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London's Small Hotels : This being our fourth survey in the last decade of London's little hotels, we've make several new discoveries, revisited a number of old haunts and eliminated from out list a couple that've grown a trifle seedy.

January 08, 1989|JERRY HULSE | Times Travel Editor

LONDON — It's star time, chaps.

For legions of travelers the world over, the small hotel is being targeted by vagabonds weary of the outrageous prices posted by the majors. The era of the $200-per-day (and up) hotel room in London's slick and sophisticated neighborhoods is a numbing reality.

This, of course, follows the trauma of checking in and out of crowded airports that make a riot at a soccer match seem serene by comparison. Particularly at certain European landing pads. After fighting through customs, there follows the joy of the small hotel with its caring staff.

One such hotel displayed its shingle only recently, the Abbey Court, at 20 Pembridge Gardens in London's Kensington area. A Victorian gem, the stately Abbey Court underwent a 1-million face lift, with the result that guests seeking a tasteful retreat are flocking to its door. Never mind that this is not the slick Mayfair neighborhood. Faded gentility, perhaps, best describes this area just around the corner from the antique stalls of Portobello Road.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 29, 1989 Home Edition Travel Part 7 Page 3 Column 1 Travel Desk 2 inches; 71 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to a typographical error in a Jan. 8 article titled "London's Small Hotels," the rate at the 44-room Halcyon Hotel near Holland Park was listed as 65. The correct figure is 165 for a double (singles start at 115). The price for a deluxe double is 185. The Halcyon, set on a tranquil street near Holland Park, has gained a reputation as London's most elegant little hotel (four-poster beds, marble baths, original paintings, room service 24 hours a day). Address: Halcyon Hotel, 81 Holland Park, London W11 3RZ.

With 22 guest rooms, the Abbey Court provides shelter on a luxurious scale. Indeed, one discovers everything from a four-poster to a prim little lounge displaying a Venetian mirror and a grandfather clock beneath which tea is served each afternoon precisely at 4 o'clock.

The riffraff hasn't a hope here. Not with the front door secured. One must ring for admittance. The Abbey Court provides countless antiques along with whirlpool baths and heated towel racks--all the luxuries of a deluxe hotel.

The Abbey Court is the delight of Nicholas Crawley, a restive 34-year-old entrepreneur who began restoring country homes in northern Wales at age 23. A perfectionist, he supervises the hanging of every picture, the placing of each antique. With the success of the Abbey Court, which seems more a home than a hotel, Crawley is impatient to get on with restoring other shelters in Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Birmingham. This in addition to a number of coaching inns.

As for the Abbey Court, it provides service similar to a goodly number of London's celebrated hotels. It is homey. It is peaceful. The staff cares. We give it four stars: ****

A few blocks away, the Halcyon at 81 Holland Park is uppermost on our list this year. Set on a tranquil street near Holland Park, the 44-room hotel provides a pleasant glow the moment one reaches the lobby with its fireplaces, priceless grandfather clock and uniformed attendants who respond to one's every wish.

We include the Halcyon on our list not due to affordable rates but because it is a rare and unusual find among small hotels. The fact of the matter is that it is rather expensive. Indeed, it has lured guests from such grandiose establishments as Claridge's and the Connought. Without question it is London's most elegant little hotel, the city's best-kept secret. Guest rooms display four-poster beds, superb marble baths and original paintings. Room service is provided 24 hours a day.

For the discerning visitor with pounds to burn, the Halcyon is simply an overwhelming attraction that sets the tone for refinement with its superb French Provincial-style restaurant, its garden patio and sedate bar. No question, this splendid little hotel is deserving of five stars: *****

In the same neighborhood, the Holland Park Hotel at 6 Ladbroke Terrace features room combinations with a choice of brass, four-poster or antique wooden beds. Dating from the 1800s, this former town house with 25 guest rooms faces a pleasant garden and a stand of stately sycamores. Breakfast is delivered to one's door, the staff is courteous and the neighborhood is peaceful. If one is searching for a bargain in a day of soaring costs, the Holland Park is a sensible choice. Our rating, one star: *

Since our last survey, a number of readers have both praised and complained over a favorite of ours, the little Westland Hotel that faces Kensington Gardens at 154 Bayswater Road. One described it as "tacky." On the other hand, Melanie Pickett wrote glowingly of a recent visit: "What I value is a clean, comfortable room surrounded by friendly people, and the Westland gets high marks from me on all counts. Price (about $90) for a double room with bath and a full English breakfast seemed reasonable for a centrally located hotel."

The Westland can best be described as humble. Its proprietors make no pretense of operating a luxury hotel. Rather, they take pride in the fact that guests return year after year because of a courteous staff and reasonable rates. It is popular not because it is chic, with a staff that includes Irish waitress Bridie Shanahan, Jason Janos (maitre d', bartender, waiter) and Jimmy Glendenning (receptionist, porter, concierge, consultant and bon vivant extraordinaire), who once did a stint at London's stylish Savoy.

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