Christmas comes and goes far too quickly each year, and as I do all the cooking over the festive period, we decided this year to treat ourselves to Christmas dinner at a local hotel. So no stuffing and cooking an oversized turkey that keeps us fed well into the New Year, but somehow I sort of missed it!!!
My husband, Steve hates this time of year with a passion, so much so, that he put fingers to keyboard and has done a blog post on his website detailing all the things he hates about Christmas. So if you too have a dislike to Christmas, then you might enjoy a good read, so please click this link. However, if you love Christmas then I would strongly suggest that you don’t.
After looking at local places to have Christmas Day lunch we decided on the Boringdon Hall Hotel, a medieval building on the outskirts of Plympton, and about a 15 minute drive from where we live. I telephoned on the 16th October enquiring about your Christmas Day Lunch that I had seen advertised on the hotel’s website, which looked very nice. My booking was made but was told that I had to pay the full amount upfront which I have to say I was a little surprised at. I would have expected to pay a deposit, but no, it had to the full amount, which I have to say is a first. So I paid the £239.80 upfront as I do know that Christmas Day lunch anywhere gets booked up, even at the extortionate prices that are charged.
I booked a table for 4, being myself, my husband, my Son and 85 year old Mum. at 1.15 and asked what time would be best to be there, as I had read on the website that it included a welcome drink and canapes, to which the Receptionist appeared to know nothing about as I had to read this off the details on the website for her. I did also request a nice situation of our table, which she made a note of, and as I made the booking mid October, this should not have been a problem. I received a confirmation of booking a few days later, and on the booking note section, it said “Would like a nice table”.
Christmas Day came and we arrived at about 12.45 and were surprised that no-one was in the entrance hall to greet guests and tell us where we had to go. I found the Reception Desk, to be told it was through the other door into the bar area where there was a seating plan to tell us which of the rooms we would be seated in and saw that we were in the Grenville Suite.
There was a tray with some drinks in the bar area and a tray with about 4 canapes on it. There was no member of staff by this drinks area, so we had no idea what was in they consisted of. We then had to find a member of staff to ask them and to also find out what the 4 canapés were filled with. The staff member then realised that the canapé tray was nearly empty so they did replace it.
Whilst we sat having our drink we saw that the Grenville Suite was just in the corner of the bar, so just before 1.15 we made our way over. Outside the room was a table plan which confirmed that we were booked in this room. There was no member of staff at the door to book us in, so I walked in to the room to locate our table as they were clearly marked. It was a lovely room, small and cosy with subdued lighting and it looked very inviting and Christmassy.
However, when I walked around the room, and looked at the names on the empty tables, our name was not showing. As no member of staff was present, I thought I would have a second look at the empty tables name cards in case I had missed it. But there was not one for us. We had to find a waitress and told her that there did not appear to be a table for us, she looked bemused and went to find a Manager.
He came over, and he knew straight away the problem, and he told us that we had been moved to another room, as a blind person needed a downstairs room.
If the Manger knew this, why were none of the table plans altered, and indeed why were we not told that we had been moved. As there were still tables empty in the room we were leaving, I did wonder why we had been moved, and not people who were coming in later than us. I did express that I hoped the room we had to move to, was as nice as the one we should have had. I was told it was, and as we were assured that the alternative room was just as nice, we proceeded to find our way to the Elizabethan Suite, which was upstairs.
We then walked into the much larger Elizabethan Suite, which was very, very bright, no atmosphere, and it looked like a glorified café – complete with noisy children. We were shown to our table, and the waiter was unaware that we had been moved up from downstairs. He did ask why we had moved and were we happy with this room. I told him “no” I was not. He said we should have refused to move, but when we were told that the room we were now in was as nice as the one we had left, we had no idea what it was actually like, so had no option.
Our table was in a corner right under a speaker where Christmas songs were blaring out. Having just been moved from what appeared to be a very nice room (which I had asked for and seemed to have got), to be moved into this uninspiring room, as you can imagine it was a total disappointment and everything went downhill from there on in. Although there was a linen tablecloth, the napkins were paper which for a 4 star hotel and the lunch costing just under £60 a head was a surprise.
A waitress came over and asked if we would like a drink, however there was no wine list on the table so none could be ordered. My husband asked what the house wine was, but alas she didn’t know. This did prompt her however to find us a wine list to order from. Once we had seen the wine list, my husband ordered a bottle of red wine, a glass of white wine and a lager.
The waitress brought the drinks over and just plonked the bottle of wine on the table, unopened and left for us to pour, again poor service and not what you would expect from any restaurant, let alone a 4 star hotel.
We placed our food orders, which also included what we wanted for dessert. We all chose for starter the pork terrine, which was okay, but nothing special. We then waited a long time before a waitress came over, to apologise for the wait for the main course, but said it would only be a few more minutes. We were in no hurry and it was not a major problem – until it arrived.
