a bedroom with two beds and a picture on the wall

Review: Conrad London St. James – Grand Deluxe Room (London, England UK)

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While a nap after a longhaul sounded great (though to be fair, I did get some pretty good sleep in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class), this wasn’t to be for either myself or my dad, as we were off to Bath University to attend a 10:45 AM meeting. Bath is a beautiful campus, though I can’t see myself studying there for four years, was I given the choice (I’d still be happy there, though it’s 20 minutes from the nearest Nandos, so…) After attending all meetings and taking the train back to Paddington, we lugged our carry-ons on the Underground to get to St. James’ Park, where the Conrad St. James is located. (For more on how I booked, check out my introductory post.)

This brings me to the beauty of the hotel’s location. Not only is the hotel literally right across the street from St. James’ Park station (I especially value this in London, as it’s relatively possible to get around London through the Underground than by any other means of on-ground transport), but St. James’ Park is also a relatively quieter station smack in the middle of Westminster and Victoria, two large intersection stations in the middle of Zone 1, each with their own attractions. So while you’ll face huge crowds at both of the aforementioned stations, St. James’ Park typically is easy to get in and out of. In summary, the hotel has a great location.

The exterior facade of the hotel blends in with the area, so it’s rather “classic”.

a building with flags on the front
Conrad London St. James Exterior

It’s worth noting that the hotel used to be an InterContinental up until October 2014. The switch was made overnight, and while initially a renovation was promised, at the end the management company just decided to keep the same rooms, which I have no complaints about (as you’ll read about below).

a street with flags on the front of a building
Conrad London St. James Entrance

The hotel featured a driveway, though the ceilings were quite low, so we didn’t see many cars pulling in.

a car parked in a building
Conrad London St. James Entrance

The lobby was quite small, and was partitioned into two general areas. The outer general area featured the check-in desks on one side.

a group of people sitting in a lobby
Conrad London St. James Lobby

The inner area featured a bunch of seating. This serves as somewhat of a lobby lounge, though it’s fine if you just sit and work here, which I chose to do a few times since the seating was comfortable.

a room with a large table and chairs
Conrad London St. James Lobby

To the other side of the lobby, opposite to the general check-in desks, was a more exclusive check-in area that we never saw used during the stay. Presumably this serves as a check-in area for top-tier elites, since there was a dedicated check-in desk for Honors members by the general check-in area.

a room with a red wall and a painting
Conrad London St. James Lobby VIP Check-in

We were checked in by a friendly associate. We’d actually completed check-in on the Hilton Honors app the day prior to check-in, though we weren’t happy with our room, despite the fact that we (in theory) got to select it. I wasn’t very happy when checking in through the app that our room faced the interior of the hotel, since it meant we wouldn’t have a view. We tried to ask for an exterior-facing room, and the associate looked around the booking system for a while before saying there was none available. He was apologetic, and I appreciated that he tried to help (and the hotel showed as full the day before our arrival, so I didn’t want to cause too much kerfuffle).

He also said that he had to move us to a different room than the one the app assigned us, since the guests staying in our original room decided to extend their stay by a night. While we were fine with that, it negated the single purpose that our online check-in experience had, since we couldn’t even accurately know our room number when we were checked in.

The associate escorted us to the lifts, and from there we made our own way to the rooms. The hallways had some nice wooden finishes, though weren’t the most modern.

a long hallway with wooden doors
Conrad London St. James Hallway

We were originally assigned room 240, which was right by the lift lobby. We were moved to room 252, which was a little further from the lift lobby, though still only required around a minute of walking. Below is the floorplan of the hotel (the above segment hotel arches into the interior of the building).

a sign on a wall
Conrad London St. James Floorplan

a door with a number on it
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Entrance

Conrad London St. James
Check-in: Saturday, June 23, 2018
Room Type: Grand Deluxe Twin
Room Number: 252
Stay duration: 4 nights
Check-out: Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The room featured a long L-shaped entryway that forked straight into the bathroom and right into the rest of the room.

a room with a chair and closet doors
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Entryway

While the room has been around since the hotel was an InterContinental, I personally thought it was stunning. The room featured two extremely comfortable beds, a soft chair for lounging, a desk and chair, as well as a flatscreen TV.

two beds in a hotel room
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room

More than anything I was impressed by the bright, consistent light wood and pale yellow finishes that the room offered.

a bedroom with two beds
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room

While the bed itself was insanely comfortable, I did find the pillows overly soft. Technically I could’ve ordered for a harder pillow to be sent up, though I got back to the hotel late every night and calling reception to change a pillow was the last thing on my mind.

a bed with a pillow and a pillow on it
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bed

The desk and chair were fine (especially the desk, which was big enough), though I would’ve appreciated an office chair of sorts. The chair provided didn’t have much padding, and was uncomfortable to sit on after a while.

a desk with a lamp and a telephone
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Desk and Chair

I was pleased to see that there was an array of different power ports by the desk, as well as by the bed.

a wall with a power outlet and plugs
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Power Ports

I quite liked the lounging chair provided on the other side of the room from the desk. While it wasn’t the most ergonomic, it was very well-padded, unlike the chair by the desk, and acted as a nice sofa of sorts for working.

a chair next to a table
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Lounging Chair

As aforementioned, the room faced the inside of the hotel, so we didn’t have much of a view. However, that bothered me less than I thought, since we were away from our room most of the time, and the area was exposed enough to provide sufficient natural light.

