My review of Conrad London St James – is the rebrand working?

I wrote in August about the surprising news that the new InterContinental Westminster was to rebrand as Conrad St James with almost immediate effect.  It gave the Hilton upmarket business brand a presence in the capital overnight and instantly became the ‘poshest’ Hilton family hotel in London.  This is my review of the Conrad London St James, its rooms and its facilities.

Following my original article I was invited by the hotel to take a look.  I was given a room with breakfast and lounge access for free.  Note that I live very close to the hotel (under 10 minutes by taxi) so I did not get any intrinsic benefit from staying there – I was not nearer my office, for example, and did not save any commuting money!

Location

The property was converted from what appears to be office use about 18 months ago.  It is directly opposite St James Park tube station on the District Line.

Conrad London St James exterior

Scotland Yard is next door.  This will become important later!

Conrad London St James Scotland Yard

Check In

Check in was very efficient.  The lobby is bright and airy, benefitting from a glass roof which encases what is actually a triangular structure.

My Hilton HHonors Gold card was not in the booking and the clerk needed help from a supervisor to add it.  She was very polite and took me on a short tour of the ground floor as well as the first floor where the executive lounge is located.  I was then taken back to the lift and left to make my own way to the fifth floor.

There did not appear to be any note in my booking to explain why I was at the hotel, which is how I prefer it, and I did not receive any preferential treatment.  I did not receive any upgrade from my booked room when I produced my Hilton Gold card.

Room

My King Executive Room was very well appointed.  I had NOTHING to complain about.  It is a new hotel and no expense appears to have been spared on the rooms, fittings or the public areas.

There was a decent sized sleeping area with a large bed.  The TV was built into the mirror.

Conrad London St James bed

It was adjacent to a good sized desk with a large number of power sockets and an iPod / iPhone dock (with a lightning connector, rarely seen in a hotel).  I also had a Nespresso machine (not pictured) with a small carton of fresh milk in the fridge.  I always appreciate fresh milk – there is nothing worse than an expensive coffee machine and those silly plastic milk capsules ….

Conrad London St James desk

The bathroom was marble with a bath, a large shower and a big sink.  Toiletries were by Aromatherapy Associates which is standard Conrad issue.  The room also had a toothbrush, comb, razor, mouthwash and pretty much everything else you might need.

Conrad London St James sink

and

Conrad London St James shower

There is always a catch, of course.  In this case, it was the view:

Conrad London St James view

With the nights drawing in, though, it is very possible that if you are here on a business trip you will never see the outside of the hotel in daylight.  It is also likely that the rooms at the back are quieter than the rooms overlooking Broadway at the front.

I also had connectivity issues.  I stuck to using the free wi-fi given to me as a Hilton Gold.  This is advertised as 512 kbs and felt like it.  Whilst not stated, it seems to have only been for one device since, after connecting my laptop, I was unable to connect my iPad or iPhone.  There is a premium wi-fi service available at a cost, and if I was here on business I would certainly have upgraded.

More serious was the inability to receive a decent mobile phone signal in the room.  Despite being five floors up, my Vodafone signal varied from nothing to a very weak 3G.  There was no chance of 4G.

I was told by the taxi driver who took me home, and the hotel confirmed to me afterwards that they also suspect this, that there is an issue with New Scotland Yard next door.  It seems that the Yard uses some sort of signal blocking to stop telephone calls inside the building being monitored.  This seems to be distorting mobile phone access in certain parts of the hotel.

The executive lounge

The lounge was impressive.  There is no other way of putting it.  The space has been intelligently used and is divided into different ‘zones’, allowing you to find your own cosy corner such as:

Conrad London St James lounge chairs 1

and

Conrad London St James lounge chairs 3

and

Conrad London St James lounge chairs 2

Food is laid out on a long bar.  During the afternoon, a selection of cakes were available:

Conrad London St James cakes

From 5.30 to 8, the drinks cabinet is opened and a selection of beer, wine and spirits is available.  The staff are excellent and continually ensure that your glass is topped up.  The selection below is only part of what is on offer.

