If Westminster Bridge Road were to appear on the Monopoly map, this short, busy main road would share the same low-rent part of the board as the Old Kent Road, funnelling traffic from central London towards Sevenoaks and Dover. Until this week, its nod towards the hospitality industry comprised a couple of pubs and a handful of restaurants. But last Monday, two brand-new rival hotels simultaneously opened for paying guests.
The vast new Park Plaza Westminster stands at the west end of the road, while the H10 Waterloo is at the east. They will soon be joined by a budget upstart, right in the middle, offering "five-star sleep" for as little as £10 a night.
The Park Plaza occupies the former site of the despised "Island Block" of County Hall, a concrete monstrosity in the middle of a roundabout. The tide of traffic has been displaced, offering a grand new prospect for those heading across Westminster Bridge to the South Bank. (Incidentally, its nearest neighbour is another Park Plaza, the County Hall property.)
"Location is key," said Laurence Markham, the marketing director for the new hotel. "The footfall for the South Bank is now phenomenal. Many hotels have a picture of Big Ben and the London Eye in their brochures, but that is the actual view from many of our 1,021 rooms." A special opening rate of £99 double, including breakfast, has sold out.
The Eye is visible from the 12th floor of the H10 Waterloo, at the other end of Westminster Bridge Road, but so too is the capital's financial core: the lucky occupants of room 1202 get a hitherto unseen panorama of the City of London with Canary Wharf in the distance.
St George's Circus, as the roundabout at this end of Westminster Bridge Road is known, used to be the smelliest place in London, due to the presence of Sarson's vinegar factory. Today, the H10's fragrant restaurant – Three O Two – overlooks the Obelisk. This stone spike, a monument to George III, shows the distance to Westminster as exactly one mile, with Fleet Street and London Bridge only slightly more distant; the kink in the Thames means that the Spanish-owned H10 is equidistant from the heart of politics and the City.
The property occupies a very compact site, packing in an impressive 177 rooms – all with free Wi-Fi – as well as a bar that is a cut above the adjacent pub. Its claim to be "just a few metres away from the Waterloo Tube station" is ambitious; the Underground and main-line stations, which together comprise the busiest terminus in Europe, are a five-minute walk away. There is plenty of availability at £95 double in the first couple of months, though breakfast is an additional £15 per person.
The general managers for both hotels will be watching developments in the middle of Westminster Bridge Road with interest. Tune Hotels.com, a successful start-up based in Malaysia, with properties in Penang, Bali and Borneo, is launching its first UK hotel in the former Lambeth Building Society building. Its promise is "five-star sleep at one-star prices" – which, according to Mark Lankester, the chief executive of Tune Hotels.com, could fall to £10.
"Every day, someone is checking into a Tune Hotel only having paid the equivalent of US$3 (£2) night. Within London, because the cost of property over here is considerably higher than anything in South East Asia, we are still working out the final price bands, but what I would like to do is offer prices around the £10 mark."
His firm plans to create another 14 properties, with more than 1,000 beds, in London in the next few years. Sleep is likely to get cheaper, if not deeper, in the capital.
Park Plaza Westminster: www.bit.ly/PPWest
H10 Waterloo: www.bit.ly/H10London
Tune: tunehotels.comReuse content