Helpful hotel staff make sure show goes on

The Holiday Inn in Kensington, London, is the world's biggest but Andy Russell find out that is still very much has that personal touch.

It was beginning to look like four lost souls in the pub rather than The Phantom of the Opera.

From the look on Yvonne's face and the barely-audible gasp when we asked where out seats were in Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End we knew there was a problem… a big problem.

She had been telling my wife, Denise, about her bargain handbag, and now she had realised she had transferred everything from the bag she had been using earlier in the day – everything except the theatre tickets.

So here's the dilemma. With the performance starting in half an hour do you:

a) Jump in a taxi and rush back to your hotel to get the tickets even though you are unlikely to make it back in time given the traffic.

b) Talk to the woman in the theatre ticket office nicely. The downside is that you have nothing to prove you even had tickets and you haven't a clue where the seats are.

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c) Stay in the pub and drown your sorrows.

d) Phone the hotel in the hope staff can help.

We went for the final three.

Simon nipped to the theatre across the road, Denise and Yvonne tracked down the phone number of the hotel… and I had a glass of wine. After all, I'd wanted to go to War Horse in the first place.

And then it all came together. A call to the Holiday Inn London – Kensington Forum and duty manager Jamie Thorngate was soon on the case. He immediately offered to get the tickets from the room and pop them in a taxi, confident they would arrive in time. But all we needed was the booking reference and seat numbers. Yvonne told him where her handbag was in the room and within minutes he had called us back with the information we needed and we had duplicate tickets.

The woman at the ticket office even remembered Simon from among all the faces she had seen, greeting him with 'Ah, the man whose wife has forgotten your tickets.' Simon had not been that polite when Yvonne had broken the news! And in answer to the earlier question the seats were in the Grand Circle seats and gave an excellent view and the show which, 25 years after opening, is still one of the most memorable musicals you will ever see.

Back at the hotel we laughed about our own theatre drama at the hotel's recently-refurbished Victorian-style Tavern Pub – all very comfortable but a bit at odds with the rest of the bright, airy and modern feel to the hotel and the big flat-screen TVs showing sport looked a bit incongruous.

After packing so much in that day we had no trouble sleeping. London hotel rooms are not normally what you would call large but our en suite double was spacious enough for a sofa and fully fitted out with everything you needed. In fact I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow so I can't even tell you whether I chose the firm or soft one that guests are offered!

Our theatre ticket experience just summed up the helpfulness of staff at the hotel and that is no mean achievement given that it is the world's largest Holiday Inn with 27 floors and 906 rooms and towers above surrounding buildings which makes it easy to find.

From the moment we had arrived and been directed to the hotel's underground car park we had felt most welcome, checking in early as our rooms were ready, and after a snack lunch in the lounge where we noted the number of airline crews coming and going – a good sign in a hotel as they were clearly regular guests – we got the low-down from the concierge about the best way to get to Gordon Ramsay's Maze restaurant for a pre-theatre meal and then a pleasant walk to Her Majesty's, taking in some sights along the way.

And this is one of the great attractions of this particular Holiday Inn for it is just so convenient for a weekend in London. As well as nearby bus stops, Gloucester Road Underground station is a couple of minutes walk away and, if museums are your thing, so are the Victoria and Albert, Science and Natural History museums.

You can stroll to Knightsbridge – and we should have done the following morning after indulging a little too heartily at the self-service buffet breakfast in the Consortia Restaurant but instead we hopped on the Tube for the obligatory wander round that labyrinth of luxury that is Harrods store before going on to Covent Gardens for lunch and watching the crowd-pleasing entertainers while wandering round the market stalls.

It was a memorable weekend and the Holiday Inn – Kensington Forum turned out to be just the ticket in more ways than one.

Holiday Inn London – Kensington Forum is at 97 Cromwell Road, London, SW7 4DN. Telephone 0207 3706815 or visit the website at

It has a 76-space underground secure car park which costs �33 for 24 hours and although you cannot book a space, plenty were empty. The hotel is a two-minute walk from Gloucester Road Tube station and bus stops.