The number of hotel rooms in London is apparently set to edge close to 150,000 this year, but trying to find even one that’s a reasonable price, in a convenient location and not resembling the set of a horror film can prove challenging.
I therefore welcome boutique chain Z Hotel’s bid to broaden this part of the market, focusing on “affordable compact luxury in prime locations”.
Z City, its seventh branch and fifth in London, is on Fleet Street and could hardly be any handier. In a day where I criss-cross London, stopping off at lunchtime to leave luggage and returning later to get ready to go out, every time it’s a straightforward journey that doesn’t drive me to despair as the city’s public transport often can.
A few minutes’ walk from Temple tube station, the entrance is discreet but easy to find, in what is a converted office building, and they have me at “free cheese and wine” which takes place in its cafe every day between 5pm and 7pm.
The hotel has 109 bedrooms, including double, queen, accessible and windowless “inside” rooms, spread over five floors.
My queen room is compact, to the extent that opening my suitcase considerably shrinks the floorspace. But as the chain says: “You’re not intending to hold conferences in your room or throw parties either.”
However, it doesn’t feel cramped, with large windows offering stunning widescreen views across the city.
All rooms also have a 48-in TV with a full selection of Sky channels, including free films, and the space would be fine for a quiet night in after a busy day in the city, especially on the super-comfy bed with luxury linen.
The colour scheme is monochrome, with hooks on a wall to hang clothing from, and the en-suite’s glass walls give a modern look and don’t take away any sense of space from the room. That said, the glass may be frosted but the limited level of privacy means it’s best to share with someone you know very well, because if you don’t, you will by the end of your stay.
Worth getting out of bed for
The immediate area, between Aldwych and Ludgate Circus, includes several historic sites including Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar and made famous by Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.
I am even more excited to find the biggest Pret A Manger I’ve ever seen a few doors down from the hotel. It’s opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, with a camera crew outside when I pass, although thankfully they don’t spot me and I keep on walking.
The hotel’s also a stone’s throw from the Strand, and it’s a nice walk along there into, say Covent Garden or Piccadilly, or in the other direction over Waterloo Bridge, one of my favourite views in London. It would also be convenient for the theatre, with several of the biggest names in walking distance.
In the other direction, St Paul’s and the City are also within a quick walk. Looking at the map, there isn’t much of central London that couldn’t be reached quickly on foot or public transport.
Wining and dining
The hotel has the group’s largest café space, with capacity for up to 80 people, and I can see why the free cheese and wine is described as “much loved”. Every evening should start this way.
Breakfast in the informal but elegant Scandi-style café was a highlight of the stay, with the combination of mini croissants, coffee and a magazine, against a backdrop of blissfully tranquil solitude, making for a relaxing start to the day and good preparation for hitting the city streets. I also had a healthy juice to balance things out and also on offer are cereals, fresh fruit salad and natural yoghurt.
Budget or boutique?
A happy balance between both, although it seems best to book in advance as prices can creep up to beyond the affordable. However, it’s worth remembering that it saves you the additional expense of, say, a cab fare home after dinner or multi-zone all-day travel ticket.
Did I mention the free cheese and wine?
A compact but convenient and chic oasis of calm in a hard-to-beat location in the centre of London, Z City lives up to its aim of “urban luxury at an affordable price”.
• Prices begin at £100 per night for a double room. Breakfast £9.50 when booked in advance, £12.50 on the day. Z City Hotel, 24 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1AA
(020 3551 3718, www.thezhotels.com/z-city)