Other reports from this trip –
Introduction: Bangkok, not Shanghai!
Review: Qatar lounge, Heathrow Terminal 4
Review: Qatar A380 in F, London to Doha
Review: Waldorf Astoria, Bangkok
Review: Qatar lounge, Bangkok
Review: Qatar 777 Qsuite, Bangkok to Doha
Review: Al Sawafra (First) Lounge, Doha
I had a 9am flight booked from Heathrow to Doha on Saturday morning and I wanted to spend some time in the Qatar lounge so I figured the sensible thing to do would be to go to bed early, get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to travel. As with all the best plans, things didn’t quite work out that way. As I climbed in to bed shortly after 1am, I regretted not booking the afternoon flight!
I set my alarm for 4.30 and went to sleep, only to hear it go off after what felt like ten minutes. Three snoozes later and I was about to miss the tube to the airport! No problem, thought I; I’ll catch the next one. They’re every ten minutes, right? Apparently not! There wasn’t a next one, or any, for that matter. The Piccadilly line was closed beyond Hyde Park for maintenance. I quickly checked my options and decided to order a car from Bolt. It was ten times the price of a tube ride, but it would get me there in plenty of time. at 6.20, I stepped out the back of a Mercedes Vito at Heathrow’s Terminal 4.
As I walked into the terminal, I was shocked to see it so busy. The queue for check in seemed to go on forever!
Luckily I was able to use first class check in, which was much quicker. What I didn’t expect, though, was just how quick it would be! When the woman managing the entrance to check in saw that I was in first, she took me straight to front, ahead of the other passengers who were already queuing and were presumably there because of status, rather than cabin. It felt slightly awkward, but it was certainly quick. I gave some mumbled apologies, avoided eye contact and collected my boarding pass.
I headed straight to security and went through the very empty fast track lane. With nobody in front of me, I was processed in seconds and on my way to the lounge.
In this review…
Qatar’s lounge in Heathrow’s Terminal 4 is situated air side, by gate 1b. Having exited security, I turned left and headed directly there.
Terminal 4 is an odd shape. It’s very long and narrow. I used to be a regular visitor when this was BA’s main base, prior to moving to Terminal 5 in 2008, but it somehow seems smaller and a little more claustrophobic these days. Being here always makes me appreciate the bright and spacious environment of Terminal 5 even more.
After a short walk I quickly found the lounge entrance. The main entrance to the lounge is shared with the Plaza Premium Lounge, making it appear that they may be the same lounge, but once along the corridor it’s clear that they are, in fact, two separate lounges.
The Qatar lounge is straight ahead at the end of the corridor, while the Plaza Premium Lounge is up a set of stairs.
To access this lounge, you must be travelling on a Oneworld flight in a business class or first class cabin. Oneworld status members travelling in other cabins will be directed to the Plaza Premium Lounge upstairs.
The Qatar lounge opens three hours before the first flight, which is currently at 8am, and stays open until after the last flight has departed. Current opening hours are Monday to Sunday, from 5am – 9.30pm.
Design and Layout
The first thing that strikes you as you walk into the Qatar lounge is a serene sense of calm. Qatar advertises it’s Heathrow lounge as being ‘ More of a boutique hotel or private club than a lounge’ and it certainly feels that way. Qatar operates just six flights per day out of Heathrow so this is not a lounge designed to cater to the masses. From the moment you enter, the service feels premium. Rather than visiting a reception, you are greeted by a lounge host who checks you in, offers to store your bags and will happily give first time visitors a tour of the lounge.
The lobby area is compact, with soft tones and a floral centre piece, overlooked by a large chandelier of candles.
Stepping through the lobby and into the main lounge, you are greeted by a showpiece water feature, set on a marble star. The soft, neutral tones and the gentle sound of flowing water help to enhance the feeling of peacefulness.
The main seating area within the lounge is set against a feature wall of glass overlooking the airfield. Due to the layout of lounge, the seating area is long and narrow, but the light coming in from the large windows makes it very bright and airy, ensuring that it never feels claustrophobic. The one downside of this layout is that the seats lack any form of privacy, but the limited foot traffic within the lounge ensures that this is not too much of a problem.
The seats are all upholstered in soft fabric and provide a good degree of support, making them very comfortable to sit on. There are power sockets between each pair of seats, providing you with the opportunity to charge your devices before boarding.
There are a couple of other seating areas within the lounge, including a small area with a television, sectioned off from the rest of the lounge by metal borders, but these lack the view and the ambiance of the window seats and are not as comfortable to sit in so tend to be less used.
There are a few paper racks within the lounge, hosting a variety of different daily newspapers. What struck me about these was that they were always impeccably presented. Within minutes of somebody removing or replacing a newspaper, a member of staff would come along to tidy everything up.
At the far end of the lounge, past the seating area, is the restaurant, and this is the real essence of the lounge. Split into two areas, the Delicatessen caters for those looking for a quick snack before their flight, while the Brasserie provides a more formal setting for people who want a sit-down meal.
The Deli has four tables set against the window, seating up to 16 people. As a nod to Qatar’s Middle Eastern roots, olive trees have been placed in the middle of each table to offer a degree of privacy, allowing the table to be comfortably shared with strangers.
From here you can order food from the menu or select something quick from the large delicatessen counter that serves as the focal point of the room.
There are also a few informal chairs dotted around the room, where you can relax and enjoy coffee or a quick snack.
