No-one would ever call Charing Cross station an oasis of calm. Yet right in the heart of the daily maelstrom of commuter traffic which swirls through one of London’s biggest railway stations, the Amba Hotel Charing Cross is surprisingly quiet. And spacious. And plush.
In fact it turned out to be generally much nicer than I’d expected when I turned up at Charing Cross station in the middle of rush hour.
I was offered a free glass of fizz (or juice) as I checked in, which was a nice touch, and then as I left the smart but small lobby, was surprised by the wide corridors and the six-storey sweeping staircase which brought a more genteel age of travel to mind.
Railway station hotels have not, in recent years, enjoyed the greatest of reputations. However there have been moves, headed by the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, to return to the golden era of travel and grand station hotels.
This seems to be the thinking of its owners GLH, part of Guoco Leisure, who have taken the old Charing Cross hotel – originally built in 1865 ‘in the style of the French Renaissance’ – and spent millions on a much-needed refurbishment.
It opened in October last year under the new Amba brand, and says it is ‘London’s most central hotel’ which it certainly has a claim to, being just yards from the original site of the Charing Cross cross from which all distances from London used to be measured (although I think the Trafalgar Hotel might be closer by a matter of inches).
Since then it has jumped to an impressive 4th place ranking in TripAdvisor’s 1,062 hotels in London, aided in part no doubt by its location, just minutes from the tourist hot spots of Nelson’s Column, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Covent Garden.
My room, a studio suite, was immaculate, with a pristine bathroom – separate bath and shower – as well as a massive smart TV and complimentary minibar. With an eye on the business traveller Amba Charing Cross claims to have the fastest hotel broadband in Europe and each room comes with your own personal iPad.
The restaurant was in the conservatory-style box overlooking the Strand and the food was tasty if not stand-out – it didn’t seem like it was trying to be a place to go to if you weren’t a guest but was perfectly adequate (but the excellent rocket salad with parmesan was the biggest I’ve ever been served).
The hotel also has a small gym and a VIP area so you don’t have to eat breakfast with the masses, and while service at breakfast wasn’t the speediest staff were friendly and helpful.
The only main negative note was that in spite of having a lovely bed to sleep in, I hardly got any sleep. Even though I was on the fourth floor and the original windows have been semi-double-glazed with a kind of secondary window-fitting over the top, any sounds from outside came straight into the room, which was a surprise as the rest of the hotel felt so insulated from the outside world.
So as I was going to sleep there was the clatter as everyone dashed to make the last trains (and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday at the stroke of midnight to some lucky reveller), at 2am there were all the refuse trucks chugging along to clear up the night’s detritus, and at 4.30am there seemed to be some kind of running battle with shouts of ‘Leave him! He’s not worth it!’ and general shouted insults down the the Strand.
By the time the morning commute started I’d given up on sleep. So I’d definitely advise earplugs or request to have a room on the other side of the hotel (although there might be noise from the station?) – but I suppose that’s all part of being London’s (almost) most central hotel.
Best bit: Great central location
You’ve been warned: Bring ear-plugs
Amba Hotel Charing Cross
020 7747 8404