My Son & Mum ordered the Turkey with all the trimmings, and my husband and I ordered the beef dish, which was a herb crusted blade of beef. Once she had placed the plates in front of us, she asked if we would like any other accompaniments. We had to ask for Cranberry sauce which as a standard accompaniment for turkey, should have already been on the table, or knowing that two of the party had ordered turkey, it should have been offered as a matter of course. We had to ask twice for it, and my Son was halfway through his meal before it arrived.
My husband ordered some English Mustard to go with the Beef. He was truly amazed when a round earthenware bowl full of mustard was placed in front of him and left there. A large stainless steel tablespoon was wedged into its contents.
My husband and I took the first mouthful of the beef, to find that it was almost cold. We called a waitress over, who apologised and went and got two more meals, which when they arrived were hot, however I have to say that the beef was extremely dry, although it was quite tasty.
The menu stated that the beef dish came with a creamy mushroom sauce, but apart from about 3 slices of very small mushrooms and a teaspoonful of some liquid which was placed over the small potato terrine, it was certainly not a mushroom sauce and the selection of vegetables served with it, were of miniscule quantity.
The Turkey meal was also not as described as it should have been roast potatoes but what was served appeared to be new potatoes
Whilst we were waiting for our dessert, my husband called the waitress over, and asked if she was in a supervisory capacity. He then went on to express our complaint over the service and quality that we had received that day, and also said how disappointed we were at the change of room.
She offered my husband complimentary drinks, and also promised to bring it to the attention of the Manager. My husband stated he was not concerned with complimentary drinks rather he was concerned with receiving a 4 star hotel dining experience that had been paid for in full weeks in advance but what we had actually received was corner café quality and service. My husband expressed he was complaining now in person giving the hotel time to address the issue whilst we were still on the premises. She assured him she would report it to the Manager.
Whilst she was at the table, I also pointed out that each of our coffee cups were dirty, which she took away with her, and appeared quite shocked at their dirty condition.
The desserts arrived, my husband and son ordering the Christmas pudding, which they said tasted okay, but it was probably the smallest piece of Christmas pudding that I have ever seen. I ordered the strawberry roulade, which was okay, but nothing special, and my mum ordered the fresh fruit salad, which was again a small portion served in a small glass.
Following coffee we waited for the manager to appear but this did not happen so my husband went to the bar and paid for our drinks.
We came home and I read the menu which I had downloaded at the time of booking which stated that we should have had mince pies with our coffee but all we got was a wrapped chocolate in the saucer.
So what a disappointment Christmas Lunch turned out to be, and I wish I had donned my apron and slaved away in my kitchen myself. I did write a letter of complaint to the Manager of the Hotel and sent it on the 27th December. I heard nothing until the 8th January, when I had a phonecall from a lady who is based at one of the sister hotels to Boringdon Hall who stated that a new Manager started on the 6th, and my letter was found, and apologising that I had not been contacted. She also apologised for the disappointing experience we had, and offered to make amends by offering a 50% reduction on the bill and for us to go back and have a meal, at the standard we should have received.
Update to above
I received a letter on the 9th January from the said lady (even though a new Manager supposedly started on the 6th January) apologising but enclosed with this letter was a form asking for my card details and a declaration which read “I understand that should any details of my complaint and this Agreeement enter the public domain, I will be potentially liable for a claim for damages from the hotel” requesting me to sign. I was gobsmacked and this was almost like a “gagging clause” that clearly the hotel did not want any adverse publicity from sites like Tripadvisor. I had no intention of signing the clause, particularly as my Tripadvisor review had already been published, before I had had any communication from the hotel. I had waited well over a week since I sent my letter, but as no reply was forthcoming I went ahead and submitted my review. Once reviews have been published, they cannot be added to, or deleted. I therefore sent back a further letter enclosing my card details, but did not return the “gagging clause”. There was however no reference to a complimentary meal.
On the 21st January, I emailed the lady who I had been dealing with to say that I had not received any acknowledgement or response to my letter (the second time that no-one had replied to one of my letters), and that no refund had yet been made. She emailed me back stating she had not been to Boringdon Hall for over a week, but was going in later that day (obviously with no Manager at present, no-one else could deal with the matter!!).
The day after I received an email, to say that my letter had been received, but there was no signed declaration form, to which I responded stating that I could not sign it as my review had already been published.
Again, nothing, so emailed the lady on the 27th January, to say that (yet again) I was chasing a response to my previous email. She emailed back on the 29th January , apologising for not replying but said that the refund was being processed, and on the 30th January the refund was credited to my account. We got there eventually, but why hadn’t the new Manager of Boringdon Hall taken over my complaint (which is a bit worrying) and not really the way to run a 4* hotel.
As stated above, there was no mention of a complimentary meal, but would I go back? No I wouldn’t.