Review by Fiona Duncan, published 1st October 2009.
I'm always on the lookout for decent budget hotels in London, but I never expected to find a really excellent one here. After all, a former brothel and hostel for the homeless on ghastly, traffic-besieged Hanger Lane hardly augured well. But Ealing delivered.
First up, don't be put off by the location. North Ealing tube is two minutes on foot and a 30-minute ride on the Piccadilly Line to the West End. There's free parking in front of the hotel and – failing to find a space there – further parking at the tube station for just £2.20 a day. Ealing Broadway and West Acton (Central Line) are an easy walk.
People on business around the M4 "corridor" are the hotel's most frequent guests, but a West End theatre or shopping trip could be an equal draw for the budget-conscious. It's handy, too, for an overnight stay in London en route to Heathrow.
An Artemide designer lamp in the porch shines red, wittily nodding to the hotel's past, when it was Glencairn Hotel and known to all as the local brothel. By the time it was bought as an investment by Sanjay Tohani's father, it was a DHSS hostel. Debonair Sanjay converted it into a hotel three years ago when the hostel closed.
He did it well. The Hangar Lane traffic is a thing of the past once you are inside the unprepossessing Thirties whitewashed building. The interior is cool and stylish, pared down but not unwelcoming, its well-stocked bar and abstract paintings adding splashes of colour.
Bedrooms come in three types: "Garden", "Street" and "Cozy", the last being tiny, best for one but fitting two at a pinch. All are stylish in a feng shui sort of way, with excellent showers in mainly minuscule bathrooms, and generous bath sheets. Unlike many hotels that trumpet their "hip budget" status but fail to provide basic amenities, they are properly equipped, including quality bed and sheets, fridge, safe and free Wi-Fi.
But it's something quite unexpected that makes this hotel amusing, buzzing and different. It may be Indian-owned and Romanian managed, but this cosmopolitan Ealing hang-out (Ealing Studios are close by) just happens also to be in a part of London with the greatest concentration of Japanese residents, and the hotel's dining area is now the new home of local Japanese-owned favourite, Momo.
The service is charming and authentic; the food wide-ranging, delicious and authentic; and the customers – mainly local Japanese families and groups of friends – are pretty authentic, too.
The morning brings change – always refreshing in a hotel. In the conservatory dining room overlooking the designer garden the Japanese ambience has retreated, as if it never existed, and in its place a very British hotel buffet breakfast (Babybels and packet ham) is the one disappointment of my stay.
55 Hanger Lane, W5 (020 8991 4450; www.hotel55-london.com) Doubles from £75 per night, including breakfast. Two adapted rooms for guests with disabilities