Apex Hotels Blogs

Zoover Award for Apex

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Apex City of London Hotel named as one of the best hotels in England

Apex City of London Hotel has been recognised as one of the best rated hotels in the UK with a prestigious Zoover Award, one of the most coveted consumer prizes in the travel industry.

Robert Flinter - General Manager of Apex City of London Hotel

Presented by leading independent review website Zoover, the awards were created to give recognition to the best rated accommodation in Europe and popular destination worldwide.

With an overall guest rating of 9.1 out of ten, Apex City of London Hotel swept aside a highly competitive field to be presented with the award for ‘The 5th Best Hotel in England.’

Guest ratings of 9.3 for appreciation and a 9.0 for price/quality ensured the hotel achieved its Best Hotel ranking.

“We are extremely pleased to be presented with this highly prestigious award from Zoover," said Robert Flinter, General Manager, Apex City of London Hotel

“Knowing that we are receiving this award as a result of guest feedback means a great deal to the team at City of London who are dedicated to ensuring have the best stay possible. I’m delighted for the team to have their outstanding levels of customer service recognised in this fashion.”

Based in Netherland, Zoover attracts travellers from all over the world who leave their own reviews on accommodation, destination and attractions. The website is consulted more than 150 million times per year and is displayed in over 25 different languages.

Since 2009 the Zoover Awards have grown to become a prestigious contest within the travel industry. The reviews on Zoover.com determine which accommodation receives an award which are given to the most highly appreciated accommodation in each country.

For further press information, please contact pr@apexhotels.co.uk

Billy Elliot Review

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We have a treat for all you theatre lovers today with a review of Billy Elliot: The Musical from our Marketing Executive Lisa ...

Billy Elliot: The Musical

I was given tickets for Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London for my birthday this year, and what a treat it was!

I’ve watched the film many times so was very aware of the politics and culture of Billy’s upbringing, both of which make the Billy Elliot story even more poignant. The story is based in north east of England during the bleak times of the coal miners' strikes in the 1980s. Privatisation by the new Conservative Government had a major impact on rural industries, particularly mining. Men were tough and generations of males were expected to follow their families down the coal pit. Billy Elliot had other ideas. After spying a ballet class after his boxing class, he slowly started to realise that he wanted to be a ballet dancer. However, he knew that this would be met with tough opposition from his father and elder brother, both striking coal miners. Billy defied the odds with determination and was accepted for a prestigious ballet school. His chosen career was finally accepted by his father and brother.

Seeing the story translated from film to stage was captivating and songs had to be created to turn the story into a musical, a major difference from the film. The costume and set design was brilliant and captured the era perfectly. I remember the strikes as a child as generations of my family were coal miners and the story is a brilliant representation of the hard times they experienced.

There are four boys who take turns to play Billy at different shows. Josh Baker, Ryan Collinson, Adam Vesperman and Kaine Ward - superb in the one we saw - and I have no doubt the the acting and dancing is sensational in every performance. How these young people can dance and act on stage in front of these packed audiences night after night is nothing short of brilliant. There were more laughs than I remember from the film but it was very much in keeping with the characters of the north east.

A definite recommend – and it’s right beside Victoria train and tube station!

Gallows to Graveyard

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Mercat Tours is known far and wide as a provider of great ghost tours and fascinating underground tours of the Blair Street Vaults in Edinburgh. However, rather like the graves that the city's infamous bodysnatchers stole from, if you dig a little deeper, there’s much more to be found. So, we asked our friends at Mercat for some insights into Edinburgh's dark and gruesome history.

Edinburgh Graveyard

As Scotland’s capital and home to the highest courts in the land, Edinburgh had perhaps more than its fair share of public punishments, executions and political intrigues. In the Gallows to Graveyard tour, you can find out about the very worst of them.

