Stop press. It's the news we've all been waiting for. London accommodation - for years among the most expensive in the world - has now become affordable. High design but low-cost boarding houses and boutique hotels with friendly service are sprouting up around the city. A reasonable, and in some cases damned fine, hotel room for under £100 (about $250) is now a reality.
Yotel: Cheap and chic is the mantra of this much-needed revolution, and it's typified by the advent of the funky Yotel at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, hyped as 'the world's most radical hotel' by founder Simon Woodroffe of Yo! Sushi restaurant-chain fame. Gatwick's Yotel is due to open in April and Heathrow is scheduled for June.
Yotel, priced from just £40 (about $100) a night for a standard cabin, fuses the popular Japanese pod-style capsule hotel with the self-contained cabin concept Woodroffe experienced after being upgraded to first class on a British Airways flight. With automated check-in and check-out, and a host of inventive design features, it's set to take the hotel industry by storm and will provide a much-needed boost to the budget accommodation stocks in this super-expensive city.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou: Also blazing a trail on London's affordable accommodation front is Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the Cypriot who revolutionised air travel when he started easyJet in 1995. The budget travel king has opened easyHotel in Lexham Gardens, Kensington, and plans to open another of the back-to-basics hotels in Victoria in March, followed by a third in Earls Court in June. Thirty eight more will be rolled out across North Africa, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the next five years. EasyHotel can be booked over the internet from just £30 (about $75) a night. The rooms are basic, but the prices are amongst the lowest in the city, so if you're happy to substitute chic for cheap and cheerful, it's a good option.
Base2stay: Another innovator, Robert Nadler, creator of Base2stay, has blended the perks of a boutique hotel with those of a serviced apartment. He says his decision to move into the budget hotel market was prompted by a notable absence of quality affordable accommodation in the city.
Nadler has converted a clutch of white-stucco Edwardian houses in South Kensington into a surprisingly sleek 67-room hotel offering pared-down service but maximum comfort and amenities, such as a flat-screen TV and free internet access in every room.
"I came into this business with serviced apartments but soon realised I had the basis for something far more interesting," says Nadler. "It stemmed from a desire to have a hotel that I actually wanted to stay in, that addressed all the little things that irritated me, like the kids raiding the mini bar and running up ridiculous bills or having to pull out the standard lamp every time I wanted to plug in the laptop.
"Base2stay is an edited hotel concept that we plan to colonise across London all the way from Shepherds Bush to Shoreditch - anywhere that has a bit of an urban buzz with 24/7 facilities that we can utilise. We also want to be a good neighbour and push our guests to patronise the local businesses."
Nadler's concept provides guests with mini-kitchens in every room, replete with microwave, refrigerator, decent white plates, glasses and crockery. It's a great idea for travellers who want to conserve their cash (dining in London restaurants can be on the pricey side too); guests can be spotted returning to their rooms with Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer shopping bags filled with ready-made meals, antipasti, bread, cheeses and bottles of wine.
For those who choose not to cook or self-cater, there's also an in-room menu thoughtfully supplied by Deliverance, an inspired takeaway service that offers 'culinary salvation' with an edited global menu of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Indian, Japanese and European dishes. Room prices at Base2stay are from £80 (about $200) a night for a single or £99 (about $245) for a standard double.
Twenty Nevern Square Hotel is another clever late-19th century townhouse conversion overlooking tranquil tree-lined Nevern Square in Earls Court. It also typifies the constraints encountered with London's Edwardian and Victorian housing. Often sprawling over five floors, with small stairwells, these buildings need a vivid imagination to convert them into modern hotels with functional lifts and public areas. Siddeek Saloojee, who also owns the nearby Mayflower Hotel & Apartments and The New Linden Hotel in Queensway, succeeds with a cunning mix of exotic décor.
Each of the 23 rooms at Twenty Nevern Square has been refurbished with a mix of Asian and Indian artefacts - carved wardrobes, four-poster beds, oriental headboards, colourful silk curtains and plentiful cushions. Prices are from £79 (about $192) a night for a single or £89 (about $220) for a double.
