The first hotel where I saw a photograph of Audrey Hepburn posing in Givenchy was a posh Paris five-star favoured by fashionistas. That the second time I saw one was in the fourth-floor lift lobby of the Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport is nothing short of remarkable.
This most shambolic of London airports has long been a difficult place to reach for dawn take-offs and late night landings, for years with only a clutch of mean-spirited budget hostelries offering a place for the traveller to lay their head. While still embracing the value concept, Hilton has shown with its Hampton at Luton that neither style nor comfort needs to be sacrificed.
The style was evident at lobby level, with glimpses of colourful, vaguely mid-century-influenced lounge furniture to one side of a reassuringly heavy and handsome reception desk. Guests not wanting late night bar service simply step to the right into the room lifts, where I was too tired to notice Hepburn on emerging at level four, but given a second wind by some surprise features not seen in your average budget airport hotel.
Comfy beds and work desks may come as standard now, but built-in sofas with footstools are less prevalent, and face flannels in the bathroom almost unheard of, not to mention larger, fluffier bath towels than many four-star hotels offer. Ditto free-range wooden hangers, which made unpacking fast and painless, and a real granite sink vanity; only toothmugs were missing, but a lack of any preferable to those lightweight plastic cups which inevitably tip over from the weight of your toothbrush.
Double-glazed windows and blackout blinds kept out noise and light, free wi-fi was fast and efficient, and a swivelling television screen eased the process of watching breakfast news while getting ready next morning.
The final surprises were on the breakfast buffet – often a dispiriting display in many airport budget hotels. Here were the usual scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages in steam trays, but also fresh batter to pour into a waffle iron and proper artisanal seeded bread to slice on a board and decent-looking croissants as an alternative to the pre-sliced white and brown beside the toaster. A self-service cappuccino was decent too, when infused with an extra shot of espresso.
It would be natural to suppose Hampton was a brand invented by Hilton to bridge the gap between its luxury hotels and the business-oriented budget airport sector where prices and therefore comforts are generally kept to a minimum. But the final surprise was that it was one of the very lowest-priced options when checked against competitors which included that mean-spirited chain hotel which made my last stay at Luton so dispiriting instead of this time, as I made the one-minute walk straight into to the adjacent Luton Airport Parkway station on a sunny morning(I arrrived by a bus serving the airport which stops outside), positively uplifting.
Tell me more about Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport
Rooms from £56
Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport 42-50 Kimpton Road
Bedfordshire LU2 0NB
Tel.+44 (0) 1582 798450