If you need a place to stay in Central London, it doesn’t get much better than Amba Hotel Charing Cross.
Placed directly above Charing Cross station, this is a site that’s held various names since it was first built in the 1860s as an official railway hotel. But since the end of last year, the new and contemporary Amba hotel group has taken over. And as we found out, this four-star gem of a hotel hasn’t lost its sense of history or grandeur.
My mum was visiting and she has many memories of Charing Cross from when she commuted there from Camberley aged just 16. This was a trip that was going to be brimming with nostalgia.
Mum worked at the old Shell building on Southbank and later trained as a nurse at the old Charing Cross Hospital (which is now a police station). She’d looked up at this hotel from the cobbled concourse of the station many many times and had always wanted to stay there. So when I told her we had a room booked at the Amba Hotel, she was very excited.
First impressions count in a hotel and first impressions here were fantastic.
An elegant entrance…
And a sparkly circular reception filled with lovely armchairs and furnishings…
It was heaving with young people when we arrived (not a bad thing). It turns out they were the MAC Make-up team for London Fashion Week. But this didn’t hinder the reception staff who were quick, efficient and ever so friendly and eager to help.
After a thorough rundown of all the amenities, we went to drop our bags in our room. I’ve been told Amba Charing Cross has two sections of the hotel – the newer part and the older part.
There were lots of oohs and ahhhs as we marvelled at the glorious hallway decked out in gorgeous red carpets…
..and various pops of red, including the traditional telephone box and beautiful letter box I took a liking to…
There’s a real sense of old meets new here, especially with the original sweeping staircase that takes you to every floor…
It’s a particularly beautiful feature at night, when they place candles on every step.
Our room was located at the front of the building in the new area, so mum was delighted to have these fabulous views over the Strand.
I didn’t quite squeeze the former hospital into the picture, where she used to work, but you can see St Martin-in-the-Fields and over to Trafalgar Square. She talks very fondly of the times when she went to live gigs there in the church crypt.
These days, the basement of the historic church is a cafe but I love imagining her living it up there in her younger years. We could have stayed up here all day pointing out different landmarks.
And with a room as nice as this, I don’t think anyone would have blamed us.
We were particularly lucky because we had a suite – so had a fantastic amount of space. With a lovely sofa and large TV on the wall, it’s perfect for visitors looking for a really comfortable base from which to explore London.
There was a Nespresso machine, which always wins me over, plus a good sized kettle.
The mini-bar was stocked with fresh milk (no horrid long-life milk in sight), biscuits, wine, fizz, soft drinks and various other treats. And the best part was it was all complementary. Yes really.
The wardrobes are really spacious with silk coat hangers and two packs of soft white slippers and cosy dressing gowns.
With extra pillows, an ironing board and a desk too, this really is a fantastic place to get your creature comforts if you’re travelling to the capital for work or leisure.
One of the talking points of Amba Hotel is definitely the iPad which you’ll find by your bed. While you can use it to browse the internet, you can also use its nifty menu for room service and for ordering any essentials you might have forgotten.
As it happened, I’d left my toothbrush behind in a hurry. Sadly, I couldn’t find a toothbrush option on the menu, however after a quick phone call to front desk, within minutes, a member of staff was delivering one to our room.
The suite bathroom was fabulous. The pictures really don’t do it justice, but it’s contemporary, clean and comes with Amba branded products. You have a bath tub with shower, plus a separate spacious cubicle complete with rainforest shower and handheld shower. So if you’re a family or a couple, you could very easily have baths and showers going at the same time. How’s that for efficiency?
All guests who stay in the suite are entitled to use the Amba lounge for snacks and drinks, from 7am-7pm. It’s a great way to do breakfast if you prefer to start your day in a more quiet setting, avec papers and magazines.
And as we found out, it’s a lovely place to sink into an armchair and have a natter over coffee before you hit Covent Garden for a nosey around.
By night, the place to be in the hotel is without a doubt, the Terrace restaurant and bar. Located right at the front of the hotel where the elegant balcony overlooks the Strand, this is where you can imagine people have been sipping martinis for many many years. I hear they do a very lovely afternoon tea too.
It’s nice to see the railway hotel of yesteryear hasn’t been forgotten through its trendy facade. As we exited the lift, we spotted black and white photography of the original Charing Cross station, which must have dated back more than 100 years. Ladies walked along the platforms in long dresses and elegant hats and it looked orderly and unhurried – quite a contrast to the chaotic place it is today.
Very regrettably, we were unable to try the breakfast the next morning as we overslept and had a very early press meeting at The National Wedding Show.
So, it was a short and sweet stay, but it was enough to make for a very memorable occasion for my mum and me.
Plus, hopefully if you get to stay, you’ll agree, the staff also make this a hotel worth coming back to.
Hopefully we’ll be back one day. I’m sure my mum has many more stories to tell…
Amba Hotel Charing Cross, The Strand, London, WC2N 5HX
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