London (review published 2003)

London’s highest hotel just got bigger and better with a £25m facelift.
Holiday Inn has spent a hefty £22,000 on each of the 910 rooms at its flagship Kensington Forum Hotel, plus £1m on the express lifts alone.
And to celebrate, general manager Jonathan Walker invited me to  sample its new delights on a tailor-made Rock ‘n’ Roll London weekend.
On the Friday evening we dined American style at the world’s first Hard Rock Cafe where legendary musicians are immortalised on its nostalgia-lined walls.
The fayre here is pretty standard – until you order dessert. Not even with the help of my dining companions could I polish off the belt-bursting bowl of  ice cream.
Bloated, we then squeezed into The Vault.
Opened two years ago to celebrate the Cafe’s 30th birthday, this former bank vault is a tomb of treasures telling the story of rock ‘n’ roll.
There’s John Lennon’s hand-amended lyrics to Imagine and I even held a  ‘Flying V’ Gibson played by Jimi Hendrix that’s said to be worth a cool £1m.
The following morning, we worked off a hearty breakfast on a Magical Mystery Tour of the West End which recaptured the days of Beatlemania.
Highlights included the Apple offices in Savile Row where, on January 30,  1969, the Fab Four played their last ever gig, up on the roof.
There’s also the, er, public toilets where John Lennon filmed a comedy sketch with Peter Cook and, a short tube ride away, the Abbey Road studios.
Watching fans dice with death as they hold up traffic while recreating the Abbey Road album cover on the famous zebra crossing is great fun. Road rage must  have been born here.
Not far from Abbey Road is Madame Tussaud’s where you can have your picture taken with waxworks of the Beatles as well as many other rock and pop icons.
The  most popular is a cheeky one of Kylie on all fours.
We returned to the West End that evening to see We Will Rock You, which has  been breaking house records at The Dominion Theatre since it opened last year.
Written by Ben Elton and featuring 32 of Queen’s songs, the show is set in  the future when live music is banned and the kids are fed a diet of synthesised pop.
Could the young hero, Galileo Figaro, help them break free from this Ga Ga world? Yes, it’s that cheesy… but good fun all the same with a great cast.
By the following morning we were all rocked out, so it was good to slow the pace and turn down the volume at the Kensington Forum’s Jazz Brunch.
The carvery and extensive buffet costs £22 (under-5s eat free) and there’s music from Ray Terry and his Dixieland All Stars Jazz Band. Nice!
Travel file
Holiday Inn has several selling points that will help you help you have a relaxing stay including a ‘Pillow Menu’ where you can choose synthetic or goose feather in a range of sizes. Then, during the week, you can avoid the queues and luggage at reception by checking out at your breakfast table.
The Kensington Forum is the largest Holiday Inn in the world and there are  panoramic views of west London and Westminster from the highest of its 27 floors. All the rooms have satellite TV, minibars, trouser presses, bathrobes, internet access, playstations, scales and heated mirrors.
The hotel is ideally located for Midlanders wanting to take their cars to the capital. Just follow the M40, M25, M4 and A4 and you’ll be at its spacious Cromwell Road lobby in under two hours. It’s outside the London traffic congestion charging zone and there is underground parking for 76 cars.
There are several meeting rooms, 75 executive rooms, four suites, three cafes and a pub. The Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science  Museum and the famous Harrods store are all within walking distance and the London Underground is just two minutes away.
  • The hotel offers theatre breaks from £99 which includes bed and  breakfast, discounted dining and a ticket to one of many West End shows,  including We Will Rock You.
  • For further details ring the hotel on 020 7370 5757  or visit click Kensington Forum
  • For further information on the Hard Rock Cafe in Old Park Lane call 020 7629 0382. or click Hard Rock Cafe. To book a place on the free guided tours of the Vault call Kevin MacArthur on 020 7514 1719.
  • For details of Madame Tussaud’s call 020 74870368 or click Madame Tussauds

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