The larger rooms, such as the Chinese Double and grand Pasha Suite, are worth paying that little bit extra for as some of the others are a little too small for an extended stay. There's also a café with an outdoor area that's a relaxing place to partake of the generous breakfast included in the tariff.
The nearby Mayflower Hotel & Apartments seems a more successful concoction. After a thorough makeover, 48 rooms have emerged with marble bathrooms, ceiling fans, teak and wicker furniture and dark polished wooden floors for a truly post-colonial feel. There are also generous public areas, including a basement breakfast room and cool first-floor juice bar. Check out the reception desk, framed by a dramatic wood carving from Jaipur and world clocks for disoriented travellers before being greeted by the very friendly staff. A standard single is available from £69 (about $172) a night and a standard double from £85 (about $212).
Close to Hyde Park, The New Linden Hotel - from £65 (about $162) a night for a single and £85 (about $212) for a double - is Saloojee's latest project. It's in a similar style to his other hotels with Asian artefacts, generous bathrooms and all the usual electronic amenities, such as CD and DVD players, flat-screen TVs and free wireless internet access. There are also two unusually large family-style rooms; the one on a split-level, complete with Doric columns dividing the upper and lower sections, is perfect for those in need of a little bit of peace and quiet away from the kids. Best of all, the hotel is a short walk from the shopping meccas of Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road.
Close to Victoria Station, B+B Belgravia (singles from £94, about $234, and doubles from £99, about $247) is the best contemporary makeover of a townhouse around. A bright mix of Ikea-ish homewares and modern designer furniture in a black and white theme, with steel-mesh Bertoia chairs, helps create a very welcoming open space on the ground floor. There's an open fire to sit by as you read the papers or browse their well-thumbed collection of guidebooks.
An adjoining breakfast room, in the form of an open-plan kitchen, also makes you feel at home. You can make coffee from a professional machine, watch the proficient staff prepare a serious cooked breakfast or help yourself to the cereals, fruits and natural yoghurts, all included in the tariff. Better still, there are 17 bright and airy rooms with high ceilings, very comfy beds and small yet adequate bathrooms with sensible power showers. There's also a tranquil garden at the back of the house where guests can take their aperitifs before heading off to the West End to catch a show.
Harlingford Hotel: Another gem, set on an elegant Georgian crescent in the heart of Bloomsbury, literary London's historic centre near the British Museum, is Harlingford hotel. Andrew Chatto (the founder of publisher Chatto & Windus) was a previous owner and entertained authors such as Mark Twain and Wilkie Collins in its graceful rooms. Today, there are 43 rooms all sensitively restored by interior decorator Nathalie O'Donohoe, and an expansive breakfast room with chandeliers. There's also access to the communal gardens of the private square in front of the hotel. Rooms are from £79 (about $192) a night for a single and £99 (about $247) for a double.
The Southwark Rose Hotel: Final proof, if needed, of the rapidly spreading renaissance can be found further east in Southwark and Hoxton. Near the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre, The Southwark Rose Hotel is another affordable modern affair with 84 rooms and suites all offering more than adequate amenities and decent beds from £95 (about $235) a night.
The Hoxton hotel: Close to Shoreditch and its trendy bars and restaurants filled with an East End art crowd, The Hoxton hotel is the brainchild of Sinclair Beecham, co-founder of the Pret a Manger sandwich chain, who offered rooms for £1 (with the pledge of 'rooms for less than a sarnie') when it opened in September 2006. Described as an 'urban lodge' and 'no bullshit hotel', the $44.7 million makeover is certainly not just about style but also about content.
It's a calculated and cool mix of contemporary chic in the Ian Schrager mode. There's a huge baronial fireplace with a roaring fire and leather chairs in the reception, 205 great rooms with Frette linen and duck-down duvets and bright red corridors that are fun to walk down when you finally go to bed. And with its exuberant ground floor restaurant, The Hoxton Grille - very much set in the trendy New York and Paris brasserie mode, and already attracting a fashionable crowd - this is also proving to be a seriously fun place to hang out.
But, don't be misled by all the coolness, as The Hoxton hotel (rooms start from £59, about $146, for advance bookings) has got a very serious agenda. With its unpretentious philosophy of value for money, it perfectly embodies the very real revolution in the budget hospitality scene that's finally taking London by storm.