A deluxe double room begins at £ 259, or around $ 320.
With its new hotel in Marble Arch, Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. is bringing it back to where it all began: London. The eponymous music, merchandise and restaurant business now has 186 cafes, 29 hotels, and 12 casinos around the world, but it started – as two Americans – with a small restaurant serving burgers in the city’s Mayfair district in 1971. After nearly 50 years, you might think the idea is tired, but on a recent Saturday night stay, at least at her first hotel in London, the party is still going strong.
Take the grand lobby and open-plan restaurant, where two bars and a stage greet guests with brightly colored furnishings, friendly staff, and non-stop tunes. The homage to rock music and rock musicians is found in the details, large and small, starting above the check-in counter, where hundreds of drumsticks hang vertically from the ceiling, with electric lights at their ends. Rock memorabilia, including instruments, costumes, and other clothing adorn the walls, and a Hard Rock merchandise shop can be found directly across the lobby.
If the party stayed downstairs it would be a rave review. Sadly, the hotel, especially its housekeeping service, seemed to focus only on fun, not functionality.
The 900-room hotel, operated by GLH Hotels Management, is housed in a stately building formerly occupied by the Cumberland Hotel, on the corner of bustling Oxford Street.
Its central London location is less than a minute’s walk from Marble Arch Underground Station on the Central Line and directly across from Hyde Park and its 350 acres of greenery. With the plethora of hotels nearby, know that you won’t be the only tourist in the area.
I arrived at 2pm an hour before check in and was told absolutely yes I could be upgraded to accommodate a friend’s last minute arrival. Housekeeping would convert the king bed with two single mattresses in 15 to 20 minutes. Would I mind waiting, or maybe coming back in a little while?
Eight hours later, we still didn’t have these mattresses. While my friend Fiona and I waited for housekeeping, me struggling with the jet lag, we had everything good and not so good with the room. It was immaculate and with double glazed windows looking out to the park and Oxford Street, Fortunately calm. Embroidered guitars decorated the duvet cover, with red and blue cushions, one emblazoned with the word “London”. Amy Winehouse looked at us cheekily from a drawing on a wall.
We were told that “whatever you want or need” can be obtained by dialing Star Service, the in-room reception number. Unfortunately, no one took any of my multiple calls – first for the mattress, then for a free Crosley turntable as a distraction, then just for a sanity-saving drink (there was no minibar to be found. , only the menu). I finally gave up and joined another line in the lobby to complain.
“At least we have nice, clean mattresses! Fiona pointed out an hour later, after housekeeping finally arrived.
The theme of music – especially the guitar – continued into the bathroom, where a good-sized tub was shaped like a. The staff kindly hung up a sign suggesting that customers use a mat to avoid slipping, and I would have if I could have found the mat. (It must have been with the minibar.) The heated bathroom mirrors were a nice touch, and the bathroom was spotlessly clean as well.
Before our mattress debacle, we made our way to the lobby to hear the music and check out the bar scene. Ordering a Mexican drink at an American hotel in the English capital, I may have only myself to blame: My on-the-rock margarita arrived in a martini glass, with no ice cubes. There was a nice rim of salt. Fiona raised his nose nachos, but she’s British. They were delicious.
the buffet breakfast is available at an additional cost. Offered daily under the Hard Rock Cafe stage, it deserves a mention. After a short queue we had everything we needed to make ourselves an English, American, Continental, or even Middle Eastern breakfast, or multiple combinations of these.
Yes, we went for the turntable (and a Fender guitar was another option in the lost room due to lack of housekeeping), but the evening’s free music show made up for that. Every night on the Hard Rock stage there is a musical giving two performances, and we were lucky enough to hear a Scottish band named Delphi. It was an incredibly enjoyable evening, after a long day of traveling, listening to some great live music while meeting up with a wonderful old friend.
The bottom line
When I first walked through the automatic lobby doors, the overhead speakers were Dr. John’s classic song, “Right Place, Wrong Time.” Soon I would learn that the first words, “I was in the right place but it must be the wrong time,” conveniently summed up my stay. The Hard Rock Hotel is rocking, housekeeping was not. Hopefully the service improves and the party can continue.
Hard Rock Hotel London, 1 Great Cumberland Place, London; +44 20 3912 8621; hrhlondon.com
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