Conrad London St James drink 1

The complimentary food, served until 7.30, was enough to keep me going for the evening.  There were three cold snacks:

Conrad London St James lounge snack 2

and mini bolognaise pies:

Conrad London St James lounge snack

Breakfast

I took breakfast in the main restaurant at Conrad London St James, which is designed as a steak house.  It is very pleasantly designed:

Conrad London St James breakfast room

There is a decent buffet selection along with a list of cooked to order items which are available at no extra cost.  I had a salmon omelette which was excellent.

Conrad London St James breakfast

Finally, here are a couple of shots of the bar:

Conrad London St James bar seating

…. complete with Gerald Scarfe illustrations:

Conrad London St James bar scarfe

…. and here is the seating area off the lobby which is a lot larger than this photo implies:

Conrad London St James lobby bar

Conclusion

Having spent literally 24 hours here (I took a 2pm Hilton Gold late check-out) I have to say that Conrad London St James is a very accomplished property.  The bar, restaurant, lobby bar and lounge are all well designed and, for want of a better word, ‘cosy’.  I was also impressed by my King Executive room – although I cannot guarantee that smaller rooms will have all of the same facilities.

The location is a little out of the way, but with a District Line tube station opposite (and Victoria within a five minute walk) you can get to pretty much anywhere relatively quickly.  My only big concern was the weak mobile signal in my room.

Without a doubt, this is the best Hilton Group property in London and is well suited for business or leisure.  At 80,000 Hilton HHonors points per night it is expensive but ‘points and money’ rooms on certain nights are a great deal at 32,000 points + £98.  It would also be a great way to use the free night voucher that comes with the Hilton HHonors Visa card – Billy Elliott and Wicked are very close if you want a night out that is only a short stroll back.

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Comments

  1. As someone who ‘works next door’ I can say that the taxi driver and hotel appear mistaken. I regularly use both O2 and Vodafone mobiles in and around NSY with no issues and my colleagues the same with other networks! Imagine it’s more likely poor connectivity issues that the hotel suffers from.

    • ‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello

    • And even if NSY was the issue, it’s not that long until the Met are leaving that building (which will then presumably be replaced with flats, based on what is happening further up Victoria Street).

  2. “Following my original article I was invited by the hotel to take a look… My Hilton HHonors Gold card was not in the booking…”

    Had they booked a room for you or did you book it yourself, Rob?

  3. Raffles, did you enquire what type of breakfast was on offer for those with Hilton gold status booking room only ?

  4. Thanks for the review Raffles, I’ve used my credit card voucher for a ‘staycation’ here in December, which I thought offers excellent value despite the hassle of booking it.

    • ComeFlyWithMe123 says:

      Hey Lux,

      If you don’t mind me asking, how long did it take for your voucher to arrive after reaching the £750 spend?

      I was going to book here thinking Gold would get good benefits but provisionally booked Crowne Plaza – London City instead and might just stick to there even if my voucher comes on time.

      • I never actually got notified my voucher arrived – I had to call to find out – took about six weeks I think. Which meant that there were only 4.5 months in which to spend it… which meant that I had to spend it in my home city, due to excessive work travel for the rest of the period. But might be a fun romantic evening.

        And if you want romance (with lots of good restaurants etc. nearby, and without free internet access) then where would you rather be, Conrad St James or Crowne Plaza London City?!

        The frustration was that the HH website only shows availability *if you have enough points for that award*, hence showing nothing for me as I have a very low HH balance. And therefore needing to call up to check availability. Call centre was helpful though.

        • ComeFlyWithMe123 says:

          Thanks for this Lux. I’ll wait a bit longer in that case.

          Strange to hear about your booking issues. I have investigated many a Hilton points booking (before transferring from Amex) and I was shown award availability no problem even when my balance was only in the hundreds. You can also search for availability without logging in.

          • It may have been user error, but I don’t *think* so.

