The Clarendon is one of 16 Grange Group hotels in central London. The Clarendon is one of 7 Grange hotels located in former townhouses in Bloomsbury, very close to the British Museum.
The privately owned group of hotels has been in operation for at least 25 years and in addition to the Bloomsbury hotels, there are also Grange hotels near St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and in the City, Holborn, Fitzrovia and other Central London neighbourhoods.
However my first introduction to the Group’s hotels were their small hotels in Bloomsbury, of which I have stayed in most if not all over the past 4-5 years. My most recent stay, within the past two weeks was at the Clarendon for 3 nights.
In addition to the Bloomsbury area hotels being my first introduction to the Grange Group, these hotels also represent my impression of the group of hotels in general.
The Clarendon and the other Bloomsbury area Grange Hotels are located in what were formerly grand townhouse residences built in the early 1800’s. Some of these townhouses have interesting histories of their previous upper middle class owners or inhabitants including notable surgeons, solicitors, politicians, journalists and (according to rumour) one royal mistress.
All of them were clearly grand and dignified residences in their day. The townhouses continue to reflect the elegance and luxury style of this by-gone time.
However, just as members of older generations can sometimes appear somewhat puzzled by their current surroundings, environment and the activity going on around them, I sometimes think that these former grand homes suffer similar slight bewilderment at their current slightly fallen circumstances, including the purpose to which they have been put.
And just as the cuffs and colours of members of older generations can become a bit frayed or faded, so too have some of the details and adornments of these Grange hotels. They remain grand and dignified, but some of their veneers are a bit chipped and some of their outer layers are a bit worn and peeling.
But I think that gives them charms and all of that being said, I am a fan of the Grange Hotels.
The marketing material for the group of hotels describes them as “16 luxury 4* and 5* hotels”, each of which “boasts individual history and character, expertly combined with the highest standards of contemporary design, comfort and personal service, and an unrivalled array of facilities and services to suit the most discerning visitors.”
I realise what the job of a marketing department is, but I think that description is unfortunate and unfair.
I cannot argue that the hotels (almost) all have 4 and 5 star ratings. One (The Lancaster) is a 3 star, but for the life of me, I don’t know what the difference between their 3 and 4 star hotels is – which is a compliment not a criticism.
All of the hotels offer very dependable, consistent quality and very good value accommodation in hotels which are well located. That is why I picked The Clarendon for my most recent visit and that’s what I got when I stayed there. And I think that is the primary appeal of the hotels and their best marketing point. I know exactly what kind of stay I’m going to have whenever I go to stay at any of their 7 Bloomsbury hotels.
As with previous stays, the room I was given was on the slightly small side of current standards, but that’s because of where the hotels are and the kind of building it is.
The hallways are a bit rabbit warren’ish as you find your way around the unique plan of each of the hotels, while the rooms will be well furnished with solid, slightly old fashioned furniture that has been knocked around just a little bit. But that is entirely in keeping with the slightly old fashioned but solid surroundings in buildings that have suffered a few bumps and bruises over the years.
As on previous visits, the room décor was in colours and with fabrics that are traditional and go with the unchanged style of the buildings. The bed was comfortable, there were lots of pillows, the room was clean, the bathroom was modern and the water pressure and hot water supply did not and have never disappointed me.
The WiFi worked, and the TV remote didn’t defeat me.
My one pet peeve – I wish the rooms had small fridges for drinks and to keep ice.
In terms of other services, the breakfast that has also been included on previous visits and was again on this visit was entirely adequate and the buffet at which it is served was kept well stocked throughout the breakfast period (a welcome change from the frustrating practice encountered elsewhere of letting the buffet offering dwindle as the end of the breakfast period approaches, leaving a few slices of dried up cheese, unpopular flavours of yoghurt and a fruit salad selection which includes only bits of apple left by those who got the more choice ingredients).
The staff were consistently polite and helpful when asked to assist with fairly standard queries or issues.
My only mildly critical observation about the staff is that very few appear to be of a hospitable nature, which often assists those working in the hospitality industry. I always get the feeling that every query I pose is subject to a quick mental review against company rules and policies, which are VERY strictly adhered to (for reasons which I can imagine are sound and sensible). Some staff even carry with them an aura of being previously chastised for rule infractions that haunt them.
All of this does tend to leave one feeling that we are all considered to be a bit of a nuisance and that the operations of the hotel would work better if we just did what hotel guests are supposed to do, which is check in, go to our rooms and then check out.
But I don’t want to be unfair with this comment. As always, the staff were competent, professional and entirely appropriate in their conduct. I’m just not sure if they really mean it when they tell me to let them know if I have any questions or problems as they will be happy to help. I consider that offer to be as sincere as the recorded apologies that are played on an endless loop in many London area train stations which offer apologies for the delay in service and regret for any delays that may have occurred. I don’t buy it.
But even still, and just as everything else about the services provided and my satisfaction about my visit, the staff were dependable, consistent and completely satisfactory.
Now returning to the marketing description which I referred to earlier; in all of my 20-30 stays at various Grange Hotels over the past 4-5 years have I taken notice of “the highest standards of contemporary design, comfort and personal service”?
I’m afraid I have not. But I probably don’t keep up with contemporary design as much as some.
I also haven’t really been aware of the hotels offering “an unrivalled array of facilities and services to suit the most discerning visitors.”
So, I must call them out on this slight bit of hyperbolic overstatement – particularly when it is made in a market such as London’s that offers quite extraordinary levels of facilities and services at some of the city’s hotels which have international and historic reputations for their luxury. And particularly when they don’t really need to say this about what they offer.
So, I will go back to my earlier comment that their marketing message is unfortunate and unfair.
Because I think it is unfortunate and unfair to them – not to us, the guests.
I think that the Grange hotels do a very good job of what they do and they offer very good value for the price that I paid this time and every other time I have chosen a Grange Hotel.
But I don’t consider them to be a luxury range of hotels, in the context in which that is known in London – which I think is a VERY GOOD THING.
I don’t want a luxury hotel when I’m on the kind of trip that results in me choosing to stay at one of the Grange Group of hotels. It was not the reason I chose to stay at The Clarendon most recently for example. On these visits I’m not that kind of customer and I don’t have that kind of budget, or expectations - which I expect is probably the case for many others who chose the Grange Group.
I say all of this by way of a message to the owners of the Grange Group: Be proud of what you do at the Grange – as you do it very well. And that is a message I think you could more appropriately share.
My one tip for those looking to book a room with one of the Grange Hotels: do it on the company’s own website and not through other hotel booking websites. The prices are always equal or better on the company website and I have had endless problems with some of the hotel booking websites that currently operate with lost reservations, missing payments, refunds that are long delayed, customer service that does not meet the mandate of its name and a distant and uncaring approach to the problems they have caused. I don’t want to name names of my booking sites which I consider to be unsatisfactory, but one of them I previously used only when I needed a room at the "lastminute".
I hope all of these comments are helpful. I know that I will be returning to a Grange Hotel again soon – and I will look forward to that next visit.
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- Also Known As:
- Clarendon Hotel London