Published on Monday, November 20, 2017

Airport hotel gets funky

Bev Fearis checked in to the Holiday Inn London Heathrow M4, Jct 4, and discovered a hotel that is, thankfully, more glamorous than its name.

First impressions: It was dark and drizzly when our taxi from the airport pulled up but we couldn't miss this monster of a hotel (in terms of its size, not for any other reason) and the familiar neon green Holiday Inn sign. It's an imposing 10 storeys high, home to 610 bedrooms and is a well known landmark on this busy M4 junction. Once inside, the lobby is vast but welcoming, with various seating areas, a bar, and a buzz from people coming and going. The lobby area is set to undergo a big renovation next year, with a more stylish, less 'lobbyish' look thanks to strategically-placed book shelves to create more intimate spaces, a new informal coffee bar where guests with early morning flights can grab a hot drink and a muffin, and little technology stations where business people can hold meetings and get digital.

Location: No prizes for guessing where this hotel is located. The clue's in the name. As well as being convenient for M4 drivers, it's a 10/15-minute, £15 taxi ride from Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3, or if you're coming from central London, a 20-minute bus ride on the 222 (£1.50) from Hounslow West. The bus stop is right outside, by The Plough pub. The hotel is linked to the airport via the Heathrow Hoppa too, but this stops off at other hotels on the way so allow extra time. Overnight parking is £16. As you would guess from the location, this is a hotel mainly for business types, cabin crew or travellers with stop-overs, but it's also not a bad location for visitors to Thorpe Park, Windsor Castle and Legoland.

Wining and dining: The hotel recently ditched its Irish Pub and replaced it with a more funky, contemporary bar/restaurant, cleverly named T6. A long bar runs along one side, with warm white festoon lighting strung above and reflected in the glamorous gold gilded mirrors hung behind. Although one big TV screen remains, it's just for big games and sporting events and it's not in your face. Non sports lovers can easily find a quiet corner. Mood lighting and a variety of seating styles - leather banquette, bar stools at high tables, and traditional tables and chairs - create an informal ambiance. It doesn't matter if you're just having a drink or a full three-course dinner, you'd feel at ease here. Lone diners would feel comfortable too. There's a large outside terrace too, although I imagine it could get a bit noisy from the M4 traffic. The food is typical pub grub - nachos, fish and chips, burgers, steaks, pizzas and salads - but with a few unexpected additions like salt and pepper squid or vegetable tagine. Portions are generous and service is quick. There's a good range of craft ales and, jumping on the current gin craze, there's a Gin Parlour with a special gin menu, all priced at £8 with a variety of mixers. Angel, the friendly barman, recommended Victoria's Rhubarb Gite with the Aromatic Tonic. It was a good tip. He also talked us (easily) into trying the banoffee pie. Another winner. Breakfast the next morning was in the Seasons restaurant, with fresh fruit salads, cereals, mini muffins, pastries and, of course, a full English.

Bedrooms: Bedrooms are modern and functional, as you would expect from a business airport hotel. There are a few choice decorative frills - a couple of small black and white prints and a framed swirly map of the London Underground, handy for anyone popping in to town. The desk comes with an ergonomic chair and with more than enough plug sockets. Our executive room had a hair dryer, iron and ironing board, and a kettle with tea, coffee and biscuits, and complimentary water too. Despite the sound-proofed windows, you can still hear the faint hum of the motorway traffic but once I'd got used to it, I slept soundly. The bath ran quickly and the shower was powerful.

For flyers: Departure boards are in reception and breakfast starts at 6am for those early flights. A handful of airline crews use the hotel on a regular basis and have their own crew lounges on the upper floors. You won't see them in the bar much, as apparently they prefer to drink their duty free in their bedrooms and save on expenses!

For executives: There's a small but well-equipped gym and plenty of meeting rooms. The hotel is close to Stockley Business Park, so the meeting rooms are well used. Wi-Fi was fast and reliable, even in public areas.

Highs: The funky new T6 has breathed new life into the hotel and the lobby renovation will only add to the new vibe.

Lows: The noise of the M4 traffic, but it really is just a distant hum.

Lead-in price: Executive Rooms start at £99, including Wi-Fi, 20% off food and beverages, which are reasonably priced at around £14 for a main.

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