We had a vivid imagination for punishments in Edinburgh. For example, if you were declared bankrupt, you had to sit at the Mercat Cross in a yellow hat all day. Not much of a punishment? Well, you had to pay for your own hat too. If your luck did not improve and you found yourself begging on the streets as a result, beware! You were not allowed to beg in Edinburgh if you were able-bodied and aged between 14 and 70. If caught, your ear would be nailed to the door of the Tron Kirk, while you were still attached. After a few hours, we would slice off your ear and leave it sticking to the door a while longer. Ironically, the injuries received through this punishment would make you eligible for beggar status.

At no time were punishments more cruel than in the 16th and 17th centuries, when fear of witchcraft and sorcery whipped folk up into a frenzy of bloodlust. In their quest to seek out Auld Clootie’s (that’s a good Scots name for the Devil) servants, anyone who was different was singled out and tried. Red hair? A mole? A birthmark? Sure signs you were in league with Beelzebub. Most suspects were also female.

Trial by torture – thumbscrews were a favourite – and trial by water down at the shores of the Nor’ Loch soon identified the guilty, who were then whisked away to Castlehill for burning at the stake. Being found innocent was little comfort as you were normally (a) dead or (b) mortally wounded from your trials, which means you would be (a) dead no matter what happened.

However, on the journey from Gallows to Graveyard, you may discover that Auld Clootie was not who he was assumed to be. An Edinburgh man called William Barton had the misfortune to find out the true identity of Auld Clootie and as a result ended his days swinging from the gallows. But I’m not going to tell you what he found out ... you’ll have to come on a tour and find out for yourselves.

Visit the Mercat Tours website to book a tour or find out more.

Chef's Stuffed Ravioli

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Giovanni DeRosa, Head Chef at Apex London Wall Hotel in London, gives us one of his favourite recipes from the Off The Wall Restaurant and Bar menu.

ricotta and basil ravioli

Giovanni's ravioli stuffed with ricotta and basil recipe

Serves 4

To make the pasta dough:

250g Italian 00 flour
50g Semolina
3 Large eggs, beaten

Combine the flour, semolina and salt in a medium mixing bowl, make a well in the centre then add the beaten eggs. Mix by hand until the mixture starts coming together, adding 1 – 2 tablespoons of water if necessary to form a relatively stiff dough. Knead the dough briefly in the bowl, then turn it onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead for about 4-5 minutes until very smooth and elastic. A good indication of the correct texture is when you can knead the dough with very little flour on the work surface without it sticking. Wrap with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 10-20 minutes, during which time you can make the filling.

To make the filling:

225g Fresh basil leaves, washed
100g Ricotta cheese
25g Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Place the chopped basil in a mixing bowl together with the cheeses, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well.

To assemble the ravioli:

Roll the pasta with a rolling pin to around 1cm thickness, and cut discs with a cutter around 85 cm in diameter. Using a piping bag, fill the middle of the discs with the filling, wet around the edge with water and close as half moon. To seal, press the edges with a fork.

To cook, boil the ravioli for five minutes and serve with tomato sauce or sage and butter.

The Taste of Apex

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Bruce Price is the award-winning chef at Metro Bar and Brasserie in Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa in Dundee.

We caught up with Bruce to ask him about the ideas and ingredients that go into his menus, the role of fresh local produce and what it's like to oversee a busy kitchen.

Bruce Price

Can you tell us a little about the ideas and influences behind the menus you put together for Metro?
I balance several influences when creating the menus. We try to make every menu seasonal, so the time of year is a big influence in terms of what products are readily available. Metro focuses on a classic theme so that we can cater for the wide range of tastes among our diners. Listening to our customers is important too. They give us great feedback on the food and also what they'd like to see more of, so we try to incorporate that as much as we can.

Scotland has lots of great food and drink producers. Do you source any of your ingredients locally and does the character of the local area influence the menu?
We source ingredients locally wherever it's practical. For example, we use soft fruits from Angus and the surrounding area and Stewart Tower Ice Cream sourced from a small dairy farm in Perthshire.

What's your favourite dish on the menu right now?
We're launching a new menu on 21 May and my favourite dish on this is Shetland mussels, leek, smoky bacon & cider. I've always loved shellfish; growing up in New Zealand my favourites were Bluff oysters and whitebait.

