Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Affordable Elegance at Long Last; the Novotel Hotel Chain Is Successfully Shaking off Its Motorway Service Station Image

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Affordable Elegance at Long Last; the Novotel Hotel Chain Is Successfully Shaking off Its Motorway Service Station Image

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON TYLER

NOT the kind of girl who'd stay in a Novotel - but then who is? More people than you'd think. These days the hotel group is attracting more than weary travelling salesmen and adultering couples.

The company has quietly moved away from concrete, almost windowless blocks next to motorways that simply offer a room for the night. Now you get chic restaurants, PlayStations in the lobby, gyms and business centres. There are also larger, more comfortable rooms with free wi-fi access and proper hair dryers (not those awful, scalp-burning, vacuum cleaner machines that never actually dried anything). Some of the sleek, Malmaisonesque new generation hotels even offer the use of iPods.

This week their transformation was recognised at the AA Awards, where the chain picked up the award for Hotel Group of the Year.

And so I found myself, rather cynically, visiting the new Novotel Greenwich on Wednesday night.

I was ready to hate it - I had a backup plan to have supper at somewhere chichi, just in case the food and restaurant were as bad as I was expecting.

I could always nip back to my flat if uncomfortable and grubby, I had decided. And I was convinced that Novotel Greenwich would be stuck in a hinterland between Greenwich town centre and Deptford Creek.

So it was a shock when I arrived at Greenwich train station and I could see the hotel, right next door.

Once inside, the decor was stylishly contemporary but welcoming in a not-too-cool-for-school way. The walls and furniture were accented in rich berry tones, while the fabrics ranged in texture, giving a plush feel to the restaurant and bar.

True, there was still something of the practical, motorway services feel about it, but it was pretty glam for a Novotel. Glam enough, I thought, to try the restaurant.

The service was impeccable, beating many five-star hotels by a mile, yet the prices were tiny - a room here costs just [pounds sterling]79 at weekends, [pounds sterling]89 in the week, while no main courses in the restaurant cost much more than a tenner and included dishes such as lamb shank with rosemary potatoes in a red wine jus, and chicken with Wensleydale cheese wrapped in Parma ham. …

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