Ettington Park Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon

The location

ImageLocated just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, the hotel is also within easy reach of Birmingham, Royal Leamington Spa and Warwick. Set in beautiful countryside complete with ruins, sheep and bunnies, the hotel offers a lovely and romantic destination.

The room

Our room was very spacious. A flight of stairs led to a sitting area next to the large bed. There was also a desk and the room was well equipped: television, safe, mini bar. Water was provided. Although there is wi-fi in the communal parts of the hotel, a cable was provided in the room. I found it impossible to connect with a VPN, especially as 3G was really weak. The bathroom was equally large.

There was only one problem with the room: we were able to hear the noise from the adjacent rooms. This is really something I hate.

The evening meals

Two options were offered: dinner in the lounge or in the pannelled dining room. I must say I preferred dining in the lounge, which offered lovely views of the surrounding countryside and better value food. We decided to dine in the dining room the second night and were told this was a big affair: you had to drop your reservation at reception the day before. Of course when we turned up the following day there seemed to be no trace of our reservation and we were kept waiting for about half an hour before we were allowed to enter the dining room. We were expecting it to be full of diners, but it was fairly empty. We also found the food was quite average. Wine was also priced in a strange manner: I was able to enjoy a glass of mature Bordeaux for the same price as my wife’s recent Chablis.

The other issue was the staff, which switched from the extremely formal (addressing us as Mr and Mrs) to the oddly familiar. Coffee was also quite disappointing, for the hotel seemed unable to produce a hot cup.

The breakfast

In contrast to our dinner experiences, we really enjoyed breakfast. A few cooked options are provided; I sampled the full English and the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and loved both. There is also a buffet replete with bread, jams and fresh fruits.

The facilities

Another aspect of our stay that we loved was the ability to use the hotel’s indoor pool and sauna for no extra cost. It definitely makes for a very relaxing stay.

The price

In total, including two nights, four dinners, a few drinks, four breakfasts, £377 (€477). Before returning, we would certainly give it some thought, because of the issues with food mentioned above, but also because we had to ask for our bill to be corrected a few times before getting the correct amount.

Harry’s Bed & Breakfast, Cambridge

The location

The B&B’s website claims to be located within a ten minute walk from the city did seem a little bit excessive to us: we used a taxi to go to a restaurant on Trumpington Street and it felt like it would have taken a bit more than just ten minutes on foot. This can be a slight incovenience in a city like Cambridge, which is not exactly car-friendly. We were glad to find there was some free parking on the B&B’s driveway, although we had to squeeze in there.

Be also aware that the owners apparently do not live on the premises, which led to a misunderstanding with other guests while we were staying.

The bedroom

We were given a nice welcome and shown to a room on the ground floor. There was a small and very clean shower room, as well as a lavatory with a sink. Despite the covers, the bed was relatively comfortable. Combined with the fact that our room was rear-facing, it made for a good night. I wonder if the rooms upstairs are giving onto the road, which is quite busy. Ferret enjoyed the tea and coffee making facilities, which also came with biscuits while I was looking for the wifi (you probably have to ask for a code).

The breakfast

There is a very decent English breakfast on offer, with tea and tasty orange juice.

The price

At £95 a night (€120), this comes across as slightly expensive for a B&B. The popularity of Cambridge as a tourist destination, the cleanliness of the rooms and the nice breakfast make it acceptable.

Club Quarters (Lincoln’s Inn Fields), London

The location

Club Quarters is a chain with 15 prime locations across the US and London (as we have previously discussed), although the Lincoln’s Inn branch views this differently to its Trafalgar Square counterpart. While the latter hotel is in the centre of the hustle and bustle, Lincoln’s Inn is a little more set back, overlooking the leafy square of the same name and with excellent access to the little-known Soane Museum just across from the hotel. However, you’d be mistaken for thinking that this location is in any way remote: it’s next to the London School of Economics, and borders the hectic Kingsway, which provides access to several eateries, supermarkets and more. You therefore get all of the action and little of the noise, even though you’re steps away from your nearest Underground station of Holborn.

The room

After receiving an upgrade for no reason at all (woohoo!) we weren’t disappointed to find that the Lincoln’s Inn room facilities are of the same calibre as in Trafalgar Square. Modern, elegant and functional, you have access to an iPod dock, chilled water, a flat screen TV, and a work desk to name but a few of the amenities. Unusually, this room also featured a kitchenette for self-catering, with 2 electric hobs, a sink, a fridge, and a convection oven/microwave. However, the hotel is still being completed (see below for more on this) and the kitchenette was arguably not fully equipped (there are plates, cutlery, napkins etc, but no pots/pans or washing-up equipment – but fear not, it appears the reason for the lack of the latter is because the staff wash up for you). Saying this, though, the equipment that was there worked perfectly and we were able to cook a pizza from the Sainsbury’s round the corner with no problem (I know. CLASSY.). Gilchrist and Soames toiletries are provided and the bed is comfortable, although the thinness of the curtains perhaps precludes a perfect night’s sleep.

The breakfast

We seem to attract free breakfasts for some reason at Club Quarters (NOT that we’re complaining!). This time it was due to the fact that the hotel was still being built: their own breakfast facilities were not ready, so as compensation all guests were offered free breakfast – not in the hotel, but at the Pitcher and Piano restaurant just steps away. Sadly Pitcher and Piano’s own excellent food did not feature; the buffet-style breakfast, in this case, consisted of a few surly pastries, boxed cereals, and poor-quality beverages. Fruit salads were available, but I don’t trust those little plastic prepackaged cups. Greetings from staff were sparse to non-existent and I’m not sure I would have been happy to pay for this breakfast. Still, free is free, the hotel are clearly trying hard given the circumstances, and we took it.

The price

Members can benefit from free weekend nights for themselves, friends and family (as a primarily business hotel they are desperate to fill the place at weekends), and this is what we typically benefit from, paying only the £18 tax. A normal weekend rate for non-members at Club Quarters Lincoln’s Inn costs between £109 and £169 per night, not including breakfast, depending upon the facilities you require. Although we perhaps don’t have a full measure of the place yet due to its ongoing work on its restaurant facilities, it still strikes us as being very good value, in keeping with the hotel’s existing branches. Even if we perhaps prefer the Trafalgar Square location marginally, we would visit again for the prime rooms and to check out their contemporary Japanese in-house restaurant Wabi, which is scheduled to open any day now.

61 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London WC2A 3JW
Phone: (44) 20-7404-6640

http://www.clubquarters.com/loc_londonLincolns.php