Sofitel, London Heathrow
The Sofitel London Heathrow is the only 5* hotel at the airport and the only hotel connected to Terminal 5. Although more expensive than the other on-airport hotels, especially during the week, the hotel is the closest thing to a luxury property and is the perfect option when you have an early departure with British Airways or Iberia (note: presently a few BA flights still depart from T3, so make sure you are at the correct terminal).
On this occasion, we had an early flight to Berlin and decided to go for the most convenient option, although the room was quite expensive for the location. After a delayed trip on the Heathrow Express we arrived at the hotel somewhat later than expected, but were soon checked in and given the keys to our Superior Room (we had booked a Classic Room but received an upgrade thanks to our Le Club Platinum status). Another perk of our status was that we were given a voucher for a complimentary drink at the bar and we were offered a late checkout, which we declined.
On a previous stay, we had booked a Prestige Suite and were apparently upgraded to part of their Opera Suite. For anyone else who feels excited by this, we would advise that you don't. The suites are identical when the second bedroom in the Opera Suite is closed off. However, the suite is of a good size (around 60 square metres) and offers some nice amenities, such as Club Millésime lounge access, free use of the spa and a complimentary minibar including alcoholic drinks. However, certain details are not well thought out, such as the LCD TV over the bath, which is set at such an angle that it is impossible to watch when in the bath and could only be seen if standing.
Previously, the suites offered butler service, a special bath (complete with Espa bath oil and chocolates) and complimentary breakfast in the main restaurant. However, it unfortunately seems that a number of benefits are no longer provided, a shame when rates for this room type start at around £400.
Food and Beverage
The Sofitel Heathrow has a number of dining outlets, which is unusual in an airport hotel. At the top end, is La Belle Epoque, which is a french fine dining restaurant. The other restaurant option is Vivre, which somewhat alarmingly advertises "thematic cuisine." We have never dined in Vivre, although reviews are reasonable. Due to our allergies, we have never dined in Tea 5, which offers afternoon tea in the lobby.
There are also 2 bars in the hotel. We decided to use our complimentary drink voucher in the Perrier Jouet Bar, although it was unfortunately not valid for champagne. Thus, we enjoyed a glass each of bubbles in the bar and then used our drinks voucher for a glass of wine with room service. It was great that this was an option, although the food itself was unmemorable.
This was not the first time we had stayed at the hotel, and although it may remain the best option at Heathrow, we were surprised by how tired the rooms felt. Although the hotel is only around 5 years old, it feels in need of a refurb. It is not so much that there is something specific wrong; more that there isn't the freshness we have come to expect from 5* hotels. However, as the hotel has no direct competitors, and most people only stay 1 night, maybe the hotel feels that a refresh is not economically viable.
All rooms at the Sofitel offer a separate bath and walk-in shower, which is a welcome touch. The Superior Rooms, at 28 square metres, are slightly larger than the Classic Rooms and offer a comfortable leather lounging chair. The room is well appointed for a 1-night stopover with a luggage storage area and large desk. We particularly liked the amenity of Business Traveller magazine and wish more properties offered this title.
On this stay, we did not have access to the club lounge, although we did enter it to take photos. However, we have previously had access. Our first point would that be for anyone paying extra for club access so as not to need to buy dinner, don't bother. There is hardly any food in the lounge, as shown in one of the pictures - a few small pastry cases with filling, some uninspiring fruit and a bit of cheese. The wine selection is equally poor quality, although at least there is a choice.
If, on the other hand, you book a room with club access in order to have meetings in the club lounge or use it as a social area, the lounge is rarely busy and has a selection of sitting areas. In addition, there is a small business area - ideal if you want to print your boarding pass. However, the hotel is rarely busy and we would advise finding a quiet area to hold your meetings in the public areas of the hotel, instead of paying the extra for the club.
Spa and Leisure
We are great fans of Espa spas and have previously enjoyed the spa at the Sofitel Heathrow. The hydrotherapy area consists of a large jacuzzi hydrotherapy pool, a sauna, a steam room and lounge beds. There is also a small gym and a relaxation room (with fresh fruit and hot drinks available). Unfortunately, access to the hydrotherapy area is only complimentary for people booking a 1 h treatment, or for those staying in a suite.
On this stay, we booked a 1 h massage each so that we could make use of the hydrotherapy suite. We were the only ones in the facility, which was lovely. The massages were not great - again, difficult to pinpoint a problem. Maybe it's as simple as when you are unlikely to ever see the client again, it doesn't seem as important to do a good job.
In summary, the Sofitel Heathrow is still the best quality hotel at Heathrow, but we are not so sure that it represents the best value. For our stay, we ended up paying more for the 1 night (including 1 h massage each and a light dinner) than the following 3 nights in the Grand Hyatt Berlin, even though we received a travel industry discounted rate at the Sofitel and not at the Hyatt. With a little more attention to detail, a refresh of the rooms and more polished service, the hotel may seem worth the money. However, currently, unless you have a very early flight from T5, or rates are below £120 per night, we would recommend staying elsewhere, perhaps at the Sheraton Skyline, and taking an executive taxi to the airport (£10 for a Mercedes S Class).