Picking a hotel in London isn’t an easy task, even in the Internet age, but when I was nudged in the direction of the Mercure London Bridge, I soon stopped dithering; it has a four star rating and comes recommended by Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. I recently checked in for a one night stay, armed with my camera and notebook to report back to you.
If you’ve never heard of the brand before, here’s a quick primer. There are over 700 Mercure properties around the world, often with unique selling points, including the Ink Hotel in Amsterdam (part of the MGallery Collection), based in a former Dutch newspaper office. Closer to home, Hythe in Kent has the Imperial, a sprawling Victorian house complete with a spa and golf course. London has several different hotels under the brand, from Kensington to Greenwich, and a Hyde Park branch will open in October 2015.
Location and First Impressions
On the short walk to the hotel from London Bridge Station, I passed The Old Operating Theatre, Borough Market and the Menier Chocolate Factory. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Cutty Sark, the Southbank Centre and Tate Modern were all just streets away; this was an ideal spot for sightseeing south of the river.
Having arrived freakishly early, I kept myself entertained in the lounge area, browsing through the hotel’s magazine selection until I was able to check in. The decor was very chic, with stylish books and ornaments on display in dark wooden bookcases, and plenty of comfy chairs to sink into.
I stayed in a ‘Privilege’ room on the fourth floor, facing a quiet street behind the hotel. Entering the room, the first sign of luxury I spotted was a fruit plate beside the rather large flat screen TV – my hunger pangs were taken care of and I was able to catch up on soaps as I unpacked. Best of all, there was a Nespresso machine on hand, with full instructions for anyone not used to them – be warned, they’re louder than a filter machine, but they make great coffee.
The bedroom and bathroom were both a decent size, with none of the remaining space wasted. Along with a couple of chairs and a sturdy desk for working, there was a large enough wardrobe to hold clothes for a few nights away (or one night away for someone indecisive, like me). To prep for my night out, I had the option of a luxurious long bath or a shower, with a dressing gown to curl up in afterwards.
One major plus point was free Wi-Fi throughout the building, which worked brilliantly wherever I wandered with my laptop. All too often hotels charge extortionate rates for Wi-Fi, which often turns out to have a feeble signal – it’s a real sore point with many travellers, so I’m glad to see a hotel chain offering a reliable, unlimited service with no extra charge.
What I also loved was the attention to detail in handy items placed in the room. If, like most people, you tend to forget something fairly essential every time you travel (don’t lie – we’ve all done it), it’s more than likely this hotel will already have it covered. Need a toothbrush and toothpaste? Done. Forgot your slippers? Grab a free pair here. Realised your razor is blunt? There’s already one provided. It was a huge help not to spend my quality time charging all over London looking for the nearest branch of Boots, I can tell you.
I’m no food critic, but the breakfast selection ticked all the right boxes, with two buffets ranging from super-healthy fresh fruit and yoghurt to crunchy baguettes and plenty of hot and fried food. Rather than leaving everyone faffing about with a teapot or a cafetiere, waiters brought each table a pot of tea or coffee, and offered to make omelettes or toast.
The only issue I could see for other guests was the placement of half the buffet in an elevated part of the restaurant, up a small flight of stairs, which would have been tricky for anyone with mobility issues (if there was lift access there, I couldn’t see it, but I may have been distracted by hash browns and beans at that point).
So many hotels are cutting corners these days (no more toiletries, no kettle, a daily charge for Wi-Fi), making it a real luxury to have more than a bed and a shower. Not only does the Mercure refuse to cut those corners, but it goes the extra mile to cater to your whims, which made such a difference to the overall experience, especially if you’ve had a long day of sightseeing and need to be totally relaxed.
It may not be the most centrally located hotel, but there’s plenty for tourists to see along the South Bank, and reaching über-popular attractions like Buckingham Palace or Trafalgar Square is straightforward too. Of course, the busier your travel agenda, the more of an excuse you have to grab a large breakfast before you leave…
Visiting Notes: Current room rates for the Mercure London Bridge start at £97 per room, per night, for a standard room, or £117 per room, per night, for a ‘Privilege’ room like mine. A continental and buffet breakfast can be added for an additional charge, and you can also add extras such as dinner or a wine and dine package. If English isn’t your first language, the staff speak a variety of languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Polish (check the hotel link for a full list).
The street address is 71-79 Southwark Street, SE1 0JA, and it’s only 1km from London Bridge Station or 0.8km from Waterloo Station.
Disclaimer: My hotel stay was kindly covered by Mercure and Gray Matter as part of the #6FriendsTheory campaign. However, I had full editorial control of this review post and, as ever, all views are my own.