It’s worth noting that the blackout blinds are electronically controlled, though the controls are unmarked and next to the lighting controls by the bed, so it was hard to find them. Even a housekeeper coming into our room for turndown service was unaware that the curtains were electronically controlled. In my opinion, putting signage for the blackout blinds would be an easy, though necessary fix.

a building with a glass wall
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room View

a building with many windows
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room View

By the cupboard was a minibar, which featured a fridge stocked with bottled drinks. I’m used to hotels offering standard complimentary water in plastic bottles, so was initially worried that there was no complimentary water at all in the room. However, upon calling reception, they told me that since I had an Honors account, the Hildon water in the fridge was complimentary. I was glad to have complimentary premium water for the duration of my stay, though I’m confused – do people without an Honors account (signing up is free, by the way) just not get water at all?

a mini fridge with bottles of soda and snacks
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Minibar

The non-refrigerated part of the minibar contained some snacks, Nespresso coffee, tea, and spirits (I believe the tea and coffee was complimentary, but I’m not so sure).

a tray with food and drinks
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Minibar

I was quite impressed by the bathroom. It was large, featuring a sink, a separately enclosed toilet, and a separate tub and shower.

a bathroom with a glass door and a towel on a bar
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom

a bathtub with towels on it
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom

While marble isn’t my personal favourite material when it comes to finishes (that would be concrete), I appreciated that the design of the bathroom stayed coherent with the rest of the room, with warm, off-white hues and tiles with brown marble finishings.

a sink in a bathroom
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom Sink

We never actually used the tub during our stay, though it was very nice to have the luxury of extra space.

a bathtub with white towels on it
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom Tub

While the toilet and shower were large enough, I can’t help but feel like space was wasted with the window ledge. The walls were very thick, and they felt hollow as well, so presumably both spaces could’ve been expanded further. Nonetheless, the ledge served as a good place to put a phone in the enclosed bathroom, and toiletries in the shower.

a toilet in a bathroom
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom Toilet

The water pressure wasn’t amazing, but was decent enough. Once again I wish the shower room was bigger, as the hollow walls suggested that space wasn’t maximised, though there was ample space for a shower.

a shower head in a bathroom
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom Shower

The shower controls were easy to use, and the water temperature was consistent.

a shower head and hose
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Bathroom Shower Controls

The bathroom featured Shanghai Tang amenities. I really wanted to love these – I’ve used Shanghai Tang amenities in the past, and it’s a Hong Kong brand – but I didn’t like these at all. They smelt fine, but left so much residue on the skin.

a group of toiletries and towels on a tray
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room Toiletries

The flatscreen TV was embedded into the wall, and on it was a message with some advised safety precautions when exploring London, which I appreciated, especially given that London has been going through somewhat of a hard time over the past few years.

a screen with text on it
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room TV

As you’d expect from a modern upscale hotel, the room featured in-room WiFi. We could select between a standard and a premium WiFi plan. I appreciated the transparency of the WiFi selection page, and how the standard WiFi plan reached speeds of 2 Mb/s, whereas the premium high-speed WiFi plan would bring us up to speeds of 50 Mb/s. The charges were as follows:

  • £3 for 1 hour
  • £5 for 3 hours
  • £14 for 24 hours
  • £32 for 3 days
  • £56 for 7 days

While I appreciate the choice (and the advertised speeds were true to their word as well, according to speedtest.net), I do wish that they offered premium WiFi to all guests. 2 Mb/s is terrible for WiFi speeds, especially in such a technologically forward city. I’ve been to so many hotels that offer high-speed WiFi for free. At the end we just purchased a 3-day plan for our first three nights, and a separate 24-hour plan for our last night, so we could stay productive.

a screenshot of a computer
Conrad London St. James Premium WiFi Speed

This hotel offered turndown service, which I’m a fan of, since it’s an additional, not-very-costly procedure that gives hotels a luxurious touch. However, it was consistently poorly executed for our room, for all four nights.

