Wednesday 28 February 2024

London hotel: Holiday Inn High Street Kensington

I did not quite have enough Qantas frequent flyer points for two return flights to Edinburgh so I decided to use them for one flight and then put the rest towards a week in a hotel in London.  This meant that we had to go through the Qantas holiday site which gave less options.  After discarding a couple of cheap-as-chips hotels, I decided on the Holiday Inn - High Street Kensington. 

It is the sort of hotel I would consider when travelling for work rather than holidays but it was close to the West End with good amenities and transport options.  While staying anywhere for a week I often like an apartment for a kitchen, London is different.  I have lived in London and also visited as a tourist.  I decided that location and comfort were our main aims.  And if we could make this affordable, so much better.  I didn't know I had booked breakfasts as well until just before we arrived.  A week of comfortable beds and a fry up each morning in a great location for $787 (after frequent flyer points) was great value in London.

We had twin beds with a bathroom, as well as a tv, hairdryer, kettle and bar fridge.  And of course wi-fi.  Upon checking in, I was relieved that the room seemed larger than it looked on the Qantas website.  I was surprised that they did not have temptation of a minibar in our room but we were well catered for with food.  We had options of cooked breakfasts in room or in the restaurant, a bar, room service and a Starbucks, as well as a good range of food to purchase near the hotel.  Sylvia also loved the pillow menu and sleeping next to a window that opened.  Actually I think we were happy to be in London where people spoke our language.

We arrived late in the afternoon following over 8 hours of train travel from Zurich, including a local train between stations in Paris.  We were tired after navigating the tube ticketing system (which had changed in the 20 years since I had last been there) and dragging suitcases up the stairs at Kensington High Street underground station.  London was dark and rainy so we had dinner at the hotel.

I didn't love the menu.  Sylvia was delighted to have the options of generic pasta and pizza, even after a week of eating the good stuff in Rome.  She ordered the Pasta Arrabiata, penne pasta in a slightly spicy tomato sauce.  She loved it and the garlic bread that we shared.

I needed more than carbs and had the choice between soup and salad.  I went with the Superfood and Quinoa salad: white and red quinoa, grilled courgettes, green asparagus, green beans, sundried tomatoes, dried apricots, roasted almond flakes and sumac dressing.  When it came I could not believe that it was mainly baby spinach, nuts and Turkish dried apricots with very little quinoa and other vegies.  In the end Sylvia and I shared our pasta and salad and they worked well together.  However at 16.50 pounds I expected much more than the salad I got. 

On our first morning, we headed down to breakfast.  Our room number and name were checked by the staff member at the counter with bright pink orchids and a sign saying "Good morning.  All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast."  This foretold of the queues on most mornings, probably partly because the latter part of our week was in half-term break for UK schools.  The breakfast room (Boulevard Restaurant) was huge and queues would move quickly. 

Upon arriving each morning we would start by getting a small glass of juice.  I liked to mix the cranberry and apple juices but was also pleased that cold water was available.  Neither of us spent time at the tea and coffee station.

Next we went to the hot food area to serve ourselves a hot breakfast.  Most mornings we had an English breakfast (aka a fry-up). 

These were my favourites: baked beans, vegetarian sausages, roasted baby mushrooms and hash browns.  Sometimes I had grilled tomatoes.  Sylvia loved the eggs too.  I tried the pancakes one morning but they were either too tough or two soft.  I topped them with some yoghurt, prunes and stewed peaches.  The worst morning was when there was a problem with the stove and hot food was scarce.

The toast machine was over the other side of the room to the hot food.  I usually spent time waiting for slices of bread to slowly travel between the red hot elements and slide out as toast.  Chatting to others waiting for toast was the most social part of the breakfast.

Next to the toast were the jams, spreads and the baked goods: croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisins, and muffins.  Some mornings we wrapped a few baked goods in a serviette for later.

It took a few days to find the cereals station.  I would have liked to try cereals with yoghurt and fruit but was always drawn to the hot food. 

Here is my breakfast on the first day.  As I have said, it was good value and I was pleased they catered to vegetarians.  It was a great way to start each morning, and, as breakfast closed at 10.30am on weekdays and a little later on weekends, it meant we didn't sleep in too much.

I loved the walk to tube on the first morning.  It was only a few minutes walk.  Despite some roadworks we had a lovely walk past typical West London flats.  The first place I stayed when I first arrived in London was NottingHill Gate where my sister worked in a pub, and later I lived in Shepherd's Bush.  It is an area of London that is very familiar to me and I felt quite at home.

As I said the breakfasts could changed on different mornings.  This was the sort of breakfast that Sylvia loved with toast, fried eggs, cheese, hash brown, beans, mushrooms, tomato and rocket.

On only one morning I found these really cute little glass jars with muesli, yoghurt and berries.  This seemed more manageable than mixing my own yoghurt and fruit and muesli.  I was so pleased to have this for when I finished my fry up but was so full I could not eat much of it.

When we checked in, we were given a choice of bath and shower.  I chose the latter.  It amused me that the hand soap and body wash were parsley stalk fragranced.  (I am not sure if parsley leaves have a different aroma to the stalks but maybe it was a sustainability project to use us leftover stalks.)  

I am used to little shampoos and soaps in hotels and holiday houses but on our trip I found most places had large bottles and at the Holiday Inn had them locked down.  It seemed that we were being encouraged not to take them as souvenirs.  I loved the sign directing us to place the non-slip bathmat securely on a dry surface before turning on the water.  Bathmats strike me as very British and unnecessary but I assume this was an anti-litigation sign.

Our stay was not without challenges.  This is our final collection of keycards to let us into the room.  (Well, almost all, as I found one in my wallet when I got home.)  We got locked out of our room a few times and staff were very helpful in replacing them but it was frustrating.  I got told that mobile phones could unset the coding.  It seems a problem when it was intuitive to put our phone and key card together in a safe place.  We also had a leak in the bathroom that was siliconed up and a blown light bulb that could not be changed.  The upside was that there was always someone on the room phone or reception desk who could help us.

I am happy with our choice of hotel.  I ate well, slept well and found it easy to get a bus or underground train to our destination each day.

Holiday Inn High Street Kensington
Wrights Lane, London, W8 5SP

1 comment:

  1. I loved London so much and would love to go back for a longer trip. Your breakfasts look amazing- I did notice that the UK is much better than the US about having vegetarian choices everywhere.


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