Comfort and calm away from maddening crowd
Set inside the urban conurbation of a South London town is an oasis of calm and comfort.
The town of Sutton is a mixture of busy traffic, car parks, grey buildings and a few shopping areas, designed more for people to live in rather than to stay in.
However, if you look a bit closer, there is a hotel located between the railway station and the library which is bright, vivid and full of friendly welcomes, great food and drink and very comfortable rooms.
The Holiday Inn London Sutton has enjoyed a £750,000 renovation and refurbishment, which involved transforming its public spaces and also created a brand new Open Lobby on the ground floor.
This means the hotel has created a multi-purpose public space where guests will have easy access to the reception, lobby, bar, lounge, restaurant and business centre.
The hotel has also undergone a massive conversion that involved changing old function rooms into 23 brand new premium bedrooms.
The Holiday Inn London Sutton is ideally located, with nearby Sutton station offering fast trains to London Victoria in half an hour, while on-site parking is available at the hotel, and Gatwick and Heathrow airports are both under a 45-minute drive away.
I was given the opportunity to try out one of the rooms and enjoy the hospitality of the hotel as, due to my impending flight from Heathrow two days later, it proved a great way to get a nice hotel and relax before my holiday.
As mentioned, the hotel is somewhat inconspicuous, nestled among the town centre and the busy A232 road and set opposite Sutton Central Library.
You follow Gibson Road to get in and then park up wherever a space is available and it's then that you spy the ubiquitous Holiday Inn sign in green and white on the entrance to the reception.
The new Open Lobby is immediate and obvious, looking very spacious from the bar to the Henry Suite and the fitness suite and with a nice mural on the way of different towns and travel spots from around the area.
The welcome from the reception staff was a good one too, with the main receptionist pronouncing my surname correctly first time (flattery will get you everywhere) and giving me full details of breakfast and dinner arrangements, plus where I could validate my car parking and how to access the various amenities in the hotel.
I was told straight away that I had breakfast and dinner included in my stay and I had one of the new premium rooms, so I was in for a comfortable two day stay.
The journey to my room on the first floor made me realise how new the area was, with the familiar aroma of new fresh carpeting and a layer of paint in the air as I reached my room.
Which, by the way, was clean and spacious and featured all the right stuff, from a large flat screen television to a modern shower with two settings, a Nespresso machine, ample luggage storage and a large bed and sofa nearby.
After taking five minutes to decompress from the drive (one thing I still am not fond of is driving in London), I ventured downstairs to explore the Open Lobby, which carried a large seating area and suite for meetings and Pilates sessions (ask the barman, he told me about it), as well as the entrance to the fitness suite.
The other side features a large, spread out and very comfortable bar and restaurant, with the bar a collage of white marble and blue tiling and the seating various shades of red and orange.
There were multiple screens up showing sport from TNT and a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on offer.
As well as the recent refurbishment, the hotel has also updated its food menu to provide new tastes and flavours and a greater range of choice.
This begins with starters and light bites of chicken wings in hot chilli or BBQ sauce, garlic mushrooms, loaded nachos and harissa houmous, which are just small parts of a decent selection.
For those wanting something heavier, there is a wide selection of burgers, grilled foods (including steaks and chicken fillets), main meals such as fish and chips and chicken schnitzel, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and seasonal salads.
Finally, you get a fine selection of desserts, ranging from cheesecake to chocolate tart and several indulgent flavours of ice cream, so you shouldn't walk away hungry.
Prices are a little higher, with an average of £8 per starter, £18 for a burger, around £25 for the sirloin steak, an average of £17 for the main plates, £15 a pizza and pasta dish, £8 a sandwich and around the same for a dessert, but you have to bear in mind it's hotel prices, so you know it'll be a bit more. It's still quality though and the cooks have clearly worked hard to get the right balance.
Before I took on dinner, I enjoyed a pint of Guinness and a bag of salted crisps, along with in-depth chats on Formula One, Rugby, trips abroad and Burlesque shows (don't ask!) with the bar staff who, again, were warm, friendly and welcoming.
The first pint came free and I had a three-course meal to take on, so I bought a pint of Midway beer for £6.88 and selected my three courses.
Being a lover of squid, I had the crispy fried calamari with garlic and jalapeno aioli, then a chicken makhani curry with popadoms, mango chutney, rice and naan bread for my main, then a warm triple chocolate brownie for desert, basically indulging myself with three things I like.
The calamari was just as advertised, with lovely crispy calamari which, in the wrong hands, could have been very chewy, but which had been cooked well and mixed nicely with the aioli.
I'm always a little wary of curries served outside an Indian restaurant as they don't feel as authentic and, sometimes, a little bit out of the packet in the way they're cooked.
However, this was not the case with the makhani as it was a flavourful and rich curry with a hint of spice, mixing well with the basmati rice and easy to scoop up with the naan bread, with plenty of pieces of chicken inside the orangy sauce, plus I again defy anyone to not cover the mini popadoms in the mango chutney.
With my stomach filling, I steeled myself for the brownie, which came out warm, dark and mixing delightfully with the vanilla ice cream blob.
It was, I'm happy to report, rich and indulgent, making my mouth water as I took a bite, while the ice cream added a nice counterpoint, cooling the tongue against the warmth of the chocolate. It was all I could do not to pick the plate up and start licking it afterwards.
The friendly service helped as well, with the servers not being too pushy when bringing my meal by asking me how things were, but just making sure I got my food when I wanted it and being quick to clear up when I was done.
Hotel beds are hotel beds wherever you go, so you take a little bit longer to adjust as it's not your natural setting, but I found the bed to be firm enough for my bad back and not overly warm, so I slept well the two nights I was there.
Breakfast offers a great selection as well, providing people with light continental flavours, as well as route one, down the middle fried classics.
For those just coming in for breakfast, a continental breakfast is £12.95, which includes porridge, pancakes, fresh bread and pastries, jams and spreads, fruit, yoghurt, fruit salad and cheese and cold meats.
Meanwhile, a cooked breakfast is £16.95 and covers eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, tomatoes, basked beans, black pudding and mushrooms, all with toast, hor drinks and fruit juices alongside.
Both breakfasts are also all-you-can-eat, so you can get value for money as you wish.
I went for a bit of both, getting an apple juice and a bowl of melon, then stacking a plate with sausage, bacon, eggs, beans and hash browns alongside two slices of toast with Marmite (I do love it) and an Americano coffee.
The food was well cooked, smelled good and tasted just as good, so I was satisfied with my meal and set for the day, what a good breakfast should do, setting me up for a day out being a tourist in London.
The evening meal upon my return was just as excellent, with a warming tomato and basil soup, a burger with a tremendous amount of flavour and texture and a white chocolate and red velvet cheesecake which left me wanting more as it was very tasty.
It's set in a busy location and flies slightly under the radar, but once you find it and step inside, you'll find the Holiday Inn London Sutton a warming, welcoming place with friendly staff, great modern facilities and a nice setting all round.
A standard double room is £299 per night, while an executive double room is £349 per night.
Address: Holiday Inn London - Sutton, an IHG Hotel, Gibson Road, London, SM1 2RF