Travel: 24-Hour Room Service: The Platzl, Munich

I'M A sucker for "historic" hotels that have been "lovingly restored", so I had high hopes for the Platzl. Right in the middle of the old city, its location can't be faulted - especially on 11 August, when Munich will be a prime location for witnessing the eclipse (see pages 20 and 21) - and the "historic" bit, the restaurant, is a vast improvement on the beer- hall atmosphere of many Bavarian restaurants.

A former 16th-century vaulted mill has been divided into small groups of clustered tables. The food is great, too: delicately flavoured freshwater fish and tasty casseroled chicken.

The hotel itself, however, came as a huge disappointment. The decor, according to the brochure, is "typical Munich style". In reality, the place feels absolutely characterless from the moment you step through the front door.

Having said that, it's extremely comfortable, the staff are helpful and everything works; in other words, an ideal base for a business trip but not for a romantic rendezvous.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Sparkassenstrasse 10, 80331 Munich, Germany (00 49 89 23703-0, fax 00 49 89 23703800)

Time to Munich international airport: about 45 minutes, whether you take the S-bahn (three every hour from Marienplatz, a two-minute walk from the hotel) or cab: but the airport is 20 miles north of the city, so transfer times can be unpredictable.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Beds: All single. If you want a double, you get two. "Special" mattresses are available on request, but that means hard or soft, not double. I asked for the two single mattresses to be made up with double sheets, but that proved impossible, too.

Bathroom: There was plenty of hot water, but 10 minutes seems an excessively long time to fill a tub. A dispenser above the bath spewed out a creamy liquid, apparently intended to serve as both soap and shampoo.

Freebies: an odd selection: shoe-cleaning tissue, mending kit, emery board, shower cap, matches in the soap dish - but no soap.

What to book: No room has much of a view: "well, you can see a yellow house, or a grey house". The quietest - and priciest - look out on to the courtyard; less expensive are the street-facing rooms, and the cheapest overlook the noisy Hofbrauhaus.

Keeping in touch: German speakers will find plenty of choice on radio and TV, but the only English channel is CNN. I asked for an English-language newspaper to be delivered to my room: "We'll try," they said. Nothing turned up. All the bedrooms have a phone but fax and Internet are available only at reception.

IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS

What to take with you: don't forget your walking shoes. The Platzl is only a short walk from the main attractions of old Munich, and very handy for the city's sights. If you don't get enough exercise from a good walk, try the fifth-floor fitness centre. It has a sauna and steam room, although the steam room was "defunkt" when I was there.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A double room, including VAT, service, a large buffet breakfast and free use of the fitness facilities costs between DM344 (about pounds 120) and DM434 (about pounds 155). Parking in the underground car park costs an extra DM20 (pounds 7) for 24 hours.

I'm not paying that: then try the weekend rate, when a double, with breakfast, is DM244 (pounds 86).

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