If you’re sightseeing in London, Canary Wharf may not be top of your list of landmarks to visit. But it’s a good base from which to explore the capital, and is the place to be if you’re off to a gig at the nearby O2 Arena. There are views of the Thames and if you want to see the city from the river you can hop on a water taxi instead of the tube.
Not that there’s nothing going on in Canary Wharf itself. It’s just that strolling around the financial district’s towers of glass, metal and polished stone feels a little like being a character in Sim City. Even some of the grass is plastic. So when it comes to shops, bars and restaurants, think Jamie’s Italian rather than Ye Olde Red Lion and a shopping precinct rather than a corner shop.
Just five minutes’ walk from Canary Wharf tube station on the Jubilee Line, the Hilton London Canary Wharf is not wildly dissimilar to the rest of the buildings in the area. Automatic revolving doors open onto a smart, spacious reception, which extends into a lounge area and then the restaurant beyond.
Our executive room is predictably modern and tasteful but various small and important touches make it stand out from the average modern and tasteful hotel room. Speakers that play the TV (or radio) sound in the bathroom are fun, while actual glass wine glasses, your own corkscrew, an ice bucket – and an ice machine just down the hall – are pure class in the eyes of someone who likes their drinks served properly. And you can never overstate the importance of a big, really comfortable bed.
You pay a premium for an executive room or suite, of course, but it does get you access to the Executive Lounge on the 14th floor. Given that it serves afternoon tea every day, lays out a kind of party buffet – hot and cold canapés, a cheeseboard and so on – between 6pm and 9pm and lets you pour your own drinks until 10pm (9pm Fridays and Saturdays) you could definitely make it pay. The spirits are all premium brands, there’s cold beer, and Prosecco, which is replaced quickly when we ask. There’s a TV too (along with all the business facilities that actual executives might need) so you could just decide to ensconce yourself on the sofa and not move for the rest of the evening…
If so, you might want to work off some those canapes in the small gym, which is kitted out with a running machine, a couple of exercise bikes, free weights and some weights machines.
We’re up early the next day to visit bustling Billingsgate Fish Market, which is less than ten minutes stroll from the hotel, but if you fancy a lie-in (or just time to digest your breakfast) checkout is at a very civilised noon rather than the usual 11am.
Eating and drinking
See above for details of the generous Executive Lounge.
The restaurant, Cinnamon, is a mahogany and glass affair with a bar designed to be sat at, opposite a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The view won’t blow you away but it does a nice job of opening up the rather long and narrow room.
The menu is predominantly Asian fusion – with dishes like rare beef salad with papaya and citrus, and chicken with chilli, lime, soba noodles and a spicy coconut sauce – but there are a few Mediterranean-flavoured items thrown in for good measure, plus safety dishes like steak/fish and chips.
To start, we have seared scallops with Seranno ham and an inventive lime potato puree – all cooked well and fitting together nicely – and a chilli squid salad, complete with crispy tentacles, served with chorizo and freshened up with fennel, radish, coriander and lemon.
For main, my light and tasty sea bass with salsa verde and cherry tomatoes works well given that it’s the middle of summer (and that I’ve filled up on canapés from the Executive Lounge), while my partner has Scottish beef fillet – decent enough – with fat, square chips (served, for fun, in a frier basket) and a classic buttery, tarragony Bearnaise sauce.
One of the best things about our evening is the service. Our waiter is just the right amount of attentive and friendly and, when we realise that a World Cup match has just started, is happy to transfer us and our food to the lounge area so we can watch it. When I feel inspired to slip a man a tenner on top of the service charge, you can be sure he was good (and probably that I’d had a few drinks in the Executive Lounge earlier).
Breakfast is full of people quoting Monty Python at one another but I can’t promise that if you visit – their farewell tour at the nearby O2 is now over. The selection of food is great, with healthy options like egg-white omelette – as well as not-so-healthy options like the delicious American pancakes with fruit, cream and maple syrup – made to order. That’s on top of a buffet of all the cooked breakfast elements you’d hope for, plus cheese, cold meats, cereals, fruits and yoghurt. It’s a great spread so I’m not surprised to hear that quite a few non-residents come to enjoy it.
Radio Times Travel rating: 7.5/10 – “A modern, relaxing hotel, with an excellent breakfast, close to the O2 Arena – and with good transport links to the more characterful areas of London”
Price: Double rooms start from £149.00 inclusive of VAT (subject to availability)
Address: South Key, Marsh Wall, London E14 9SH
Contact: +44 (0)203 002 2300 firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: Hilton London Canary Wharf