Travel: 24-Hour Room Service: One Aldwych

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The Independent Culture
THE FRENCH are the lucky ones. When they disembark from the Eurostar from Paris and cross Waterloo Bridge, they get the finest prospect of London's latest five-star hotel - whose name is its address.

One Aldwych occupies a funny wedge on the edge of Aldwych, the semi-circle that separates Covent Garden from Fleet Street. The premises are suitably grand for an Edwardian hotel - but in fact the building, Iveresk House, was designed as a home for the Morning Post, a now-defunct national newspaper. The swimming pool in the basement of the hotel was where the presses were located, and it is flanked by massive steel supports.

From the street, passers-by gawp in at the hotel through the huge windows into the former Advertisement Hall. It is now a lobby bar, where high- profile guests like Mick Hucknall, Robbie Williams and Roger Moore may loll in high-backed chairs. "A hotel that freshens the mind" was the driving concept for the One Aldwych's creator and managing director, Gordon Campbell Grey.

I'm not saying that the place is modern, but I couldn't decide if the object to the left of the reception desk was (a) sculpture or (b) a hi- tech lateral radiator or (c) a bench. No one yelled when I sat on it to survey the clean lines, clear spaces and elaborate staircase, so I assume it was the latter.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Beds: minimum of 6ft wide, with four plump pillows and an eight-inch mattress designed by Hypnos: "The first thing that we sell is a good night's sleep," says Campbell Grey. Non-smoking rooms are available. The best among the 105 rooms is a two-bedroom deluxe suite (with its own fitness centre), while the standard rooms on the lower floors on the northern side are the least appealing.

Freebies: high-class toiletries, plus fruit and flowers that are refreshed every day. The ashtrays are classy but not to be taken away.

Temperature: a fully flexible control system - "You must be able to freeze or melt".

Bathroom: fitted with an individual television. A piping-hot bath runs in just three minutes. Those of a nervous disposition should be warned that the hi-tech drainage system makes an extraordinary range of whooshing and clunking hydraulic noises that sounds like the soundtrack from Creature from the Black Lagoon.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

Television: the five terrestrial channels plus CNN, MTV, Sky and others

Radio: yes, along with a classy CD player

Fax: a machine will be brought to your room on demand

Internet: bring your own laptop, and plug it into the ISDN socket if required

Phone: a three-minute local call costs 75p

Switchboard: the average time that the phone rang on three occasions was 10 seconds. Hold music - `Steve McQueen' CD by Prefab Sprout.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

One Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ (0171-300 0500); sales@onealdwych.co.uk

Transport: a bit of an Underground black-hole, with an awkward 10-minute hike from the five nearest tube stations: Charing Cross, Holborn, Covent Garden, Temple or Waterloo

Time to Heathrow: 35 minutes if you get a good cab run to Paddington for the Heathrow Express

Time to Waterloo International: three minutes by cab or bus

THE BOTTOM LINE

A double room, including VAT and service, is pounds 310.80; English breakfast in bed is an additional pounds 16.50 each, with 12.5 per cent optional service charge.

To cut the cost by pounds 130, stay on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night before 1 April, so you qualify for the "Brief Affair" rate of pounds 220 including breakfast.

SIMON CALDER

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