One night one bed was turned down, whereas the other wasn’t. For the following two consecutive nights I was working in my room during turndown service – the first night the housekeeper had no idea that the curtains were electronically controlled, so she attempted to pull them closed with her own hands, and was gobsmacked when I finished the job for her with the controls. We shared a laugh over it, though it’s quite astounding that even hotel employees aren’t aware of the room’s features. The second night she forgot to close the curtains altogether.

To be clear none of these things actually bothered me one bit. For example, I was working on my bed when the housekeeper came over, so could literally reach across to the controls and close the curtains myself. However, it’s precision that sets apart the best of the best, and my experience with turndown service at the Conrad just hit a few bum notes.

Breakfast at the hotel was served at its adjacent restaurant, the Blue Boar Restaurant, from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM on weekdays and 7 AM to 11 AM on weekends. The restaurant itself was stunning (and usually rather busy, so I couldn’t grab a great picture).

Breakfast wasn’t included in our rate, so I could choose between the continental breakfast buffet for £21 or the full breakfast buffet for £29. The continental breakfast spread looked high-quality, though the selection was very limited.

a table with different types of meats and cheeses
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

a table with food on it
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

a buffet table full of food
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

a group of juices and bottles on a table
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

There were also a few hot items that didn’t look particularly appealing to me, and there was no way I was shelling out £29 for some cold cuts and ~10 hot breakfast items.

food on a table with plates and scissors
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

a group of food containers on a table
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

a table with different types of food
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Spread

There’s also a separate breakfast menu, which I decided to go with, since I didn’t think the breakfast buffet was worth it in the least. The items were pricey here, though not unbearably so for a hotel restaurant in central London.

a menu of a restaurant
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast Menu

At the end I decided to order some buttermilk pancakes (for some reason the first waiter I came across kept repeating the word “blankets”, and had to call over another waiter to receive my order). The buttermilk pancakes were served with a blueberry compote and maple syrup. The pancakes were fluffy and the blueberry compote was quite nice, providing a tartness that contrasted the maple syrup. However, with service charge included I was paying £15.20 for these pancakes, which I didn’t think was worth it at all.

a stack of pancakes with jam on top
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast – Buttermilk Pancakes

I also ordered a cappuccino. While very good, it was another £6.20 (!), which is insane.

a cup of coffee on a plate
Conrad London St. James Blue Boar Restaurant Breakfast – Cappuccino

While the quality of breakfast was quite good at the Blue Boar, I found it way overpriced for what it was. Fortunately, the hotel is adjacent to a Costa (coffee shop), and down the street you’ll be able to find a few other breakfast places, including healthy chain shop Abokado. I’d advise against eating breakfast at the hotel if it isn’t included in your room rate.

In terms of other hotel amenities, there’s a 24/7, key-card-access gym in the basement. The gym was nice enough, though the equipment was extremely limited. For example, there were weights, but there wasn’t even a flat bench for bench pressing. Sometimes when visiting gyms at certain hotels I have to wonder if their designer had ever worked out before.

a room with exercise equipment
Conrad London St. James Gym

a gym with exercise equipment
Conrad London St. James Gym

On the plus side, I did appreciate the free apples, and I quite liked the water display. The gym also had a dedicated toilet.

a group of green apples on top of a refrigerator
Conrad London St. James Gym Apples

a glass container with a tap and a group of paper cups
Conrad London St. James Gym Water

Lastly, the hotel also features a lobby bar behind the lobby. It looked quite nice, though I never had a chance to dine or have a drink there.

a room with tables and chairs
Conrad London St. James Bar

The hotel also features an executive lounge, which looks nice in pictures. However, our room didn’t come with lounge access, so I never had a chance to visit. The hotel doesn’t have a spa or a pool (which makes sense, given it’s not the largest hotel in the area, and it’s located in central London, where people have better things to do than swim in a city hotel).

Service at the hotel was quite good. While there were issues (such as the turndown service snafu, explained above), everyone I met at the hotel was friendly and willing to help. The concierge was willing to exchange our old £5 and £10 banknotes from last year for new ones (since the city switched up their £5 and £10 banknotes due to counterfeit issues). Also, during the first night, I figured out quickly that the blinds were electronically controlled, though didn’t know where the controls were. The reception was able to give quite clear instructions on where the blind controls were – if only they could tell their housekeeping staff as well. 😉

Bottom Line: Conrad London St. James

The Conrad London St. James is a very nice option for staying in London, considering it normally isn’t priced much higher than other mid-tier hotels around the area. I found the rooms very well-appointed, and the public spaces quite nice as well. At the end of the day the hotel still has a few issues – their gym is lackluster, their breakfast is overpriced, and the hotel needs to invest more in training for turndown service if they’re going to do it at all. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, especially if the hotel was priced below other options in London.

Read more from this trip:

Have you stayed at the Conrad London St. James, or its predecessor, the InterContinental London Westminster? How was your experience?

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