          • I have had the same probably £750 spend was hit in July, have emailed twice to find out about the voucher. First email said wait for it, it will be sent out, second email said I have to call.
            Haven’t had time to call yet.

  5. I think you mean 512kbps, Rob – 512 mbs (which is almost mbps) would be pretty darn speedy 😀

    Looks like a nice property, agree the points and cash rates aren’t at all bad, esp compared to all points!

  6. You were lucky with the view! I booked the free night from my Hilton card. Was issued a ‘King superior room’ and upgraded to a ‘King delux’. The Delux is OVER double the amount of points (193,619 for a random date in November), and yet the only difference (as per my conversation with reception) is 2ft of room space. I also had a view, I kid you not, of two other bedroom windows no more than 3-6 feet from my room (rooms are arranged on a v shape on the inside). So you have to upgrade to a King Delux Grand to get a slightly acceptable view (over 200k points), and you are still not in the Executive lounge. So it’s four room grades up you need to get, or pay for, to get you in there… and unless you know that then Golds are unlikely to ever get in! It certainly felt to me that their offering of a ‘King Superior’ simply served to allow them to ‘upgrade’ on paper (as the King Dulux was no better – in fact I’d have been really annoyed if I’d paid money or points for this upgrade). Also I was given my free continental breakfast but sternly warned that I was only allowed to take from the ‘continental buffet’…she went on, of course I could help myself to the warmed sausages and eggs… and they would provide a charge according to how many I took. As they are there on a warming plate, sitting there not being freshly cooked, that seemed really stingy. But even if that is understandable there is also no bread or toast… but they can also bring that for £4. I should also note that there is free milk in the fridge as you say but the minibar charges say it’s £5…. you just have to know that is for a refill (same for the tea and coffee pods), very poorly written! I suspect you were given subtle special treatment, hence your enjoyment, as I was thoroughly disappointed and won’t return… Very sad actually as I was really looking forward to this stay and checking out this hotel!

    • No special treatment above what anyone gets in a King Exec room.

      • I’m sure – I just meant that if you booked a King Superior (80,000 points) or the upgrade to King Delux (at least double that amount of points) you would still be a whole tier below Executive Club… my point was, for me anyway, that gold was unlikely to ever get you into the club… sounds like Anon was told the same thing.

  7. correction, it said milk is £2.50 and nespresso capsules £5

  8. Staying here for 3 nights from the 7th November (in London for the NFL). Had originally booked the IC but reservation transferred (with price honoured) for the Conrad.

    Wont be in the rooms much and know the location well as I was a regular at the CP St James (now Taj).

    Rates of 358 for standard room look very inflated if you ask me, but we will see

  9. “there is also no bread or toast… but they can also bring that for £4
    How can any hotel however grand they perceive to be offer a free continental breakfast then deem a charge is justifiabe for bread.

    Shame on you Conrad London St James

  10. xcalx, don’t want to be too unfair to them.. they did provide rolls and croissants, it was just bread to toast that crossed the line past ‘continental’…

  11. Got 2 redemption nights standard room booked for next wknd, one using Hilton Visa + one using points+ money (£98 + 32k)

    Maybe they wanted to show off the Exec lounge to Rob for his review, but sadly when I enquired in advance about HH Gold benefits, I was told pretty firmly my HH Gold would not get upgrade to the Exec Lounge as that would be a triple upgrade????

    I’ll double check when I get there and give you folks an update, if its not too busy period they may relent, and hopefully make a kind exception. It would be nice if they did a similar scheme to the nearby Carlson Park Plaza Westminster (staying in Feb), only £49/night extra for a couple to use the Exec lounge which has awesome views of Big Ben.

    Rob could you please keep the comments open on this til next wknd and I’ll add to your review.

    • I was booked directly into a King Exec room, it was not a Gold upgrade.

    • Also the Carlson PPW, is only 50k Gold points, ie 16,668 Amex MR pts. The cash price for Feb is a mere £160, a bargain in comparison to the CStJ.