What's it like running a busy kitchen? What are the challenges and rewards?
It's very challenging, but I enjoy it. I work hard to get the best out of every member of the kitchen team, which means understanding their different personalities and finding what works best for each of them. It's rewarding to help my team improve their skills and to see them develop.

Tell us the about most satisfying part of your job.
Seeing young chefs realise that being a chef isn't just a job – they can, if they work hard, become skilled professionals. I've also worked with Dundee College ever since the hotel opened, encouraging young people starting out – we offer placements which help to give them the experience they need to improve. Just a few hours can lead to them taking on more and more and developing much further.

Apex Waterloo Supports Macmillan

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The Apex Waterloo Place Hotel supports Macmillan Cancer Support

The Apex Waterloo Place Hotel in Edinburgh is proud to announce its support for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The Edinburgh hotel aims to raise £2000 over the coming year for the charity and fundraising efforts have got off to a flying start with Apex Hotel's own Communications & CSR Director Jo Harbisher taking part in the Edinburgh Kilomathon.

Jo said: "We are pleased to be working with such a worthwhile cause. I think everyone knows of someone living with cancer which makes our fundraising very close to our hearts."

A program of fundraising activities in Edinburgh has been created by staff in the hotel including various running and cycling events, a team effort during the Olympics and the hotel's stylish restaurant Elliot's taking part in Macmillan's renowned World's Biggest Coffee Morning event in September.

Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. The latest figures show that one in three people will get cancer while two million in the UK are already living with it.

Jayne Forbes, Fundraising Manager for Macmillan in Edinburgh, said: "We are delighted to have the support of the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel this year and are really looking forward to working with them over the coming months. It's great having companies like Apex pledging to help Macmillan and their support will ensure we can continue to provide our vital services to people in Edinburgh living with cancer. We help people in many ways, from specialist nurses and doctors, to support and advice for people who have financial worries. 96% of our funding comes from the public so our work would not be possible without this kind of support."

For further press information, please contact pr@apexhotels.co.uk

Dare ProtoPlay

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Dare ProtoPlay computer and video games festival (10 - 12 August 2012)

Dare ProtoPlay is a free festival of computer and video games held at Caird Hall, just a short walk from Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa.

It's also the finale of the UK's most prestigious games design competition. Every summer, 15 teams of talented students travel to Dundee from around the world to build brand new computer games in just nine weeks. All the games then go on show to the public at the Dare ProtoPlay games festival for three days.

Check out the video below to find out what happened last year:

You'll get to play brand new games, meet their young creators, and vote for your favourite. At the end of the festival, three winning teams are announced. Those games will go on to compete for a unique BAFTA award, launching them into the exciting computer games industry.

It's a high profile event, with strong support from the big hitters of games industry, who often bring along their latest games for visitors to try.

There's also a kids Video Games Workshop, with experts from BAFTA and Abertay University teaching you how games are made. By the end of the three days, you'll have created a short piece of an animated game!

Last year saw over 9,000 people of all ages – from toddlers to grandparents – enjoying the fun-packed weekend. This year Dare Protoplay will be even better, with the addition of an Indie Games Festival to showcase the great young games companies coming out of Dundee and the rest of the UK.

Entry to Dare ProtoPlay is free, but there is a charge for the Video Games Workshop - pre-book soon if you want to take part.

Find out more at the Dare ProtoPlay website.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe (3 - 27 August 2012)

This August the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, will be delighting and enthralling visitors with a staggering 40,000 performances and more than 2,500 shows packed into 250 venues across the city.

Whether it is comedy, children’s shows, music, exhibitions, theatre and so much more, the festival offers a veritable treat for all city visitors over three actions packed weeks. Just be prepared to be surprised as sticking to its original values the Fringe is entirely open-access meaning anyone is allowed to perform as shows are not auditioned or vetted.

