What’s With The Waldorf?

Mimi ON Oct 25, 2011 AT 8:58 am

The Waldorf Hilton

The Waldorf Hilton

Read on to find out what our guest writer, Huma Qureshi, thought of her stay at the Waldorf Hilton in London.

By Huma Qureshi

Five years ago, as an impoverished student making my first foray into London, I used to ride the bus up Aldwych, my forehead resting against the grimey window making my daily commute for lectures. I’d always be late, partly because of my own novice punctuality, partly because of the God-awful traffic right outside the Waldorf Hilton, the grand five-star hotel. But I never minded too much.

On those bleak mornings, I’d gaze at the Waldorf, with its name lit up in those fairy-light bulbs, the fancy doormen, the lavish sofas just visible through the windows. Oh to stay in the Waldorf instead of a lecture on European political history, I used to think.

Fast forward to today and my chance to stay in the hotel materialises. In the week of the London riots, I sought a little peace and quiet, and so the Waldorf it was. Thrilled to spend a night in central London, rather than in the distant zone four environs of my apartment, I land in front of the Waldorf double doors and beam at the fancy doorman. But he doesn’t open the door and is distracted by some American guest faffing around with her handbag. Never mind. So I open the door by myself, and in I go.

The Waldorf Hilton rooms

The Waldorf Hilton rooms

There’s a wedding going on, and while that adds somewhat to the glossy vibe, it also holds things up significantly at reception. But no matter, I tell myself. When I get my key card, I’m told my room has one of the best views. Ha, if only my student-self could see me now.

Unfortunately though, when I get up to my room, I can’t really see much of my view. The windows are double glazed (all that noisy traffic) and, well, a little smudgy and dirty. As for the view, mostly I see traffic lights. But I’m not really here for the views; I see London everyday after all. So instead I kick back on the big double bed and reach for the complimentary juices the receptionist said would be waiting for me. Only there’s nothing there. My optimism never ending, I tell myself it doesn’t matter and phone down for them. “They’re on their way,” I’m told.

Meanwhile, I take the time to freshen up in the bathroom, which is not so much a bath ‘room’ as a bath ‘hall’. Oddly, there’s no door to the bathroom, making it pretty much open plan. Let’s just say it’s a little awkward.

While killing time before dinner and a movie with the fiancé, I perch on the chaise longue gratefully flipping through the latest issue of Marie Claire left thoughtfully on the side table (it would have been even more thoughtful had my complimentary juices arrived – unfortunately they finally came as I was on my way out). But every now and then I’m slightly disconcerted by the weird, random man-size metal structure overlooking me in the corner of the room. I have no idea what it’s for or why it’s there, although it does make me wonder what on earth the Waldorf’s interior designers were thinking.

Homage Grand Salon

Homage Grand Salon

Dinner downstairs in the elegant, white-pillared Homage Grand Salon makes up in part for the lack of atmosphere or style in the room. The mocktails are delicious, my scallops for starters tender and tasty. But the mains – salmon and a dry baked potato? – seemed less than outstanding and the service, while attentive, was exceptionally slow which meant skipping dessert to make it to the movie on time.

Later, I realise I’ve forgotten my toothpaste. Two phone calls to reception later, and I end up going downstairs to pick it up myself. For a five-star experience in London, I’m not particularly smitten and my student illusions seem shattered.

From the outside, with its name up in lights, the Waldorf gives off this charming, London, city feel; but inside it’s corporate, bland, lack lustre and entirely impersonal. There’s no luxury here.

My advice? Stick to boutique than a big branded hotels; these five-stars won’t make you feel like a star.

For more information on the Waldorf Hilton visit www.hilton.co.uk/waldorf

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