STAR-RATED ROCK'N'ROLL HOTELS

Travel: There are London hotels that can cope with the antics of rock stars, even encourage their misbehaviour with bathtubs designed to fit four people. But one band proved too much for the city's hoteliers: those sweet boys from Take That

COLUMBIA

One of London's leading rock'n'roll hotel is housed in a stately white building, just across the road from Hyde Park. It was the 1983 visit by The Teardrop Explodes that started the Columbia's association with rock bands and since then it has welcomed the likes of Simple Minds, Marc Almond and the Eurythmics. Its popularity is down to the understanding attitude of the director, Michael Rose: including his willingness to serve drinks at any time of day or night. But the modest prices also help pull pin young bands that are still getting by on record-company handouts. Oh, and there are no nasty distractions like a gym or a garden to put you off your hedonistic lifestyle. The hotel has 100 rooms all equipped with en-suite bathrooms, televisions and telephones.

95-99 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NS (0171 402 0021). Singles pounds 52, doubles and twins pounds 65, triples pounds 84, four-beds pounds 99. All prices are inclusive of English breakfast.

CONRAD INTERNATIONAL LONDON

The appeal of this hotel is obvious: it has no minuscule bedrooms, just grand suites. What's more it is tucked away in the quiet backwater of Chelsea Harbour (but within easy reach of Earl's Court stadium) and has an indoor swimming pool and a free limousine service to Harrods. Rock stars with large entourages and a passion for privacy check in here; Prince, Neil Diamond and David Bowie are among its fans. The late Take That stayed here six times, although on the final occasion, they were told that it would be better if they went elsewhere in the future. It wasn't because the band was misbehaving, just that the fans were too much. It turned out that 15 last-minute bookings had been made by kids, many of them too young to legally stay in a hotel on their own. They were sent packing. Each room has a VCR which prove very popular with bands who want to watch tapes of their shows, or show off their latest video.

Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 OXG (0171 823 3000). Suites from pounds 240.

THE FRANKLIN HOTEL

Once you've made it as a world-class rock star, this is the kind of discreet hotel that you will want to hole-up in: regulars such as Sting and Tina Turner will confirm this. Perhaps they also like the fact that classical musicians and conductors choose the Franklin. Opened in 1992, it is set in a tree-lined square in the heart of affluent Knightsbridge and is handy for the shopping opportunities supplied by the chic designer stores in Sloane Street. There are 47 air-conditioned bedrooms, each with en-suite marble bathroom, bar and satellite television. There are butler and valet services for residents who are feeling grand. Designer Virginia Roxburghe has decorated the Franklin Hotel in a country-house-style with antique furniture, oil paintings and English fabrics.

28 Egerton Gardens, London SW3 2DB

(0171 584 5533). Singles from pounds 125, doubles pounds 155-pounds 190, deluxe doubles with garden views pounds 240, plus VAT.

HYATT CARLTON TOWER

The staff at the Carlton Tower know how to handle the paparazzi, screaming fans, and true stars. Their crash course came when Madonna checked in. Indeed, if you want to know what it is like staying here, all you need to do is watch In Bed with Madonna, which includes several scenes shot in her room. The hotel opened its doors in 1961 and was the first five- star establishment in Knightsbridge. In the early days the passion for providing American-style service meant that there was a ratio of two members of staff to every guest. Even today the emphasis is on personal service for the discriminating traveller and the high-security presidential suite on the eighteenth floor is the most expensive in London: you get great views from the bullet-proof windows. The hotel also offers a gym, aerobics studio, sunbeds, and a beauty salon, in fact, there's everything a material girl could desire. And if you, and a dozen photographers, fancy a high- profile dawn jog, Hyde Park is only yards away.

Cadogan Place, London SW1X 9PY (0171 235 1234). Singles from pounds 235, doubles from pounds 285, suites from pounds 400, presidential suite pounds 2,700.

THE PORTOBELLO HOTEL

The Portobello's guest register reads like a radio-station playlist (although, thankfully, it has yet to copy the Regent Beverly Wilshire which prints its celebrity-packed guest-lists on T-shirts). Oasis, Blur, Seal, Suede, U2, Axl Rose, Mick Jagger, George Michael and the Sex Pistols (who first stayed here in 1976 and showed a charming sense of loyalty by lodging here again in 1996) have all kipped here. Tina Turner loved the hotel so much, she bought the house next door. There are only 22 bedrooms and suites, all decorated with a bewildering mixture of antiques and military- style paraphernalia. Eccentric musicians will warm to the suites with baths in the bedrooms: in one room the owners are currently installing a four-berth (well, you never know how lusty you'll feel after a gig) Edwardian bathing-machine. Groupies looking for a special evening will also warm to the beds (there are round ones, four-posters, brass bedsteads, and a ship's bunk). Other treats include interactive televisions, secretarial services, CD players, VCRs and, of course, a 24-hour bar. Some of the rooms have balconies overlooking the pretty communal gardens: useful for those contemplative moments, when the rock'n'roll life seems so meaningless. Everyone agrees that partner-owner Johnny Ekperigin is the man who has made the Portobello such a hit by happily catering for rock stars' unusual lifetsyles.

22 Stanley Gardens, London W11 2NG (0171 727 2777). Singles from pounds 95, doubles pounds 135, suites pounds 175-pounds 210.

ST JAMES'S CLUB

Robert Palmer, Cher, Tina Turner and David Bowie are among the big-time popsters who have stayed here. Founded in 1857, this private club also takes in non-members who want somewhere quiet, homely and very private to stay. All the accommodation consists of suites - the stars tend to pick the penthouse one which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, Jacuzzi, lounge, dining room, two terraces and a private lift - each with its own en-bathroom and fax machine. There is no restaurant but you can get meals at the bar and there's that all-important 24-hour room service and a CD library. If you enjoy your stay - and don't toss anything valuable out the window - you can apply for membership which entitles you to handsome discounts on your bill. This costs pounds 300 annually, plus an enrolment fee of pounds 150.

7-8 Park Place, London SW1A 1LP (0171 629 7688). Rooms for non-members start at pounds 210, plus VAT.

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