This founding value has been at the heart of the Fringe since it was established in 1947 by a group of theatre companies who had not been invited to participate in the Edinburgh International Festival, but decided they would travel to the city and perform anyway. It became known as the Fringe as it originally occurred on the edge or ‘fringe’ of the International Festival.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe street performer

So if you are visiting Edinburgh this August make sure you take in a show or three and take the opportunity to see famous faces, discover new artists and shows, and soak up the electric atmosphere that the Fringe is famous for.

The 2012 programme has now been announced and you can take a look at what's coming up on the official Edinburgh Festival Fringe website.

Notting Hill Carnival

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Notting Hill Carnival (26 – 27 August 2012)

Every August bank holiday the streets of West London come alive for the Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s largest street festival! The Caribbean theme sees the streets packed with steel bands, Calypso music and tempting food stalls; the Notting Hill Carnival is a huge party and everyone is invited!

Notting Hill Carnival performer

Originating in 1964, the festival encompasses the Caribbean spirit which attracts visitors from all over the world. The streets are lined with hundreds of stalls serving mouth-watering Caribbean dishes; whilst the main parade exhibits astounding floats and sounds from the talented steel drum bands.

The carnival started as a local festival set up by the West Indian community in the Notting Hill area and has since grown to be of London’s most exciting annual events. With over 20 miles of vibrant colour made from dazzling costumes and hundreds of Caribbean food stalls, it is no wonder it attracts over one million revellers each year.

If it's a family event you're looking for, then that family-friendly Sunday is the best day to bring along the kids to the carnival as the costume prizes are awarded. The main parade takes place on Monday, beginning on Great Western Road and winding its way to Ladbroke Grove.

Whichever day you decide to attend the festival, you can be sure on great crowds and a vibrant celebration of music and movements with Caribbean food stalls serving jerk chicken and friend plantain, whilst the series of sound systems allow for alfresco dancing. The Notting Hill carnival is a remarkable display of sounds, colourful sights and social solidarity. Whether you want to join in on the fun or watch the crowds go by, don’t miss the chance to be part of London’s biggest carnival.

Dundee August 2012

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What's on in Dundee in August 2012?

Event of the month

Dare ProtoPlay

Dare ProtoPlay (10 - 12 August 2012)

This free computer games festival is the finale of the UK's top video games design competition for students, who've been hard at work building new games for 9 weeks. This is your chance to play them and vote for the winners. It's prestigious stuff; the winning teams will form the shortlist for a BAFTA award. Major games companies will also be there, showing off their latest games and there are workshops for kids to get into building games. - Find out more in our Dare ProtoPlay blog post.

Robot - the Fantasy & the Reality (2 June - 30 September) - Sensation's summer robot extravaganza, with cutting edge technology in the Reality section featuring Scotland's only life-size interactive humanoid robot, while the Fantasy side features famous robots from film and television - Sensation, Greenmarket, Dundee, DD1 4QB - www.sensation.org.uk

Infinite Jest (23 June 2012 - 26 August 2012) - Infinity is a tough concept for the human mind, but it's one we find ourselves drawn to. This intriguing exhibition, featuring three artists from around the world explores infinite loops, circular narration and möbius strips - Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate, Dundee DD1 4DY- www.dca.org.uk

Dundee Relay for Life (25 - 26 August 2012) - An inspirational event raising money for Cancer Research UK. Teams of 8 to 15 people will walk a relay in the stadium for 24 hours, with music, games, entertainment and food also on site - Caird Park Stadium, Dundee, DD4 9BX - relay.cancerresearchuk.org

Rhod Gilbert - The Man with the Flaming Battenberg Tattoo (31 August 2012) - Dundee welcomes back the Welsh comedy sensation on a tour which has, frankly, the silliest title we've ever heard. This is the comedy of a man infuriated by the oddest things the modern world can throw at him. With other comedians this might seem like well-trodden ground, but Rhod has a fresh take on this and is so energetic and likeable that you're swept along with him. If you've only seen him on TV comedy panel shows, don't miss the chance to see him live - Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB - www.cairdhall.co.uk

Edinburgh August 2012

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What's on in Edinburgh in August 2012?

