Hotel Mancino 12, Rome

The location

Arriving from a wintry Paris, the mild Rome weather could not have felt more welcome earlier this week. After the usual scary drive from the airport, a surly taxi driver dropped me off near the hotel, vaguely waving in its general direction. The hotel Mancino 12 is indeed in a very small street and not really signposted. I arrived at a small reception to be given a friendly welcome.

Litterally at the foot of the momument to Victor Emmanuel II, just off the Corso, the hotel is an ideal starting point to discover the many hidden gems of Rome on foot. I particularly enjoyed strolling in the city at night under a full moon after some hearty Roman food.

IMG_0422The room

It was cosy, silent and spacious. The bed was large and very comfortable, the bathroom equally nice with a rainforest shower and good quality bath products. One feature I really enjoyed was the radio in the room (switches next to the bed), which allowed me to tune in to the excellent classical programmes of the Rai. Unfortunately the switches are illuminated and I know some travellers who would find this very irritating. However the radio is really something I would like to see more often, as it offers a nice background when you are working (there is free wifi on offer).

The breakfast

Virtually non-existent, with a few pastries, and some low quality juice, but decent coffee. Remember, however, you are in Italy, where you can expect a massive lunch. At 8 euros, it is no blatant rip-off though.

The price

Including two “breakfasts”, a  bottle of water, and various taxes, my average night cost 175 euros. Compared to my previous stay, I found this to be decent value for money and would certainly return were this sort of price available.


Hôtel Neufchatel, Brussels

The location

Between the Munthof and Louise stations, in a nice residential area. It is however a bit far away from the city centre and European institutions. Access to the hotel itself is not very easy either, as you have to climb a few stairs and open the door. The welcome was friendly, though.

IMG_0411The room

Mine was on the last floor. Although it had a cosy feeling (it was just under the roof), the number of things that were wrong with it is almost too long to mention: cheap materials, a small bed, a strange setup for the bathroom as you had to walk through the shower to access the sink. Such a room would not have qualified as a hotel room in some countries.

The breakfast

Also disappointing, with low quality offerings.

The price

At 175 euros a night this is to me a cheeky attempt to cash in on travellers on expenses. I will make sure I do not visit again.

  • Rue de Neufchâtel 34  1060 Brussels, Belgium

The Marquis at Alkham, Kent

The location

The enviable greenness of this hotel’s surrounding area belies the fact that it’s barely ten minutes’ drive from Dover’s slightly grotty town centre. Arriving there is always a shock after the over-affluent streets of Paris: toothless junkies, disenfrenchised teenagers, teenage mothers abound. The genteel village of Alkham, by contrast, shows how big the gulf is becoming between these two Englands: here, expensive German cars are parked in front of massive houses. The hotel is a little hidden away – we know how to get there given that we’ve stayed about three times now, but the first time we did get lost. However, now that we can locate it with confidence its “hidden away”-ness adds to its charm. However, its proximity to town centres (Dover, Deal), seafronts (Walmer), historic monuments (such as Richborough Castle) and cities (including Canterbury), and international gateways (such as the tunnel at Folkestone and the port at Dover) also make this countryside retreat a big draw. Whether you enjoy quiet wildlife walks, venturing into Kent’s towns, or peacefully staying in, the Marquis at Alkham is a great base for whatever you have planned.

The room

AlkhamRooms are usually luxuriously furnished, with sofas and extremely comfortable beds. Standard facilities, such as flat-screen televisions, are complemented by more homely touches, such as a soft toy dog and homemade biscuits (NB human biscuits, not dog biscuits) for every room. We also had a Nespresso machine in the room this time, which is an excellent bonus touch for quality coffee at any time of day. Bathrooms are clean and spacious, and on this occasion we benefited from a bath and shower being available. High-quality shower products are provided, but a couple of basics were strangely missing (such as flannels and cotton pads). The only real problem that we had was that it took an extremely long time for the room’s heaters to kick into action, which was a shame as when we arrived it was quite a cold day.

The dinner

We have eaten dinner at the Marquis’ restaurant on several occasions, and the chance to enjoy superior food and wine within the hotel is another reason why we keep returning to this establishment. The chef takes great pleasure in the use of local ingredients, and one of the walks that guests can go on takes them directly to the farm from which the restaurant procures its Dexter beef. Cooked until incredibly tender, it came served with vegetables and truffle mash, and the pigeon on the other side of the table also received good reviews. The cheese trolley is extensive and laden with local produce, and the desserts are on balance both innovative and traditional, again making good use of native ingredients: the Hopdaemon ale cake, served with Ashmore ice cream and Brogdale apples, is just one of the combinations to die for. However, make sure you check your bill on the way out: we were charged not only for what we ate but also for a dinner “supplement” (as we had tried to book a dinner + stay package online), and we were overcharged for the cheese (£19.50 instead of £18 for the two of us). On the whole, we found the food a bit pricy for what it was, especially given that the main courses lacked creativity and we were charged for the amuse-bouches. However, the £30 menu seems to offer good value.

The wine list is extensive, but sadly there is no fantastic value for money. We drank a 2008 Meyer-Näkel Spätburgender from the German Ahr region, which was packed with fruit and roasted flavour, but not cheap at £61.

The breakfast

The breakfast is actually one of the main reasons we keep returning to Alkham – the hotel has a superb restaurant on the premises and the breakfast is always as good as the dinner. Breakfast is included in the room price, and you get a wide choice of high-quality dishes and products for your money. On the buffet side, there are cold meats, cheeses, and a facility to boil your own eggs, as well as home-made preserves and jams made with local fruits, a range of cereals (granolas, mueslis, seeds and others), fresh fruits, and pastries. As for the cooked offerings, the full English is of course available, as are other choices such as sausage sandwiches, or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Juice and coffee is of high quality also, and the entire ensemble offers a consistently excellent taste, and you can enjoy it with the complimentary copies of the newspapers provided and wonderful views over the Kentish countryside.

The price

For one night, including breakfast, our bill came to £179. We consider this good value for money, although this could have been heightened by the minor gripes that we mention regarding the room. However, we will continue to keep visiting for as long as the high standards of breakfast are maintained (we take the maxim of “breakfast like a king” to heart!) and the welcome continues to be as warm in this lovely part of the UK.

Alkham Valley Road, Alkham, Kent CT15 7DF

Hotel Preciados, Madrid

The location

The hotel is situated near the historic city centre, within easy reach of the royal palace, the Prado museum and the Plaza Major. Although not outstanding for shopping, it offers good access to restaurants such as those on Cava Baja. Although Madrid appears heavily stricken by the crisis, people still throng the streets at night and genuinely seem to enjoy going out.

IMG_0387The room

It was quiet enough, with blinds, free wifi and minibar. I found the bed very comfortable and I liked the fact that the bathroom stayed warm while I could sleep in a cool room. On the downside, it was quite small, there was a slight sewage smell in the bathroom and you could hear people conversing in the lobby.

The breakfast

Lots and lots of options; I wished they had focused more on quality produce. Bread and croissants in particular are disappointing. Having said that, the orange juice is decent and there is proper expresso on offer.

The price

105 euros per night including breakfast. Despite my reservations, this seems to offer good value for money and I would certainly need to be tempted with even better value for money to consider other options if I were to return.