Monday, 21 April 2014

“Affordable Luxury” for the Modern Traveller - Citizen M Hotels

Looking for a city hotel with a difference? Why not try Citizen M?

On a recent visit to our wonderful capital city, my hubby and I decided to try the new concept in accommodation and hospitality that is... ‘Citizen M’.

Citizen M is a ‘new breed’ of hotel, (currently in London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York and Paris, with hotels also being considered for Istanbul and Asia Pacific) whose aim is to provide “affordable luxury for the people”.  Did they deliver?  Well, we stayed for two nights at London Bankside, and this is what we thought...

Great!  Close to the Shard and Tate Modern, with a short ten minute walk to Southwark tube station.  Apparently, all Citizen M hotels are situated either at the heart of the city in which they’re located, or next to a major airport.

Check in / Check out:
Brilliant! No fuss, no frills, (no over-friendly, grinning receptionist making polite conversation, when (after a long and tiring journey) all you want to do is get to your room.  Instead half a dozen touch screens for simple, easy, self-serve check-in and payment.  There is however a very pleasant and friendly member of staff on stand-by (24/7), ready to offer help and assistance, but only if you need, or ask for it.

Lobby (aka Living Room):
Citizen M likes to refer to ‘its lobby’ as ‘your living-room’, and actually for me this is the jewel in the Citizen M crown.  The living-room area is fantastic.  Incredibly chic and ultra modern, yet cosy and comfortable, with several open plan areas and a very relaxed atmostphere.  From cosy fire-place, LED TV and comfy sofas, to cafe style environment, cocktail bar to courtyard, each area is perfectly designed for eating, working, meeting with friends, or simply relaxing with a cocktail after a hard day’s sight-seeing.

The Vitra furniture has been cleverly designed and is both stylish and comfortable.  There are pieces of specially selected and commissioned art decorating the walls, and there’s even a Mendo bookstore (smaller version of the bookstore in Amsterdam).  The whole place is scattered with interesting artefacts and photographs and the bookshelves are full of literary classics for guests to enjoy.

Food and Drink:
The informal, yet very stylish, bar and ‘canteen’ area is staffed 24 hours a day (but there’s no room service), which wasn’t an issue for us.

If you book in advance, a full English breakfast will cost you £11.95, or if purchased on the day it will set you back £14.95 – a bit pricey we thought.  If you’re not a fan of the full English, or, like us, are trying not to over-spend, there are plenty alternatives on offer which you can just select from the self-serve bar. Keen to get out there and on with our sight-seeing, we simply grabbed a coffee and a croissant, which cost around £4 per person.  Apart from this, we didn’t eat at all in the hotel.  We saw what was on offer and, from sushi to sandwiches and hot meals alike, it all looked excellent, we just wanted to get out and about as much as we possibly could during our short stay.

We did though have a night-cap each evening, in the hotel lounge, before crashing into our incredible comfy Citizen M king size bed (more about this later).   The bar staff were really attentive and friendly, and the drinks cost just about what you’d expect to pay in a London hotel (£12 ish for a glass of good red and a beer / cocktails from about £7 ish each).

The Bedrooms:
Pretty much everything at Citizen M could be described as ultra modern, and a little bit ‘quirky’ – this is especially so when it comes to the bedrooms.

Small and perfectly formed are words I would also use to describe the bedrooms.  It has to be said, there’s not much room to swing a cat, but the wall to wall windows and extremely comfortable king size bed with luxurious Frette linens, kind of make up for the lack of floor space.

Each room has free WiFi and movies on demand, and is also equipped with a tablet which controls pretty much everything, from the TV to the colourful mood-lighting.

The toilet and shower are located in a kind of futuristic looking, frosted glass, ‘pod’ (which actually, in our opinion, felt a little ‘caravanesque’!)  The shower was in fact excellent, complete with a choice of complimentary ‘am’ and ‘pm’ shower gels and a ‘rain shower’ feature.

If you’ve got more money than sense, and usually like to make the most of your hotel room mini-bar, then you will be disappointed with Citizen M.  There is no mini-bar!  Instead, each room is equipped with a small fridge, just in case you want to chill any drinks you may have brought with you, or have bought locally. Complimentary bottled water is also supplied and is replenished daily.

As with many hotels these days, each room is equipped with a pretty decent hairdryer – but unlike many other hotel rooms, there’s not an iron or trouser press in sight.  There is however an ironing room on each floor, where hotel guests can de-crumple their clothes, with a pretty snazzy looking steam iron, if they absolutely must – I have to say I was not, at any point during my stay, tempted to take advantage of this facility.

Our suggestion for improvement:
We know Citizen M is ‘new breed’, and that they are introducing a totally new concept in hotel accommodation, we get that, and it’s great, but, please...  bring back tea and coffee making facilities to the hotel bedroom!  We really missed being able to make ourselves a brew in the room whilst getting ready in the morning.  And, although my hubby thoroughly enjoyed himself playing around with the tablet and the mood lighting, he would have gladly traded this ‘gimicky’ feature for a good old-fashioned kettle!

To summarise:
This hotel is pretty new so, as you would expect, from lobby and lounge areas, to toilets and bedrooms, everything is still very clean and fresh looking.  I did however get a sense that the staff take great pride in their hotel, and that the high standards that have already been set, will continue to be maintained – I suppose only time will tell.

To be honest, when we travel, we tend to spend very little time in our hotel of choice and are usually more than satisfied with a simple Premier Inn or Travelodge (which would definitely have been cheaper).   Having said that, this trip was part of my husband’s 50th birthday celebrations, so we wanted something a little more special this time, but couldn’t possibly afford some of the higher end, London hotels.

Citizen M for us, was the perfect choice on this occasion – a refreshing change and definite upgrade from our usual budget hotels, but (at £292 for two nights) without completely breaking the bank.

All in all, I would highly recommend Citizen M, and yes, I think a touch of ‘affordable luxury’ is exactly what they deliver. 

Which fabulous city to try next?? ;-)

Have you stayed in any of the other Citizen M hotels?  Would love to hear what you think.

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PS:  All views and opinions on Citizen M are my own, honest ones.
Sadly I've not received any payment or other incentive from Citizen M to write this post :-(

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