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I got a great fare to London for June and needed a place to stay. I rarely splurge for luxury rooms, but I also like to see what’s out there, so I searched for fancy hotels in town. I suffered sticker shock when I saw a property on Marriott’s site for nearly $900 per night, followed by a happy realization that I could have it for free.

The front entrance to Threadneedles Hotel, London.

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Marriott operates over 6,000 properties, and only 69 of them are in its highest points echelon, Category 9. Of those, seven are in London, and among them only one is in its upper-upscale boutique brand: Autograph Collection: Threadneedles. What began as a Victorian bank in 1856 was reintroduced to the world in 2002 as a five-star luxury hotel that, according to its website “exudes grandeur in a thoroughly modern way.”

1370 GBP is about 1785 USD.

 

Booking

That exuded grandeur had prices to match. When I booked my room in March, the cash price for a luxury room priced out at 685 GBP ($893) per night (they came down slightly as the date approached). The points redemption was 45,000 Marriott Rewards points.

90,000 points got me a free room. I didn

 

After earning 80,000 points from the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card bonus (I jumped the gun, as the 100,000-point bonus offer came along later), I was close to being able to stay two nights at this property for free.

 I didn’t use this card much after spending the $3,000 to trigger the bonus, so I was a little bit short on points. Fortunately, Marriott is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so I transferred the remaining points from there to top off my account. Marriott allows you to book the room even if you don’t have enough points, provided the points post to your account at least 14 days prior to your check-in. (I could have also transferred from American Express Membership Rewards to SPG to Marriott).

The front desk and lobby look great.

Arrival and Check-In

I love taking the Tube from Heathrow Airport (LHR) into the city, especially when the entire trip costs me 3.10 pounds. I emerged from the Underground at Bank station and walked a few short blocks to the hotel. The Heathrow Express train would have cost 25 pounds, and an Uber was estimated at over 35 pounds.

A view from under the dome.

There was no one at the front to open the door or help with bags, but it was just a few steps from the entrance to the front desk. The lobby area was striking. Headlined by a stained-glass dome atop circular columns, this was an impressive place to meet your friends or colleagues for a drink, either under the dome or in the adjoining bar and restaurant. With cut marble floors, dark wood walls and smart lighting, Threadneedles made a great first impression with its rich and handsome design.

There was no queue, and I sat in a leather chair as the cheery staff offered water and checked me in. They thanked me for my Gold Elite status (a perk of having the Platinum Card from American Express is the Gold status with SPG, which Marriott will match). The Gold Status also got me a 4pm checkout and would have gotten me entrance to the hotel’s executive lounge, if it had had one. Instead, I got a choice of a breakfast buffet or 750 points/night. I chose the points, which were posted to my account less than two business days after checkout.
Check-in continued briskly until I was asked to pay 80 GBP. Uh oh … I had been so excited to book my free room that I failed to notice I hadn’t done it for free — I had selected the deluxe room, which cost an additional 40 pounds ($52) per night in addition to the 45,000 points. Instead of asking to change, I figured $52 a night was a good deal for a deluxe room.
I got better than a deluxe room, though. With my Gold Elite status, I was given an additional upgrade to an executive room.

This semi-private elevator services only three rooms.

Room

Executive rooms were accessed by a separate elevator, which required a walk across the domed lobby, past some conference rooms and up a few stairs. I noted the scent of cinnamon streaming from the vent, and later saw why — it was covering the smell of piled rubbish on the other side of a service door.
The tiny lift brought me to the second level, where it was easy to find my room — it was directly across from the lift and it was the only one on the floor. Of the hotel’s 74 rooms, three were executive, one on each floor.
I welcomed the isolation, but it might have concerned other safety-minded travelers. With its small hallway, there were no windows, no nearby staff members and no noticeable security cameras.
The room itself was tasteful and modern, but considering this was a double upgrade from what I thought I’d originally booked, not quite impressive in dimensions. You have to grade the size and price of London hotel rooms on a curve, and I’ve certainly stayed in my share of London rooms where I paid $200 to lie on the bed and touch the wall with my toes. And yet I would have wanted more space than this for $900.
Still, the bed was huge, the furniture contemporary, and the dressmaker form creepy.

The bed, art/headboard, desk and... mannequin.

That’s right, a headless/armless/legless mannequin guarded the corner for no discernible reason other than to dominate my nightmares.

Most of the furniture and doors were black, save for a red, glass-topped desk that had a small coffeemaker and iPod-docking stereo.
A low console had a flatscreen TV and magazines, with a cabinet of tea service awkwardly placed sideways on a flimsy tray on the lower shelf.
The side-by-side closet featured an ironing board and iron, full-size umbrella, robe, mini bar and safe. The price list for the mini bar (2 GBP for a Coke) was nowhere near the drinks but in a desk drawer. The other drawer had a breakfast menu, and ads for a spa and a suit-tailoring service. I didn’t find a guide to hotel services anywhere.

The closet and ill-placed chairs. Between the chairs, a stained table.

Though the design impressed initially, it didn’t take long to find fault. The big gray chairs were stylish and probably very expensive, but one blocked the only full-length mirror, and the other faced away from its partner. The marble side table was smudged and stained from prior use.

Your dome away from home.

The view also left something to be desired. While it was neat to see the lobby’s dome from a different perspective, it was otherwise drab and confined. This feeling was made worse by the poor lighting — no lights in the closet, small light for the shower, no general overhead lighting and no markings for the many switches. The windows were difficult to open, though the air conditioning worked well on what turned out to be very hot days.

 While huge, the bed and its pillows were rather stiff, and the headboard-cum-art piece showed wear. Each night I returned to see the bedding turned down and the window curtains closed.

A warm robe and a big shower.

The real delight was the bathroom, with a robe hung over a warming rack, a roomy shower with fantastic rainfall and handheld heads, and enormous bath towels. But the counter space was minimal — I travel light and I still didn’t have enough room — and the illuminated mirror didn’t illuminate. 

The health club is nearby -- and it

Amenities 

No gym was on site, but guests were provided with a guest pass for the Bank Health Club one block away (normally a 30-pound fee). A luxury gym in the Virgin Active suite of clubs, the Bank was consistent with the Virgin travel brand — stylish and sexy, with a lap pool and steam room. All classes were included with a visit, making this a great value if you came to London to work out.
I did not, so I instead learned to appreciate my free in-room Wi-Fi, which tested at 9.25 Mbps for downloads. (I had problems testing the upload speed, but I had no problems posting photos and videos to social media.)

The bar at Wheeler

I didn’t get a sense of Wheeler’s restaurant but the dapper Champagne Bar was often bustling, especially with the after-work business and banking crowd. Room service was available 24 hours a day.  

You can

To the Point

This is a great-looking hotel in a part of town that’s still easy to get to but devoid of tourist crowds. (More than one London friend was surprised that a visiting American was staying in this neighborhood.)

A pamphlet in my room boasted of the Autograph Collection as “exactly like nothing else,” and I think that fits Threadneedles — but probably not in the way Marriott intended. A stay at Threadneedles is not quite luxury, but it’s not quite value. There’s no real sense of place. Even if my room had views of the street, there’s nothing terribly Londonish or British or European about this hotel (aside from the room size and the price). 

If you want a quiet place to return to after a long day of touring or banking, it works. But for the highest category in Marriott’s portfolio, I expected pampering, if not of the body then at least of the senses. Alas, other than its isolation, my room was rather forgettable. Maybe that’s why it needed a mannequin.
 All images courtesy of the author.
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