The Tower (Guoman Hotel) review
I'm staying at The Tower this week (the Guoman Tower Hotel, not the Tower of London). I stumped up a bit extra for a "fantastic view of Tower Bridge", although I wasn't expecting much. I am the world's biggest cynic, you see, so I was assuming that I'd get a little glimpse of a pylon through the trees, or six inches of roadway through a crack in the door, or something like that, but it's actually quite a nice view. I can see one whole tower (the one closest to the Tower of London), plus the entrance roadway too, all lined with cabs and vans and buses. I'm not high up enough to see further down the river though, which is a bit of a shame. They've stuck me on the very first floor, with a big air vent outside, and I've got a mountain wall of nine floors staring straight down into my room. There are probably about seventy different windows all watching what I'm doing... all laughing and taking photos on their mobiles so they can have a good laugh at the ugly bloke in room 133. That is my No.1 hate in a hotel... having a load of other people staring down into your window.
The building is pretty ugly. It's not exactly a looker. Check out my photo of the hotel. It looks like a brown brick car park... like one of those places that Prince Charles is always complaining about. I can see his point though. On one side you've got Tower Bridge and the Tower of London -- a World Heritage Site, no less -- and then they allow the Guoman to stick a pile of brown breezeblocks next to it.
But the inside is nice. You've got all your pretty women lined up behind the desk in their airhostess uniforms, all smiling and being nice. And a load of smartly dressed gentlemen to open the doors and press the button on the lift (in case you can't manage it yourself). Then when you get up to the room you've got all your usual stuff in there. A bed, some carpet, some wallpaper and some lights etc, even a smoke alarm in case you accidentally set yourself on fire.
I hate reviewing hotel rooms because what can you say that you haven’t already said before? It’s got a door... tick. What about some carpet? Yeah, tick that too. Is the mattress a bit lumpy? Are there any hairs in the bath? Can you hear the couple playing in the room next door? No, no and no. I'm getting close to middle age now, so as long as I've got a toilet and a TV then I'm happy. When I was younger I used to stay in Australian hotels that had neither. They had shared bathrooms as well, so I had to wander out into the corridor and knock on the door to see if anyone was using it. If someone was having a shower then that was it — no pss for you for half-an-hour at least. But when you're young you don't care. You'll just go and wee against a garden wall if you have to. But nowadays, I have an inviolable checklist of two: a TV, and a toilet. And a bath. And a teapot. (Okay, so that's four.) And a proper lock on the door so you don't have to wedge a chair against it. If I get all of those then I'm happy.
I'm in the bar now. It looks like one of those wine bar places you go after work when someone is retiring, with plank pine floors and wicker basket seats. But it's got a nice view out of the window, straight onto Tower Bridge. The coffees cost three quid fifty though, and come with a head that's bigger than my head. It's got three-feet of foam on top. That's the problem with posh places… they serve everything up in a tiny cup and then clobber you for twice the price. I'm still going to drink it though. And I'm still going to smile and say thank-you to the bint. Because I'm British. I'm a pushover. You can slap me in the face and I'll thank you for that as well.
They've got two restaurants at this hotel, The Gallery and The Brasserie. I'm in The Gallery at the moment having my breakfast, looking out over St. Katherine Dock. The windows on the other side look out over Tower Bridge. The breakfast bar has got everything you could possibly want... apart from Coco Pops. If you want Coco Pops or Sugar Puffs then you are out of luck. But if you want bacon and eggs, fruit salad, cereals and toast then you are laughing. They've got a very weird conveyor belt-like toaster which I am too scared to use in case I blow it up. You feed your bread in one end and it comes out golden brown. I quite like the sound of hotel restaurants in the morning. It's all clink clink clatter clatter as they put the plates out, with tourists wandering in half asleep planning what they are going to do with their day. Young couples wracking their brains trying to remember what they did (or didn't) do last night. City businessmen yakking on their phone and punching numbers into their laptop (do they really start work at 7 in the morning?). And pretty waitresses running around being as nice as pie. That is my favourite thing about hotels, I reckon — everyone is nice to you. In my real life it's the total opposite; I can't walk five feet down the street without getting punched and kicked and spat at (not true) but when you walk through the hotel door all of a sudden everybody knows you and wants to say hello. Obviously they are all being paid to do that and wouldn't give a hoot if you fell in the river, but hey, it's nice to pretend.
I don't think I'd come here again, if I'm honest. It's supposed to be a 4-star hotel but it doesn't seem a lot different to the 3-star Strand Palace, which is closer to Trafalgar Square (and a lot cheaper too). But one thing that I will say about this place... is that it has got a nice location. You can fall out of bed and bump your head on Tower Bridge, or take a two-minute stroll to the Tower of London. And you've got St. Katherine Docks out the back too, which is a nice place to eat and have a drink.
P.S. I was wrong about the Coco Pops. I had breakfast before I checked-out and saw some big ladles and bowls of cereals on the bar -- one of which was Coco Pops! No sign of any Sugar Puffs though.
Here are some more hotels I’ve stayed at…
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