Spot of British Charm: A Review of Hyatt’s The Academy London
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To The Point
Hyatt’s recently-acquired Academy London provides a taste of true British charm in a boutique, Georgian townhouse. The pros: perfect decor, friendly staff and extra perks like free continental breakfast and mini bar. The cons: small bathrooms and no real dining facilities.
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After reading about Hyatt’s new and expanded partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, I was excited to see that several properties in the UK had been added. When I noticed that one of them, The Academy London was a 10-minute walk from the new TPG UK headquarters, I decided to test it out on a business trip to British capital. Considering I love the intimacy of a boutique hotel but also favor the comforts, brand standards and loyalty programs of larger brand hotels, I was hoping the Academy would be a perfect fit.
Prices for a Townhouse King room at the The Academy were hovering around $308 per night on Hyatt.com, or 20,000 points per night for my two-night stay. But when I checked the property on Hotels.com to compare, I was able to get it for $256 per night — with continental breakfast included. Normally, I’d want to earn the Hyatt points, but booking via Hotels.com offered a savings of over $100 and free breakfast.
So I decided to go through Hotels.com and work on getting my one night free. If I’d booked the rate on Hyatt.com that included breakfast, I would have paid $362 per night, almost $100 more per night! I paid with my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 10x miles on Hotels.com stays (when booked and paid via Hotels.com/venture)
Just steps from Russell Square Park, the Academy blended in seamlessly with its terraced-housing surroundings, small brick buildings that look like homes. It blended in so well, in fact, that, I almost had trouble spotting it at first. Only a small sign above the doorway gave away the secret. The location was ideal for anyone wanting a quiet stay, but also close to bars, restaurants, coffee shops, tourist attractions and Tube stops like Holborn or Russell Square.
The hotel was especially convenient for me, since I had flown into London Heathrow (LHR) with just a carry-on bag. After sitting in an Uber in horrendous traffic from Heathrow into to central London a few months back, I’d vowed to use the Tube going forward when traveling during peak times. This time, the Piccadilly line went directly between Heathrow and Russell Square, and I only had to walk about eight minutes with my small rolling bag to get to the hotel. The entire trip took just under an hour, versus the two hours in an Uber a few weeks prior, so unless you know you’re arriving at a time where there is very little traffic, I highly recommend using the Tube.
If you aren’t traveling during high traffic, taxis and ride-hailing cars should take about an hour between the hotel and Heathrow, same as the Tube. The Tube was also much cheaper than an Uber with a simple swipe of my Oyster card, of course.
Check-in and Lobby
Once I spotted the hidden sign, I walked into what looked like a privately owned townhouse. And if it weren’t for the reception desk, it could have been. The small lobby felt more like an intimate living room, decorated in rich, velvety jewel tones, soft lighting, complete with a fireplace.
I was warmly welcomed by a women at the reception desk and the doorman. Marta quickly and efficiently checked me in, explained that my rate included a continental breakfast and even asked if I had any food allergies. She also said the minibar was free. Once I offered my Chase Sapphire Reserve for incidentals, the doorman picked up my suitcase and led me toward my room.
I walked through another chic seating area, past the art deco-inspired bar area and up some rather skinny, carpeted stairs to arrive at Room 55.
The stairs were the one area that didn’t seem to entirely fit the stylish vibe of the hotel. The carpet was a little dingy, and the lighting was automatic, meaning it only turned on when you were already halfway up or down the stairs.
But I soon forgot all about the less-than-impressive stairwell when I walked into the room. I felt immediately drawn to the window area, which had a comfortable armchair, small table with design magazines and a lamp.
Instead of rushing around to take photos, I took a moment to sit by the window, sinking into the comfortable armchair while I admired the quaint view of the courtyard below.
I finally dragged my eyes away from the window to take in the leather chair and desk, topped with Nespresso machine (with free capsules) and a flat-screen TV.
It was the exact boutique vibe I had hoped for.
