By Elyse Ashton
I’ve been a guest at a lot of hotels in London and yet had never had that ONE hotel which was the “must stay”. I was looking for that place that felt like a home away from home with that little bit of added pampering which makes it ideal to stay for business or pleasure. Budget or itinerary always seem to be deciding factors and I am always up for trying someplace new.But now, finally, I have a clear favourite. Amba Hotel Charing Cross is where I want to stay. My husband and I enjoyed this hotel even when staying during their renovations over a year ago. When you really want to return to a place after being jolted awake by the sound of construction crews, it must be something special. We were able to return in May and really appreciate the changes. We entered from the madness and crowds that surround Charing Cross Station and suddenly, almost surreally, everything is serene.
The staff is the kindest, most welcoming and competent we’ve come across in our travels. When my husband asked them if our room had a bath (which he forgot to verify when booking) they upgraded us to a mini-suite.
When we couldn’t figure out some of the very up to date tech in the room, a member of staff showed up in minutes to sort it out for us. He even had freshly baked cookies on a plate as an offering and stayed an extra moment to discuss a little English football. The mini suite was fabulous, roomy and incredibly comfortable. Snuggly robes and slippers awaited, as did the obligatory, most welcome kettle (when will the USA adopt this custom!?!) and complimentary mini bar. There was an ipad in the room to help sort out London plans, book theatre seats or make restaurant reservations. Special lounges are set aside for the guests staying in suites, but there were several areas in the lobby, public areas, bar or restaurant where you could have an informal business meeting or invite a friend to meet you. The whole hotel is wired for the twenty first century and I never had a problem with wifi connections. We saw that the tradition of sending up a treat for a special occasion like a guest’s birthday continued. The renovations have kept intact the character of this historic hotel while giving it a modern and fresh ambiance. The glorious sweep of the central staircase still lures me to choose it over the lifts even when my feet are begging for mercy.
The day begins fabulously as soon as we head into the restaurant’s terrace for breakfast. I’m not usually a breakfast person and just want to gulp down some tea and head off. At Amba, I look forward to spending a bit of time over breakfast every morning. The view over The Strand from the terrace, even in the rain, sets a luxurious tone for the day. We were so pleased to see the lovely Isabel preside over the breakfast room just as she did on our previous visit, making everyone feel welcome, catching up with the regulars and sharing a laugh. I will paraphrase Jane Austen and aver that I have never seen a place–at least a London hotel– so happily situated. It stands smack up against Charing Cross Station, so transport is easy. West End theatres and The National are an short walk away as are Soho, Southbank and so many other fun neighbourhoods. I have strolled “home” down the Mall from Buckingham Palace after visiting Clarence House. The National Gallery and Portrait Gallery are just opposite Trafalgar Square and just a quick hop over the road.
Dining options seem endless. St Martin-In-the-Fields, one of my regular haunts, is just across the street boasting the Cafe In The Crypt and a great selection of concerts. Rules, the oldest restaurant in London, is just around the corner. Or you could dine well without leaving the hotel. One feels that being a guest at Amba is a privilege and that you, as a guest, are valued. Everything about our stay felt a just little bit special. Departure day was sad, even though I was traveling on from London to see a bit more of Britain. I have to admit that now, I truly have a favourite London hotel. I can’t wait to return.