Sunday, 24 October 2010

New York Times reviews Hotel Rafayel!

Rafayel on the Left Bank may sound Parisian, but the hotel actually occupies several floors in a large apartment complex in Battersea, a former industrial area in the West End of London. The neighborhood has enjoyed a real estate boom, along with the rest of the city, in the last few years, and the Rafayel, which opened in April, has an enviable location on the Thames. There’s LED lighting in the rooms, little paper at checkout and no plastic bottles or heated towel racks anywhere. The Rafayel advertises itself as “one of the world’s first environmentally-conscious luxury hotels.” Its mission, according to the developer, Iqbal Latif, is to reduce the carbon footprint of the average night’s stay by 25 percent without inconveniencing guests.

The Rafayel is mere yards from the London Heliport, and while that’s certainly executive-friendly, it also seems eco-hostile. The closest transit station is Clapham Junction, probably best known from the classic “Up the Junction” by Squeeze (“I never thought it would happen with me and the girl from Clapham”). You may have plenty of time to hum all the verses during a 15-minute slog from the train. (The hotel runs a free shuttle, but it ends at 8:30 p.m.)

The hotel rents rooms by square footage. I booked the 270-square-foot Yangtze Room (£330, with tax, about $518 at $1.56 to the pound, but available for £150 on the Rafayel Web site), which seemed palatial by the standards of London hotels. I was promised a view of the Thames — technically true, but only if I peeked between buildings. Inside, the look is modern, with dark wood and warm neutral paint, and there is so much gadgetry — including a digital readout of your carbon consumption — that unless you’re traveling with Bill Gates, you might need to call the front desk for help, as I did. The extremely comfortable beds are made by Hypnos, the British manufacturer said to supply the Queen, and there are enough pillows to build a scale model of Windsor Castle. 

The bathroom is epic, with a long mirrored wall, and a bidet. And the water pressure in the glass-walled shower (no tub) is glorious, like a rain forest waterfall, and probably the surest bet to raise your carbon footprint from that of eco-traveler to that of BP.

Breakfast, continental (£10) or traditional British (£15), is served in Banyan on the Thames, a purple-lighted bar/restaurant/nightclub across a small courtyard. This being an English hotel, afternoon tea is served in the lobby daily and, this being an executive hotel, there’s a cigar bar and hookah lounge.

Room service is apparently still a difficult concept at the Rafayel. I arrived late — around 10:30 p.m. — to find that the restaurant had already closed. The front desk told me room service was available until midnight, but the kitchen disagreed. At that point, the minibar’s bag of chips or crisps or whatever they’re called started to look awfully good.

The Rafayel is designed as a kind of hotel version of an Apple Store, all minimalist, efficient and self-regarding. Right now, it is closer to Windows 95, with lots of bugs and the occasional blue screen. If you need to be in this part of London and are in the kind of business where you come and go by helicopter (say, real estate developer or paid assassin), the Rafayel is a sleek, pleasing choice. If you’ve come to see the sights, you may want to spend your money closer to the city center and plant a tree instead.
Rafayel on the Left Bank, 34 Lombard Road, Battersea; (44-20) 7801-3610 or 3603;

And Rafayel continues to wow its guests...

“More value for your money”

Rafayel on the Left Bank

jollynomad   22 contributions
Oct 19, 2010 | Trip type: Friends getaway
Twas our first time to travel to London (and UK), and Hotel Rafayel was the 3rd of 4 hotels we stayed in. But it was the best one we've booked so far. Checking in was fast; reception was friendly. Room was very very spacious -- we took the Niles suite (partial view of the Thames, but with the jacuzzi). The bathroom was huge, more like bigger than other bedrooms of other hotels. There were laminated instructions for the use of the jacuzzi and the shower. Shampoo and conditioner was lovely and unlimited. There's a tv facing the jacuzzi, on the dining room and in the bedroom. So much space for the luggage. A soft comfortable sofa. The bed was really comfy and pillows very very soft. There's free wi-fi in the room!
Distance or location was not really a problem, contrary to what others say. There's a bus 170 that stops a few meters from the hotel entrance. This bus heads to Victoria, passing by Chelsea (and the famous Chelsea Physic Garden). Or, you can cross the street and take the same 170 bus to Clapham Junction, where the tube as well as the Southern trains are (we took the train to visit Hever Castle). For those not comfortable with the bus, one can book/reserve a seat in the free shuttle that goes to Clapham Junction -- but you have to wait 30 minutes.
We only had in-room breakfast in the hotel, and they start serving at 630am. Bakery basket was generous. Coffee was not bad.

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