers in mind has brought some affordable options to the city's notoriously pricey lodging scene.
If you've been in town recently, you know that the expensive tariffs aren't limited to swanky digs such as Brown's Hotel. With the dollar taking a thrashing against the pound, the city's average room price -- including the 17.5 percent value-added tax (VAT) levied on hotels -- rose this fall to $253, according to London-based TRI Hospitality Consulting.
In October, we stayed in two of the newcomers and toured a third. Each is geared to a different type of traveler. The prices quoted below for each property include taxes.
Where: 25 Courtfield Gardens, Kensington. The Earl's Court tube station is two blocks away, while the Gloucester Road station is four blocks. Either one gets you to the theater district and other major London sights in 20 minutes.
How much? Doubles start at about $195 per night, singles from about $157.
Best for: Independent-minded travelers who like a comfortable landing pad but don't need their hand held.
The details: This smartly renovated stucco building on a trendy street offered just what we needed after a tiring transatlantic flight and rush-hour ride from Heathrow Airport. A plush bed. Soft cotton sheets. A power shower. A stack of plush towels. A flat-screen television. Free Internet access.
But wait, there's more! Behind a closet door in each guest room is a kitchenette, complete with a small stove, fridge, coffeepot and microwave. A handy reference list points out the best of everything in the neighborhood, including boutiques, bars and restaurants with delivery service. The desk staff, on duty 24 hours a day, is helpful.
"We thought about all the things we look for when we travel," said Robert Nadler, the property's chief executive. "We think we covered them all."
The 67 guest rooms are outfitted with bunks, standard and king-size beds. Some also have futons that fold out to single or double beds, allowing possibilities for families or other groups. The sleek decor is highlighted by chrome kitchenware, framed black-and-white photos and thick brown carpets.
While the room rates aren't rock-bottom cheap, they're still an excellent value.
Opened in April, Base2stay was designed to feature the conveniences of a furnished apartment. To keep rates low, the developers left out many features of bigger hotels: There is no lobby bar (or even much of a public space to hang), restaurant, health club or concierge. Nor is there much space in the rooms to sprawl out. But with our packed itinerary, we didn't miss those features.