A feature I really like is the wine rack wall that separates the Deli from the Brasserie, with the current champagne and wine offerings on display behind the glass.
The Brasserie is a white table cloth affair with seating for 22 and, like the rest of the lounge, has an understated elegance about it. It is set against an open kitchen, allowing you to watch the chefs at work as you wait for your meal.
Despite the formality of the setting, it never feels stuffy.
I really like the whole look and feel of this lounge. It has hints of Middle Eastern opulence, but with a simplicity that makes it feel comfortable for the average traveller.
Food and Beverage
The lounge stocks a good range of soft drinks, spirits, wine beer and champagne, as well as tea, coffee and water. Within the main lounge, there is an area where you can help yourself to soft drinks and water. Alcoholic drinks are available on request, although these can be ordered and consumed anywhere within the lounge.
As I sat down in the main restaurant area, I was presented with a menu offering a good selection of breakfast drinks. I ordered an Americano, which was delicious. I did ask the brand of coffee used, but unfortunately nobody seemed to know.
The champagne currently being served in the lounge is Tattinger Rose and Deutz Brut, both of which are perfectly decent. This did, however, feel like a slight downgrade, at least in brand, from the Laurent Perrier brut and rose previously offered.
Working on the premise that it was 5pm and champagne time somewhere in the world, I had a small glass of each, purely for journalistic purposes.
There are six types of white wine and six types of red on offer, which is a great selection. I shall save the review of those for another time.
I also left the beers and spirits alone on this visit, but they are well stocked and plentiful, with a wide range of spirits in the Martini Bar. I’ll make sure I arrange an afternoon trip for a future update.
Visiting a lounge in the morning is not really the best time to get an idea of the food on offer as breakfasts don’t vary too much from lounge to lounge, but I was still impressed with the selection in the Qatar lounge, particularly in the Deli.
I was invited to order something to eat from the menu or to make my own selection from the Deli counter. The same menu, incidentally, is also used in the Brasserie.
Looking at the Deli counter, I was very impressed with the selection on offer, which included cereals, granola, bread and pastries, fish, meat, hummus, cheese and fruit. I also really liked how beautifully everything was presented.
I hadn’t really planned to eat in the lounge, but I ordered Eggs Benedict from the menu to see what it was like and my plate arrived within 5 minutes. I asked for my eggs soft, but when they arrived they were a little overcooked for my liking. Presentation, however, was nice and food was very tasty.
Now, onto my favourite feature of the lounge! As I was chatting to the woman looking after me in the Deli, I mentioned how impressed I was at all the lovely delights on offer. She looked pleased and suggested that I follow her into the Brasserie, where she pointed out the two tables down the centre. I had no idea this existed, but it turns out you can take a Qatar-branded box and help yourself to a little chocolate takeaway party! Well, I was in heaven. Scoop in hand, I quickly filled a box and wandered off, chuckling merrily to myself.
Still chuckling to myself, with a box of free Lindt chocolates in my hand, this may seem like a slightly biased opinion, but I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of food and beverage in the lounge. Everything is so beautifully presented and there is a great selection. I could easily have been sitting in a Mayfair Deli and been presented with a £100 bill for my champagne breakfast. What really stood out for me, though, was the excellent and attentive service. At no point was I left waiting. It really was a great experience.
There is a small business centre in the lounge, near the entrance. It has four work areas, two with PCs, both of which are connected to a printer, and two without. It’s perfectly adequate for the size of lounge and a very useful feature, although I don’t actually think I’ve ever seen anyone using it.
WiFi is the one area where the lounge is weak. I tried to upload pictures for this review using lounge wifi and it failed miserably. With 3Mb download and 1Mb upload, I’m sure it just about adequate for basic browsing and checking a few emails, but it will struggle with anything beyond that.
I tried tethering to my phone over 4G instead and had no issues. Both upload and download speeds were considerably better than the lounge WiFi and much faster than I expected.
While disappointing, this is not something that is unique to Qatar. Heathrow lounges in general seem to suffer from poor WiFi speeds. I shall see if I can investigate this further at some point and find out why…
Toilets and Showers
The washroom facilities in the lounge are top notch. Situated near the entrance, there are male and female toilets and four shower cubicles, one of which is wheelchair friendly. All are accessed off a single corridor and are available on request. .
The toilets are individual cubicles, each with its own wash basin. Products are by Rituals and cloth towels are provided for drying your hands, which always gets a thumbs up from me.
Each of the four shower cubicles have their own toilet and wash basin and are thoughtfully designed, with plenty of space to dry yourself and dress in.
A dressing gown and towels are provided in each of the cubicles.
As with the toilets, shower products come courtesy of Rituals.
Unlike the lounges in Doha, Qatar’s main hub, this lounge is not designed with transiting passengers in mind, so there is no specific sleeping area. That being said, there are a few quiet spots where it would certainly be possible to have a quick snooze.
When most airlines create a lounge that caters for both business and first class passengers, it tends to provide something closer to the business class experience, which is understandable as the majority of users will be flying in the cheaper, business class cabin. Qatar, however, has done the opposite here and bestowed a first class experience on all its premium passengers. The design delivers a tasteful blend of classic, Middle Eastern opulence and contemporary, British style, providing the perfect place to relax before your flight. With restaurant quality catering and attentive, understated service, the lounge feels, in Qatar’s own words, like an upmarket, boutique hotel and definitely gets the Flight Guys seal of approval.