Anyone that knows me knows that I’m the first to praise and often the first to criticise. Ardencote Manor is the first spa hotel I went to and the one that at the time helped me to reset my life as things were not great. I needed a break and after sitting by the pool I had re-found some purpose and stormed ahead. This place will always hold a special place in my heart and I will come back but I am sitting by the very same pool right now feeling a little cheesed off. Is it because of the quality of service in Mexico just a few months ago?
So, I’ve paid £139 for a Christmas Spa break. That’s a 25 minute back scrub (it’s a bit of fun), 3 course meal from the set menu (rather tasty) and a night at the hotel with the use of the spa facilities. It’s not cheap, especially with a £40 single supplement when the hotel is pretty empty anyway but it’s not that bad for a day away. But, here’s the problem. Something has changed. These are all small niggles and at first I didn`t notice but combined were enough to get me to write this.
I’d always found this place to be very relaxing, with a great attention to detail but the first thing I noticed was in the changing room. The toilet door wouldn’t lock. The lock was off center and you couldn’t lift it or slide it in. Had no one ever noticed? In the second cubicle, the toilet was stuffed with toilet paper and looked a mess. Ok, these things could be one offs and frankly the second toilet could have just happened, although the staining on the toilet pipes wasn`t so good.
But then I find the jucuzzi was out of order. The sign said that an engineer is coming. Then I find out from a member of staff it broke down ‘at the weekend’. It’s currently Thursday?
Now I started to notice things.
A couple of lights were flickering in the pool area. Again minor things but when you are trying to relax it was just enough flicker to grab your attention. Then I went to another toilet and noticed the toilet door. The rubber in the handle must have been like that for a while?
But then this is what really got me. The staff had changed. I’m not sure if they’d had got some people fresh out of hotel college but at dinner, the opening line was, “Would you like some MINERAL water”. Either the waiter was trying to hypnotise me into buying it that he said ‘mineral’ so forcefully or he was embarrassed to say it as it positively grated on me. I replied, “No thanks, I’ll have some tap water”. I think everyone else in there heard me and listening in, they all then said tap water to the forceful ‘mineral’ water question too.
Don’t get me wrong the waiter did nothing wrong. We all know a hotel is in the business of making money but when you are trying to relax it shouldn’t feel like you are being ‘sold too’. It really cheapened the experience. The previous waiter remembered my name and made me feel so welcome and recommended wines, etc. He got me buying more expensive dishes and more wine and here’s the thing….. I did it because I wanted to because he made it sound so interesting. It was fun.
The checking of the food was a bit overbearing too. “Oh you haven’t started yet” one waiter said as he leant in to check if I had started. There was also a sense of “get him in and out”, even though the restaurant was virtually empty. In fact at one point I actually told the waiter in a jokey way but to make the point, “relax, I’m in no rush”.
When it got to the end, I gathered my things as I’d been on my tablet computer and phone but as I tried to gather them, the waiter was already clearing my table. Wait a minute!! Just give me a second then do it. I left a tip out of guilt only.
Every new hotel college student needs to study their craft but when I spend more money I want to feel I’m getting more experienced staff. We all started from the bottom in our jobs and work our way up.
But now I’m started to get more frustrated, along with several other people in the bar area. I’ve just had lunch.
The barman, answering the question of one of the guests, didn’t know where one of the function rooms was in the hotel. Then the barman and manager didn’t seem to know what they were doing. A group of women had just been given the wrong menu and had picked all their choices only to be told it was the wrong menu. They pointed out they were in a rush and would like the correct menu and wanted to make sure this one was actually correct menu this time.
For me, firstly they brought the wrong food to me, then they came up to me and asked me if I had ordered 2 of the same dish, no I hadn’t. Then finally they bring the right dish but the bread was quite dry, not crusty, just felt like it had been sitting out. “Can I have some cutlery?” I asked. Sorry they reply and bring some. Not sure how else I was going to eat my salad? Can I have some ketchup? Well I don’t know what sauce it was (I think it was brown sauce in hindsight) and it was empty and look at the rust on these containers in the photo. It’s not a “rustic look”, it was just rust rust or a very good imitation. It felt sharp to the touch, not smooth as you would expect with ‘shabby chic’.
Oh and there was some green mould on the side of the outdoor hot tub too. It is a fantastic hot tub, I can sit there for hours and in the past I’d never have noticed and this time I wouldn’t if they other things hadn’t got to me.
Don’t get me wrong, Ardencote Manor remains one of my favourites. I will be back, at the least because it maintains a special place in my heart but I’m worried the cracks might be showing. The most courteous and professional people were the receptionist (as you would expect) but then the woman hoovering the floor and clearing the bedroom. The spa staff were great too but the bar/waiting staff felt a little like a college day out. Again, we all have to start somewhere but I pay more to get more, like I think we all do.
It may not be £280-300 for this place but equally, fixing the toilet door, getting the jucuzzi fixed, paying a little more for more experienced staff would help lift the whole experience. Maybe I’ve been too often.
Ardencote maintains a special place for me and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it because I hope these are just one offs. The relaxation rooms, the spa, the pool area are all really nice for a reasonable (in the UK) price but I hope that something hasn’t changed. I will be going back I`m sure to check I just got unlucky but I’m feeling a bit concerned.