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Published on Monday, July 29, 2019

A hotel welcome that satisfies all the senses

Bev Fearis checked into the Novotel London City South and found it smelt as good as it looked.

First impressions: The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the hotel lobby was how lovely it smelt. It was difficult to put my finger on it, but I can only describe it as walking through a pine forest, or a wild flower meadow, on a lovely spring morning. Either way, it was considerably nicer than the smell of car fumes and city pollution on my walk there from London Bridge Station. The second thing that struck me was that it didn't feel like a hotel lobby, which I realised was down to the fact that there was no formal reception desk. Instead of being greeted by a uniformed person standing behind a computer, the reception team were milling about in front of a low-level island, greeting guests like you'd greet a friend coming into your home (except for the smartphones in their hands to do the official check-in bit). The welcome got even better when I got to my bedroom and saw my name, literally in lights (see photo). It definitely put a smile on my face. 

Location: The hotel is a 10-minute walk to London Bridge tube station and a short walk to Borough Market, the Shard, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe, St. Pauls Cathedral and lots more of the capital's tourist hotspots. It's also handy for the City.


Rooms: My new Executive Premium room (not the one pictured here) was well thought out, making the most of the space available. It had a fabulous walk-in shower, with one-way glass (outwards, of course) and a separate toilet and - the first time I've seen this - the sink was in the middle of the room. It meant I could still watch the TV while cleaning my teeth. Behind my kingsize bed was a snowy scene, which felt a little bit odd as it was a sweltering summer's day outside, but it went well with the colour scheme - mainly white, grey and with splashes of red. The large desk and speedy free wi-fi allowed me to catch up with work before I got ready for an awards event.

Wining and dining: The hotel has a newly-refurbed open-plan restaurant and bar area leading from the lobby. It's a stylish space divided by floor-to-ceiling shelving units displaying plants in little terracotta pots and contemporary white ornaments. Low-hanging ceiling lights and exposed ductwork create a New York industrial vibe. The breakfast room was buzzy and, even though I made it just before the 10am deadline, I was made to feel welcome and was reassured that there was no rush. 

Highlights: I always struggle with hotel showers but have absolutely no complaints about this one. I'd even go so far as to say it was the best I've ever showered in. There was a choice of overhead and handheld and, for once, it was immediately clear how to switch each one on. I can't tell you how many times I've not actually wanted to wash my hair but suddenly found myself being drenched by turning the wrong handle, but there was no trouble here. I also liked the fact that I could see out of the shower. The smell of the lobby was another nice touch. I found out later it was a aroma diffuser by the entrance. The corridors smelt lovely too.

Lowlights: The air conditioning was a bit on the noisy side, so I switched it off when I went to bed but then woke up feeling a little hot and stuffy. But, once I'd switched it back on again the room quickly cooled to a nice temperature.

Verdict: A great choice for tourists and business people looking for a mid-priced hotel with style but not over substance. Hoteliers, particularly in big cities, please take note: if you want to make a great first impression, invest in an aroma diffuser.

Novotel London City South offer rates from £145 including breakfast for a superior bedroom.

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