    • Apparently they do paid upgrades to Exec floor access for £89/night, fair bit steeper than the Club Carlson Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

  12. Here’s Rob’s article on the Amex MR to CCG pts and a bit on the PPWB
    http://www.headforpoints.com/2014/09/21/is-club-carlson-the-best-amex-membership-rewards-hotel-partner/

  13. Andrew S says:

    I have also taken to buying a carton of milk to use with the new coffee machines. However staff clearly do not know how to clean the frother nozzle. I would advise anyone to unscrew and clean before putting your milk anywhere near!

    • Lady London says:

      eugggghhhhh. makes you wonder what else in the room they don’t clean properly.

      Wondering if the Hilton public service discount code will work? It’s very well located for a number of government offices.

  14. You did well, I stayed at this hotel on 8th October in an Executive King and the room was nowhere near as nice – or spacious – as yours appears to have been.

  15. But as a Hilton Diamond, the faster wifi was available for free, it wasn’t very clearly explained though. I have no idea if this applies to Golds.

  16. Hi Rob, how would you rank it compared to the park lane and Waldorf astoria?

    • The Waldorf is not a W-A, it is a Hilton. Location is more touristy, definitely not as classy. Never been in a room.

      Park Lane is huge, not been in a room for a few years but it needed help then and I don’t think anything has changed. Views obviously excellent and walkable to Oxford Street.

      2nd best option is actually Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge or perhaps Doubletrees Tower Hill and Westminster as these are all fairly new.

      • +1 on HCW.

        Used to be only £53+25k pts before devaluation in Spring 2013.

        Its now £82 + 28k HH pts, and HH Golds can get upgraded to Exec Lounge (unlike CStJ)

      • Thanks that was useful insight!

  17. I have booked for one night in November and used the voucher. £322 value from my £750 spend so am happy. Will use the hotel as a base to do a show and have dinner. So thanks Rob for the tip, For the non business traveller these tips and hints really do pack value.

    The room rate does seem hugely inflated and never in a million years would I pay this.

    My last Conrad stay was 10 days in Bali. It’s a lovely hotel but the beach was poor. Whilst enjoyable and comfortable it was not on a par with the Intercon which is a fabulous resort.

    My gold year with HH ends soon and won’t be renewed. HH points are extraordinarily poor value with a 30000 point room oftener doubling to 60000 when the cash difference is as little as £30. I also had the most awful experience with Hilton in August when booked into a towers room in Honolulu. I paid over ‘$800 for the night (2 rooms) paid for by amex delay insurance. The service was appalling from the moment I arrived. Actually there was no service and we humped the 8 bags ourselves to the room!

    The food was mass catering on a biblical scale and pretty desperate. The resort, as it was laughably called, was reminiscent of the TV show Benidorm but without the humour!

    Aside from this I have generally had decent to good service at Hilton and loved the gold benefits but its not enough to keep staying.

    In contrast IHG platinum has been more rewarding in points terms and the paid for ambassador benefits are very good.

  18. Apparently they do paid upgrades to Exec floor access for £89/night, fair bit steeper than the Club Carlson Park Plaza Westminster Bridge

  19. Ah, that view looks awfully familiar. King Executive Room 532, by any chance? 😉

  20. Just a wee update on this, got to hotel yesterday pm for my redemption stay.

    Can confirm that HH Gold just gets upgrade from Superior to Deluxe, which is nice but nothing grand.

    Was offered a v special rate of £74/night (instead of £89) to upgrade further to Exec room with lounge access, but declined as won’t be in the hotel long enough to full benefit or justify the cost.

    The front desk (supervisor??) Luis was extremely helpful, even sending up complementary wine + chocs for a special occasion.

    Will be interesting to see how it compares to my upcoming stay at the Park Plaza Westminster, may end up being a coin toss between them if using points + money. At the moment with the excellent level of service that I received, I would expect the CStJ to be my default choice for central London stays.