Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Britannia Hotel - Canary Wharf

Tonight I’m going to be doing some late work through the night, and so I’ve got myself settled into a nice hotel room near Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands.

I won’t get the job finished until after my last train has left, and though I can – and will – be doing the work remotely, I need to be within a very short distance of where the equipment is in case there are any problems.

Hence I’m in the Britannia Hotel. This is a very nice hotel, but kind of odd. The hotel was only built and opened in 1992, but once you walk in through the modern, sky scraping façade, you would think that the place had not been decorated since 1892!

There is a real feeling of a lack of maintenance here. Wallpaper is peeling; wooden panelling is battered and chipped. In a genuinely old, historic hotel, these things are quite nice and authentic but here they just seem wrong. It is a real shame too because so far the service has been first rate.

The girl on reception was brilliant and the whole of the reception desk sprung to life when they realised that there was suddenly a queue. In no time at all I was checked in with an unrequested free upgrade to a nice big double room. It is a very big room too, and I was very pleased to find a small pack of biscuits by the coffee, these things are important to me. WI-FI is free and fast, which I love, and I am all set up ready to work in my room, within walking distance of the office.

On arrival, the first thing I did was to go to the spa. Well I say spa, I think if I’d booked this place with the intention of having a luxury spa weekend, I would be absolutely gutted right now. The spiral iron staircase that you have to climb, to access the pool, is yet another hint towards the 1800’s that this hotel wishes it had been built in. The slippery wet steps led to quite a nice pool next to a roped off, dysfunctional Jacuzzi. I wandered past these to go to the steam room, which appeared to be through a room that looked like it should be the steam room itself. I’d spent 2 minutes sitting in this ante room wondering where the steam was when a very helpful employee came along, he politely suggested I go through the next door.

The oddest thing about the actual steam room, the thing that really caught my attention, was how they had managed to create the only cold steam room in the world. I’ve never seen this before and hopefully won’t come across it again. I sat and chuckled, not really knowing what to do. There was no doubt about the validity of the steam, the place was soaking wet and I couldn’t see the opposite side of the room for the steam, well I suppose really it was fog. Perhaps in fact I’d misread the sign, and this is actually a fog room. I stood shivering, surrounded by fog for five minutes before walking out and trying the sauna instead.

The sauna was fine, or it would have been if it hadn’t been for Dolph Lundgren’s attempt to set the world record for sitting in the hottest sauna. Dolph was massive, easily 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide at the shoulders. This guy works out, I had to admit that his body was marginally in better shape than mine, and I was about to tell him so when I stopped myself. I was about to tell Ivan Drago that his body, that I’d been staring at in a sauna was great! I swiftly had a re think and stared at the ceiling instead. Meanwhile Ivan kept jumping up and pouring ladle after ladle of water on the coals. Why it is that pouring cold water on hot coals makes the room hotter? I don’t know but I was starting to suffer. Yet again he stood up and poured another four ladles on, and my head started to spin. I was sure I could smell roasting chicken coming from my shorts, so I admitted defeat and crawled out shouting for Adrian.

After all this exercise I needed some food. I needed Pizza! The Pizzeria in the hotel beckoned and warmly welcomed me in. Yet again the décor wasn’t quite working; they had tried for a traditional Italian bistro but only managed a cheap Pizza Express. The waiter, however, was superbly attentive and in no time at all my food was ready. Palma Ham, Mozzarella and caramelised onions really complementing each other. I don’t think Raymond Blanc will be losing any sleep, and any self respecting Italian would have been appalled, as it was more of an American pizza than the Italian one that the restaurant’s theme suggested, but none the less it was tasty.

This place may be kind of odd, but I still like it. In fact I think I like its quirkiness. I’m certainly happy with my room, and after some cunning Tom-Foolery on the Internet, I got the room for only £5 more than the budget hotel on the other side of the Docklands, so it’s an absolute bonus frankly.


JAWhite said...

I'm sure that chain has sites in Verona and Frankfurt possibly the one in Seattle as well. I always look for the good in situations, sometimes we have to look hard...

Glen said...

Yes, they have hotels everywhere. It is quite nice really and absolutely faultless staff - just sort of odd!

kbxmas said...

At this point in life I find any hotel a luxury as it affords me a night off by myself, sans kids!

Barbara said...

What kbxmas said!

Also, did you not offer Dolph a private show?

Glen said...

It's not quite so nice when you are there alone though :-(

Dolph was too busy looking for the soap that he had dropped!