The art deco chandelier hanging above the bed was original and on right on trend with the rest of the design, and I loved the framing of the mirror.
The furniture was in great condition, and I loved feeling like I was staying in the spare bedroom of my stylish yet vintage Edwardian British friend’s apartment. I was thrilled to note there were two UK outlets and two USB ports on each side of the bed, as well as electrical outlets by the mirror (perfect for plugging in my curling iron, as British law prohibits outlets in bathrooms) and others by the desk.
Finally, a hotel with enough outlets to charge my massive collection of technology items!
The closet had all the usual items like a safe, robe, slippers and umbrella, and there was also an iron tucked into the side of the bathroom door.
The minibar was lightly stocked with water, soda and even two beers, all free of charge. Due to the short nature of my stay, I only drank the water, but I still appreciated the benefit.
The bathroom is where the room fell a bit short — literally. Luckily, I am short and small, but the bathroom in general was a tight squeeze. The shower was pretty skinny, and my toilet was dangerously close to the wall and sink. The sink was so tiny that I couldn’t really wash my face in it without hitting my head on the glass shelf above.
However, after living in Europe for the past 11 years, this didn’t really bother me, as I’m used to small spaces and live in a tiny apartment. But for someone tall or used to American-sized rooms, this bathroom might be jarring.
I did enjoy the Aromatherapy Associates amenities offered, though, as they smelled very fresh. And the water in the shower was steaming hot and had excellent pressure.
Food and Beverage
Having the free breakfast was convenient, saving me the time of finding a nearby coffee shop before heading to the office each morning. The hotel marketed the breakfast as continental but offered much more than I expected. The Refectory, the breakfast area downstairs, was really cute, with a small but agreeable selection of tables, chairs and even a fireplace.
The spread was buffet-style, with several choices of fresh fruit and juices, yogurt, granola, bread, cereal, salmon, deli meats and cheese and a nice selection of pastries and granola. Beyond just a regular coffee, I had the option of ordering a latte, espresso or cappuccino, which was included in the rate.
Above all, though, I think the Alchemy Bar was my favorite.
The indoor space felt so inviting, with velvety chairs, dim, moody lighting and curated bookshelves. One evening, I stopped at the bar before dinner to grab a drink, and Carlos, the bartender, explained the history of some of the gins and even set them up on my table and gave me photo-snapping tips to score just the right shot.
I ended up really enjoying my gin martini, and I’m usually not a gin or a martini person. Plus, the cocktail and wine prices were very reasonable for cocktails in London — I’d paid double during a recent trip to the bar at the Rosewood.
The outdoor area, with all the bricks, trees and general backyard vibe, was a rare treat in a city like London.
I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon cappuccino out there, and when it got a little chilly, the heat lamps helped.
Dining options were fairly limited to the continental breakfast, a small room service menu and the afternoon tea, but thanks to the central location of the hotel, I found plenty of places to get food elsewhere.
The hotel was small, and so it didn’t have much more in the way of amenities. It was possible to have afternoon tea in the Library area, though — a small, serene room off the lobby.
One of the perks to staying in a smaller, boutique property was the personal attention. I was politely greeted by name each time I entered and exited, and had a nice chat with the reception staff upon checking out. The staff, in general, was wonderful. They offered a personalized treatment to guests while never losing that delightful touch of British formality.
I loved my stay at The Academy London. In fact, I’ve already booked the hotel for another London visit I have coming up. The close proximity to all the attractions plus the tranquil, intimate feel was a perfect fit for me, as was the price. I think Hyatt made a great move partnering with the Small Luxury Hotels, and I hope the partnership continues expanding to include more unique properties.
I wish the prices on the Hyatt website would align up better with online travel agencies so I could book directly via Hyatt and earn points on my stays. Any traveler (small enough to fit in the European-sized bathroom) looking to have a boutique bed-and-breakfast-style experience in what feels like a townhouse filled with British history while still earning or burning Hyatt points should plan to stay at the Academy London.
All photos by the author.
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