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REVIEWS


TRAVELODGE PLUS London Waterloo


Travelodge Plus Bar Cafe


Travelodge Plus room


TRAVELODGE PLUS IS A NEW FORMAT FOR THE HOTEL GROUP, “designed around the needs of the budget traveller who wants that little bit more style and choice”. The property has a Bar Cafe, with counter seating featuring USB and laptop power sockets, to encourage business travellers to work outside their rooms. By Bob Papworth


WHAT’S IT LIKE? As a long-standing, often intemperate critic of Travelodge, I have to eat some humble pie. The 2016 launch of Travelodge


Business heralded a new corporate- friendly approach, followed by the 2017 introduction of SuperRooms, part of a multimillion-pound (and, frankly, long overdue) refurbishment programme. Then, in the summer of last year, the


company trumpeted the advent of the Travelodge Plus product and, needing a bed for the night – close to Waterloo


station’s homeward-bound trains, I succumbed and booked a room. Expectations could not have


been lower, but when the accounts department takes such a dim view of expense claims in general, the budget option was a no-brainer. Thankfully, Travelodge Plus was a revelation. The Plus renaissance is truly


remarkable. The public areas are sleek, welcoming and comfortable. The Bar Cafe is now a standalone offering, as opposed to the old “extension to the


ST JAMES’ COURT, A TAJ HOTEL London Victoria


A discreet property, currently undergoing an upgrade with an exceptional choice of meeting rooms and a Michelin-starred restaurant. By Mike Toynbee


WHERE IS IT? Located in Buckingham Gate, just off Victoria Street, a ten- minute walk from the mainline station or just a stone’s throw from St. James’s Underground station. It’s convenient for both Victoria and Westminster. WHAT’S IT LIKE? An extensively restored, 4-star property, first opened as a hotel in 1902, surrounding a landscaped courtyard. There is a large, busy lobby at the front of the building, with a lively bar – The Hamptons, which appears to be a popular meeting place for guests and local residents. I was escorted to the room, which was just as well, as it’s something of a rabbit warren to reach the rear of the building; the direct route is via the courtyard which is exposed to the elements. There is a wide choice of restaurants, including the popular Bistro (queues for the excellent breakfast at busy times), the Courtyard for dining outside, and


148 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019


the conservatory-style Bank. A few yards along the street is Quilon, the Taj group’s Michelin- starred restaurant serving South Indian cuisine. The Sultane de Saba Wellbeing spa is expected to reopen at the end of January, following an extensive makeover. ROOMS There are 313 rooms and 25 suites, 85 of which have been recently refurbished in the first phase of a multimillion-pound upgrade. The Classic King was a generous 35 sqm, with a good-sized and well-designed bathroom with plenty of natural light. The well-lit room featured a king-size bed, bedside tables, armchair, a desk with an array of sockets, a wardrobe with quality hangers, a safe, a kettle and a coffee- making machine. This particular room overlooked a school playground at the


reception desk” scenario which involved a lengthy wait while the lone staffer had to finish checking in a coachload of tourists before pulling a pint. The seating is comfortable (although


do please get rid of those padded cube stools), the unlimited breakfasts are all one could wish for, and the evening menu is a vast improvement. The greatest transformation,


however, is in the employees. I’ve no idea what customer service training programme they’re using, but it’s certainly working, and brilliantly. I’ve had worse service in £500-a-night, 5-star hotels. ROOMS The buildings are still pretty plain, but the SuperRooms are spacious, spotlessly clean, well-equipped and


erring on the posh side of functional. There’s one of those capsule coffee machines, a well-lit desk with more sockets and charging points than most people would ever need, an iron and ironing board, a choice of firm and soft pillows – this is Travelodge, but not as we knew it. VERDICT Chatting about my experience to one of BBT’s Business Travel Awards travel buyer judges a month or so back, he told me: “Travelodge was never really on our radar – our people just wouldn’t stay there. Now, Travelodge Plus and the SuperRooms have changed all that.” As a budget-conscious journalist, of


course I will be staying again. Not least because I’m spending an awful lot of money on humble pies.


Classic King room


rear of the building – others have views of the courtyard. BUSINESS There is a 24-hour business centre, and a choice of 17 function rooms, ranging in capacity from six people up to 180, all equipped with the latest technology and most benefiting from natural light. The hotel has complimentary wifi throughout. VERDICT A convenient and stylish choice for both stopovers and meetings. Well-trained staff offer a friendly and efficient service, with above-average function catering and an outstanding Michelin-starred restaurant for impressive entertaining.


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HOTEL


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