As I described earlier this morning, my wife and I originally planned to spend our Thanksgiving vacation to London at the Hyatt Regency The Churchill, but following an explosion in the basement, Hyatt moved our reservation across town to the Andaz Liverpool Street. Both properties are Category 6 hotels, which charge 12,500 points and $150 per night (in this case, only £89) for a Points + Cash rate. I’ve seen non-refundable advance purchase rates as low as £145 (~$230), so an award stay is not the way to go.
After some reflection I decided to make the most of our new accommodations on Liverpool Street. I still wanted a hotel in the West End for part of our stay, so I re-booked the first two nights at the Conrad St. James. But I decided that rather than prejudice the Andaz I should at least check it out and report back. I generally like Hyatts, even those that I think may not be as good as other Hyatts.
We arrived around 10 AM after checking out of the Conrad and taking the Circle line across town to Liverpool Street Station (this hotel would be a slam dunk if we were flying out of Gatwick, but the Heathrow Express only goes to Paddington Station).
The hotel staff were busy dealing not only with their expected guests but also those displaced by the accident earlier that week. But they responded to the challenge with grace. When our room wasn’t available yet (no surprise) we were offered a day room where we could shower and change clothes. This wasn’t necessary because we were already in town, but we immediately wished we had switched the order of our hotel stays. A quick refresh would have been very welcome when we arrived at the Conrad a few days earlier.
Again we left our bags at reception and headed out to explore. We had plans to see the British Museum and made it there easily by taking the Central line to Holborn. A few more destinations (we went out partying at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is open late on Friday) meant we didn’t get back to the hotel until after dark. But our bags were waiting along with a few small petit fours as my Diamond welcome amenity.
The room met my expectations, standing out in a few areas but not at the “five-star” level advertised on the hotel website. It was very open and had high ceilings, which was nice but not as important as how that space was used. The television, for example, just hung there from the wall, and my wife and I separately commented that it was the first time we’d seen a desk chair that reclined but didn’t roll.
There were some clever/useful features like hooks for our bathrobes and a frosted porthole on the bathroom door. Closets, a minibar, and safe were lined up along the wall. As an Andaz hotel, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary and replenished daily for all guests.
But the decor wasn’t nearly as plush as at the Conrad where we just came from and which I imagined was comparable to what we would have found at the Churchill.
The bathroom, however, was odd, and in ways that some readers might actually find exciting. Consider the toilets. The entire hotel uses a vacuum-based drainage system similar to those on airplanes. So when you flush the toilet, it goes “WHOMP-shhhhh” and makes a racket. Not a huge racket, but enough that I could tell when other guests were getting up in the morning. The sink and tub let the water build up a bit and then drain a fixed amount of water at regular intervals.
This whole system is designed to be more efficient and use less water. In that context I didn’t really mind. But some people aren’t in the mood for environmentalism when they travel.
What I did mind was that the tub/shower combo was about three to five inches higher than usual. The fact there was a tub/shower combo at all was a sore point. I would hope a Category 6 hotel would have separate showers. Instead I actually had trouble getting in and out despite being a reasonably healthy guy just over six feet tall.
There were some good things: I appreciated the medicine chest over the sink. Not that the sink had much room around it anyway, but I generally prefer to keep my toiletries hidden or organized rather than strewn across the counter. The shower had a heated towel rack. And I liked that someone put some thought into the glass partition next to the shower. You didn’t need to move it to get in and out, but it did allow me to turn on the water and get it to temperature first.
There are several dining options at Andaz Liverpool Street, including an English pub (George), a champagne bar (Catch), a casual dining restaurant (Eastway), a fine-dining restaurant (1901), and a sushi bar (Miyako). All but Miyako appeared to be open during our weekend stay. As a Diamond member, we were permitted to take our breakfast by room service or at either the 1901 or Eastway restaurants — which are accessed through a separate entrance or by descending the rear staircase.
We choose to dine at 1901 both days and also visited there both nights for cocktails. Our room wasn’t appropriately furnished to enjoy room service for two, and Eastway didn’t open until 9 AM.
The only breakfast option at 1901 was the buffet, which had a much broader selection and — just barely — higher quality food than what we found at the Conrad. In contrast, the Conrad seemed to have a higher level of service, focusing more on the stuff like white tablecloths and silver teapots. I think the two are evenly matched.
I found a lot of opportunity for comparison between the two hotels besides the breakfast menu. I think ultimately it comes down to your preference for service or location, quality or selection, peace or nightlife. The rooms at the Andaz lacked a few details, and the neighborhood still gentrifying, but the location was excellent for our needs. We were close to several sights, some good restaurants, and a major transit hub. Despite traveling a little further to get there, it meant less time connecting. Sometimes the best adventures in an unfamiliar city are the ones that aren’t listed in a “Top 10” tourist guide.
When I said the Andaz Liverpool Street was a cheaper property than the Churchill at the beginning of this post, I was referring to its cash price. Part of my hesitation when accepting the new reservation was that I would be paying the same amount (in points and cash) for a hotel that was not quite up to the same standards as the one I booked. I consider that prediction to be verified, and a Category 5 listing would be more appropriate. But I don’t regret my stay.
If you’re a tourist looking to adventure and explore London’s East End then I would definitely recommend the Andaz. Megan and I look forward to returning here on future visits to London.