The celebrations of the Strand Palace's 60th birthday were in full flow in 1969 when some modernising bright spark decided it would be a good plan to rip out the hotel's Art Deco features. What would become of the theatrically lit foyer of stepped glass panels running up a dramatic staircase, topped by a revolving gun-barrel door of glass, designed by Oliver P Bernard? It was due to be sledge-hammered and dropped at sea.
At the last minute, the Victoria & Albert Museum intervened and saved this Art Deco extravaganza. The heavenly stairway then languished in the museum's basement until this spring, when it became the centrepiece of the V&A's new Art Deco exhibition, which runs until 20 July. For the first time in 34 years you can stay at the hotel on the Strand and also admire the hotel's original entrance a few miles away in South Kensington.
The purge of the hotel's original character was not wholly effective: some Art Deco features have survived on the conference-room floor in the basement, and on the hotel's exterior, where four huge gold-and-orange Art Deco lamps still hang.
The Strand Palace has 783 rooms, three restaurants, five bars and four stars.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, London WC2 (020-7379 4737, www.strandpalacehotel.co.uk). The hotel stands in the wings of Theatreland. The Savoy Theatre is opposite, the Lyceum is around the corner and the Vaudeville is a few doors west. Covent Garden is just a five-minute stroll to the north, and the South Bank complex is a bridge-span away in the opposite direction.
Time from international airport: the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow takes about 50 minutes to reach Covent Garden, for £3.70. A cab will run to around £40-£50.
Time from international station: the Eurostar platforms at Waterloo Station are 15 minutes' walk or a three-minute cab ride away.
ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?
As with most hotels in London, you wouldn't want to swing a cat in the average Strand Palace room. They have been refurbished several times; don't check in expecting to indulge any Art Deco fantasies. But the beds are broad, and the rooms are surprisingly quiet considering the hotel's location on one of central London's busiest streets. From the upper floors at the front you get a good view of the London Eye.
Freebies: average toiletries; tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Keeping in touch: each room has a telephone, satellite TV and desk. Most "superior" rooms have sockets to plug in a modem; for the proletariate, there are three stand-up internet-access consoles in the lobby, which are neither private nor user-friendly.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A standard double costs £138 for the first night, including breakfast; the price drops to £118 per night thereafter. Book online with an agency such as London Nights (www.londonnights.com) and the price can fall as low as £90 for a double room.
I'm not paying that: cross the river and stay at the Travel Inn (0870 238 3300, www.travelinn.co.uk) in the County Hall building for £79.95 a night.
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