Event of the month

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe (3 - 27 August 2012)

Here it is: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest arts festival and arguably the biggest event in the Edinburgh calendar. With more than 2500 different shows, if you can't find something exciting to see then you're not looking hard enough - Find out more in our Edinburgh Festival Fringe blog post.

Edinburgh International Festival (9 August - 2 September) - The original and arguably most prestigious of Edinburgh's summer festivals. The programme always features the very best classical music, opera, theatre, dance and other arts from around the world - various venues around Edinburgh - www.eif.co.uk.uk

Edinburgh International Book Festival (11 - 27 August 2012) - Yet another "world's biggest", this time it's a celebration of the written word. With readings, Meet the Author events and panel discussions, there will be something suitable for all ages and tastes within the suitable bright, leafy space of Charlotte Square Gardens. The programme isn't announced until June but expect high profile authors and fast selling tickets - Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh, EH2 - www.edbookfest.co.uk

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (25 - 26 August 2012) - An annual extravaganza in Edinburgh Castle, second only to the Fringe Festivaal in size, with military bands and displays on a huge scale. Little known fact: the name for a military "tattoo" derives from the Dutch for "last orders" - Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG - www.edinburgh-tattoo.co.uk

Edinburgh Foodies Festival (10-12 August 2012) - Away from the hustle of the other festivals, Inverleith Park plays host to this mouthwatering showcase of great food and drink. With chefs from TV shows and Michelin-starred restaurants demonstrating in the Chef's Theatre, food and drink masterclasses and stands from the best restaurants and food producers, this is a must for anyone who might be described as a "foodie" - Inverleith Park, Edinburgh - www.foodiesfestival.com

Edinburgh Art Festival (2 August - 2 September 2012) - Scotland's largest annual visual arts festival, with over 45 major exhibitions at a diverse array of venues, including specially commissioned work scattered around the city - various venues around Edinburgh - www.edinburghartfestival.com

London August 2012

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What's on in London in August 2012?

Event of the month

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival (26 - 27 August 2012)

Every August bank holiday the streets of West London come alive for the Notting Hill Carnival – Europe's largest street festival! The Caribbean theme sees the streets packed with steel bands, Calypso music and tempting food stalls; it's a huge party and everyone's invited! - Find out more in our Notting Hill Carnival blog post.

Animal Inside Out (until 16 September 2012) - This August why not take the family to the Natural History Museum and see Animal Inside – an exhibition brought to the UK from the team behind Gunther Von Hagens' 'Body Worlds'. Animals Inside Out is not just skin deep, as this exhibition allows visitors the chance to step inside the flesh and travel on an anatomical safari of the natural world. This UK premier exhibition features 100 animals, displaying the inner working of some of the world's most magnificent creatures - Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD - www.nhm.ac.uk

Great British Beer Festival (7 - 11 August 2012) - Calling all beer lovers, Britain's biggest pub opens its doors for a five day festival starting on Tuesday 7th August. With day tickets from just £6, this festival is money well spent as you can try over 800 different real ales, ciders and foreign beers. The festival is not just about beer, as there will be the chance to try a variety of different foods and music to enjoy from all over the world - Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX - www.gbbf.org.uk

London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony (12 August 2012) - As quickly as it came around, it's over – the London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony celebrates the achievements, commitment, blood, sweat and tears of all the athletes that took part in the Olympics. With a cast of 15,000 performers the ceremony will include a march of the athletes, hoisting of the national flags, and the extinguishing of the torch flame. The BT Closing Ceremony concert will take place at Hyde Park with top acts such as Blur, The Specials and New Order performing - Olympic Stadium and Hyde Park - www.london2012.com

British Design 1948 – 2012: Innovation in the Modern Age (until 12 August 2012) - This V&A exhibition celebrates the best of British post-war art and design from 1948 to the present day. It examines the shifting nature of British design over the past 60 years, tracing those changes by exploring buildings, objects, images and ideas. Spread over three galleries, the exhibition reveals how British designers responded to economic, political and cultural forces that have ultimately shaped the way we live today - The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL - www.vam.ac.uk

