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London hotel toiletries: what should you get?

by Andrea on November 24, 2010

The Cowshed range of toiletries at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho have amusing names like Grumpy Cow, Knackered Cow, Lazy Cow, Wild Cow, etc.

I know I really should be judging hotels on other features.  Nonetheless, as soon as I get inside a hotel room, one of the first things I want to know is – what toiletries am I going to get?

Getting the toiletries right can help a hotel establish its values and brand.  Sometimes you need to puzzle out the connections; for example, the Cavendish (a stylish central London hotel), uses Taylors of Old Bond Street toiletries as part of its strategy of backing local and sustainable suppliers – Taylors has a shop nearby and also works with charity GWB to provide employment opportunities for blind and disabled people.

The packaging is tasteful in a rather old-school English way and the ‘invigorating’ shower gel is just that with some great fruity citrus notes.  No wonder the Cavendish is considered the greenest hotel in London.

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The good-looking bathrooms at the Cavendish are generously stocked with eco-friendly goodies

Dean Street Townhouse – this blog’s favourite central London “crash pad” in the heart of the lively Soho nightlife – has something of an advantage: its parent company also owns Cowshed spa products, so it’s able to provide its own unique range of toiletries.

Like the hotel, the toiletries are very up-to-the-minute “contemporary luxe” with a cheeky sense of humour (the Dean Street Townhouse actually calls its smallest rooms ‘broom cupboard’ – such refreshing honesty helps to make it one of the best London townhouse hotels).

I also like the fact that Dean Street Townhouse goes further than just providing toiletries – it gives its guests a complete emergency kit, with a tiny toothpaste tube, razor, earplugs and toothbrush, just in case there’s anything you’ve forgotten (even a couple of tampons are included).

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Dean Street Townhouse in Soho has bathrooms well-stocked with goodies - including some very thoughtful items for women

Celebrity-favourite Blakes also has its own products, including an amber and grapefruit scent that’s definitely different (I’ve been told you can buy soap from the hotel if you want to take it home).  Since this is a design-led London hotel it makes sense for it to be unique in the toiletries area too.

Looking round other London hotels, the Waldorf Hilton has Crabtree & Evelyn while the Royal Horseguards Hotel offers Elemis; Hotel 55 near Wembley  has picked Molton Brown, while the Knightsbridge Hotel and Haymarket Hotel have chosen Miller Harris.  No-name toiletries are definitely off the list as far as the upper echelons of London hotels are concerned.

Of course not all hotels offer that degree of luxury.  And in my view, a well thought out toiletries package is acceptable even if it’s a supermarket brand or no-name.  But there are a few golden rules.

  • I hate it when a hotel spends money on luxury packaging with its name on, but where the toiletries inside are cheap and nasty. That occurs particularly with soap – a little extra money on a translucent citrus-scented soap, for instance, can score serious quality points for a small hotel while the default slab of hard greasy white stuff scores nul points.
  • Sachets. I loathe shampoo sachets! You use the first handful to wash your hair and by the time you’ve rinsed, the rest of the sachet has leaked out into the shower.  You can never get them open without recourse to serious violence.  And they’re naff. Enough said.
  • Why does no one ever think about women?  (Except Dean Street Townhouse, bless them).  Have something there for taking off my slap – a couple of cleansing pads or some cotton wool.  It’s odd how many otherwise great toiletries packs are missing this very obvious basic.
  • Make sure you replenish the toiletries.  If I stay a week, I’ll be washing my hair more than once!  I don’t want to have to stop because the soap’s run out.  Lots of otherwise great hotels lose marks here (and reviewers don’t catch them out because we’re only staying one night!).

So all in all, London hotel toiletries are definitely getting better – but there’s still considerable room for improvement!

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Photo credits: Cavendish Hotel, Dean Street Townhouse.

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