Departures: Apartment hotel for London

THE concept of the apartment hotel, which offers the flexibility of self-catering in a hotel environment, is well known in other parts of the world, but has not yet become established in Britain. The French Orion group, which has a chain of 32 apartment hotels in France and Belgium, including three in Paris, has now opened one in London - the first of what it hopes will be a UK chain.

Accommodation at the Orion (071-566 8000) will be entirely self-catering, with no food or drink service available. Guests have a choice of studios, sleeping two, available at an introductory offer for pounds 59 per night, and apartments, sleeping up to four, presently pounds 82 a night.

The London Orion in Goswell Road near the Barbican Centre, which opens officially on 1 February, will be the flagship of the group, according to its general manager, Keith Povah. 'The London Orion has been furnished to a much higher standard than the Orion properties in France. The kitchens all have dishwashers, microwaves and mini ovens. The rooms have thick-pile carpets.'

Mr Povah says that the Orion aims to provide a 'home from home'. Each studio and apartment has its own private telephone/fax line. Guests are offered two service cleans a week in the basic rate, says Mr Povah, 'but people can be left completely alone if they wish'.