Film4 Summer Screen 2012 (16 - 25 August 2012) - Every summer, Somerset House opens its doors to house film screenings in its beautiful courtyard. This annual festival has quickly become London's most popular outdoor film event. The twelve-day series features a broad range of films, all displayed on a state-of-the-art screen, equipped with a fully encompassing surround sound system – this is one film event you will want to be a part of - Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA - www.somersethouse.org.uk/film

LolliBop Festival (17 - 19 August 2012) - Not sure how to entertain the little ones over the summer holidays? Not to worry, as the LolliBop is back this year and is the biggest UK festival for kids! LolliBop is a magical place with live stages, arts, disco, science, workshops and crafts this truly is the best family day out for families. This day event will keep the pint-sized festival goers busy and entertained with an action packed programme for the whole family to enjoy - Regent's Park, London, NW1 4NR - www.lollibopfestival.co.uk

Carnaval del Pueblo 2012 (19 August 2012) - This Carnival has been held in London since 1999 and has grown to be the largest Latin American out-doors festival in Europe. The festival is a celebration of Latin American culture with a 3 mile carnival procession, Latin music, dance and fun - making it the event of the year for all Latinos and lovers of their culture. Why not bring the family along and experience this intense culture festival especially as the festival is FREE! - Burgess Park, Albany Road, Camberwell, London, SE5 0RJ - www.carnavaldelpueblo.co.uk

South West Four (25 - 26 August 2012) - The world of dance and electro music comes to South London this August Bank Holiday, spread over two days packed with some of the industry's biggest names. Don't miss Carl Cox, Chase & Status, 2Many DJs, Eric Prydz and Erick Morillo as they go all out on dazzling performances at this year's South West Four festival. It's not just music that will keep these festival revellers happy, as SW4 is packed with stalls selling food, drinks and festival essentials as such as glow sticks! - Clapham Common, Windmill Drive, London, SW4 9DE - www.southwestfour.com

London 2012 Paralympic Games (28 August - 9 September 2012) - It has almost been a decade of planning, constructing and testing, but the light is at the end of the tunnel as the 2012 Paralympic Games finally comes to London. The Paralympic Games is the biggest sporting event on the planet for disabled athletes, competing for gold across 20 different sports. Cheer on your country's athletes, soak in the electric atmosphere and experience the wonder of the London 2012 Paralympic Games - Various venues - www.london2012.com/paralympics

Apex Hotels – Book Direct

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Apex Hotels introduces new £10 direct booking reward voucher

Guests of Apex Hotels can now enjoy even more during their stay with the launch of a new £10 direct booking reward voucher.

When booking direct, guests will receive a £10 voucher per room on check-in which can then be spent on lunch, dinner - including in-room dining - and drinks at the bar.

Guests at the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel in Edinburgh and the Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa in Dundee will also be able to put the voucher towards a Spa treatment.

To qualify for the £10 direct booking reward voucher guests should book either online at www.apexhotels.co.uk or through Apex Hotels Central Reservations on 0845 365 0000 or if outside the UK on +44 (0)131 441 0440.

The reward voucher joins a range of benefits which guests can access by booking direct with Apex Hotels. Customers enjoy a Best Rate Guarantee in which Apex Hotels will match a cheaper rate, if found elsewhere, and guests can rest assured there will be no credit card charges on their booking.

Direct booking also enables guests to join the Apex Rewards Program if they stay a minimum of 5 nights per annum. 1 point is awarded for every £1 spent at Apex Hotels and guests can redeem these for a wide range of items including DVDs, games, theatre tickets, retail vouchers, cameras and iPods plus much more.

Lorna Lee, Marketing Director for Apex Hotels, said: "All the staff at Apex Hotels are dedicated to ensuring our guests have a memorable stay and we are always looking at ways to enhance their visitor experience.

"We are delighted to be introducing the £10 direct booking reward voucher which means guests will enjoy even more from their stay. This voucher joins our growing list of rewards that can be accessed through direct booking."