There are some pundits who feel that more luxury hotel companies should get into the airport hotel market. As more and more people travel, and weather and other hiccups cause what seems like an increasing percentage of delayed flights, a hotel right next to, ideally attached to, the airport terminal makes a lot of sense. The gal had three hours to spare so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to try a day room at Sofitel London Heathrow. The hotel is physically attached to Terminal 5: for Terminal 4, nothing beats Hilton London Heathrow Airport, and for Terminals 2 and 3 you might just as well get a bus to nearby Park Inn. Sofitel London Heathrow gives you a bit of a workout pre-arrival as it is a good 300 yards, in all, from the terminal.
Then, just before going down the entrance escalator, turn to your left to see the stunning Michael Speller bronze, on loan from the art gallery landside in the terminal – see it, above. The fact it is placed in front of the Sixt rental station, obviously bright orange as is anything to do with Regina Sixt and her car-hire operation, makes the sculpture even more strategic. At the bottom of the arrival escalator is an enticing ESPA boutique – does Surinder Arora, who owns this 605-room hotel, like partnering with companies which only have four letters in their names? The reception desks are staggered so, as customer, you never feel you are standing in a straight line. My arrival, indeed, was so quick there was barely time to give even a glance towards the many awards that stand on a low wall’s top, behind the agents.
I can see why this does win a lot of awards. It is an ideal business hotel. Signage is good and there is no confusion finding the way to the room, which is definitely functional, in shades of beige and browns. There are plenty of sockets (only UK and US so take your own European), the desk is high enough, and the fridge is sensibly empty, other than water – a note asks you to call Room Service (which is 24/7) if you want it filled. I headed straight down to the upper basement, to the gym, which I think is also 24/7: the equipment is mostly Technogym, though the Pilates balls seem to have disappeared into thin air. I also headed to Club Millesimé, which opens from 6.30am: the breakfast, described as light, has plenty of cereals in kilner jars, and Tiptree jams, and good make-your-own Melitta coffee, in RAK china or paper cups.
This is luxury from the business viewpoint, though if a high-powered executive is female she might just want to pack her frilliest pink nightie to inject even more of an element of fun into her stay at this luxury hotel. I loved the way everything worked so well, and the room and bathroom, with its wash line and deep plum-coloured robes, were faultless – anything in the room that you particularly like you can buy, at any time, from www.soboutique.com, which also promotes Karl Lagerfeld’s emblem for Sofitel So Singapore, Kenzo Takada cushions as at Sofitel So Mauritius, Christian Lacroix’s designs for Sofitel So Bangkok, and Jack Russell’s leather luggage. Then I headed down to the gym again, and passed more promotion for ESPA, and, as always, everything that ESPA founder Sue Harmsworth is associated with displays fun. Other than my visit to the Club there was no time to try any of this clever hotel’s dining facilities – the good-value set menus, with discounts if you dine before 6 p.m., are displayed in the elevators which are, futuristically, glass sided. I will be back, to eat a proper breakfast and, I hope, more.