Detailed review by koshkha
Northampton, United Kingdom
It's hard to go wrong with a Hilton. They seem to stand for a solid dependability that's very comforting and reassuring. But there's a different side to Hilton in the new Millenium; a funkier and more cutting edge design-led style that's quite unlike their 1980s and 1990s image. I've stayed in a couple of their 'revamped' hotels but if you want to really see how great they can be, you need one of their new-builds. A place where everything is as it was designed to be and not where they've modified something older and tried to 'funk it up' a bit. The perfect example of this (if you can't be bothered to go to Kuala Lumpur to their Asian flagship hotel) is to check out the Hilton in Canary Wharf.
Canary Wharf is not like 'real' London so if you are looking for the old world charms of the city and your mental image is based on scenes from Mary Poppins and Oliver Twist, don't go to Canary Wharf. This is London's area of ultra-modern high-rise living and working, built on what were once rough areas of the docklands that were so unattractive that I'm sure I once read that Oliver Stone used some of the derelict areas as sets in one of his Vietnam films. Today it's all shiny glass, metal and concrete with one of the most spectacular Underground stations in London.
I thought it would be easy to find. It's called Hilton Canary Wharf so I'd go to Canary Wharf station, step out of the station, look up and spot the big blue H. I got it wrong. I'd rather underestimated the impact of quite so many tall buildings in one space and despite a good hunt, I couldn't find the hotel. So I rang my colleague who'd arrived just before me, she put the receptionist on and the receptionist tried to explain where to go. It should have been easy but London hotels seem to pick their receptionists for something other than their language skills. After asking the third time I just pointed myself in roughly the right direction and went on the hunt. My mistake, it turned out, was going to the wrong Underground station. I needed South Quay station which is actually linked directly to the hotel.
When I finally arrived at the hotel, a bit hot and bothered after dragging my case round the docklands, I was really impressed by what I found. Reception was very classy with a large light marble counter and a wall of rusty slates as a backdrop. The lifts were just across the lobby from the reception and despite being a tall building, there were always enough lifts available quickly. It can be really frustrating if you stay in a multi-storey and have to wait five minutes for a lift to come. Passing by the lifts, there's some nice long leather banquettes and some wooden tables with strange cubic stools to sit on. The rusty slate wall decoration continues along through this area until you reach the Cinnamon restaurant and bar where there's lots of bright limegreen glass, leather seating and glass café tables. Breakfast is served in the Cinnamon every morning and the spread is second to none. Don't forget to ask if you want a cappuccino or any other special coffee and the staff rush off and get them for you.
I headed up to my room expecting that since I was in London it would be small and poky. Nothing could be further from the truth. My room was enormous. I suspected at the time that maybe we'd negotiated upgrades since we had so many people booked in, but when I checked afterwards these really were the standard rooms. The bed was enormous and dressed in crisp white cotton with a cosy bedspread. The curtains were a strange sort of crushed velvet. There was a very funky arm chair with a glass coffee table, a massive work desk with plenty of space and a choice of wired or wireless internet, a lovely big flat-screen television and lots of rather stylish lamps and other lighting. The minibar was stocked with overpriced goodies, the bathroom was stylish and spotlessly clean and the Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries were immediately identified as good enough to take home.
I was staying at the hotel as part of a large group using it as a base for going to the Excel exhibition centre. Getting around London can be a nightmare and we were all going to be on our feet all day long so we didn't want to be in central London with a long journey to get to Excel every day. Taxis took about 15 minutes and the Docklands Light Railway could get us there in a similar time, though not necessarily much more cheaply if we put 4 people in each taxi. On our first night we found plenty of options for eating out around Canary Wharf and didn't need to venture too far away and on the second night I took advantage of the proximity of the DLR station to pop into town and meet a friend for dinner. As someone who grew up in a small town I still find being in London on my own at night a bit intimidating but I wasn't worried to travel alone around the hotel.
The hotel had a lot of facilities that I didn't need and didn't use including a gym, a spa and a business centre. On my first day we met up in one of the meeting rooms near the business centre. The room was fine, the audio visuals all worked but the buffet was a bit disappointing and we really struggled to get any hot coffee.
I wouldn't normally think of staying in Canary Wharf and I couldn't afford to stay at the Hilton on its standard prices but they do often run off-peak deals that are very affordable and I'd consider it as a serious option if I could get a really good deal.
Hilton London Canary Wharf