Having had wonderful experiences every time at Oulton Hall ( Q Hotel) my husband and I were looking forward to this much needed 2 day break away from home. We also live a few minutes away from Forest Pines (Q Hotel) and enjoy the same warm welcome as we do at Oulton Hall.
If we had known how the stay was to pan out, well, we would have returned to Oulton Hall. This experience was a total disaster and beyond disappointing.
I usually enjoy writing my reviews, of positive experiences, sadly, this is my first negative review and it’s not comfortable for me.
The arrival was we would have expected, the gentleman at the door greeted us and relieved us of our bags, which were taken to our room………fabulous. Receptionist appeared to have a standard delivery of the checking in process, rattling off where everything was and there was no attempt to engage with us. My husband enquired as to whether we had been upgraded as requested and we were told, yes, you have a room with a view and that the additional cost had been added to our bill. We were the only people at Reception. It was a pity, unlike Oulton Hall, no, ” Welcome to Slaley Hall, have you had a pleasant journey?” Already it was feeling like a business hotel and very impersonal. Not what we are used to from Q Hotels.
Standing in a queue to get to dinner was not brilliant, and it was becoming clear that Hadrians was understaffed. Staff did not engage, just simply took our orders. The food was adequate and not hot. We left feeling that perhaps it was just an off night.
The promised wine was not in our room on our arrival, and we had to enquire with Reception. Sadly, again, this did not appear to be a one-off either. The next afternoon, whilst having a drink on the patio ( admiring the beautiful view) I overheard other guests chatting and mentioning to each other how they had to ask for the wine that should have been in their rooms on arrival too…………………….
Matters continued to decline. We were awoken in the early hours by the fire alarm sounding. We hesitated and then decided how awful it would be if it was a real fire ( we checked the notice in the room, not the day/time for the check). My husband noted that the fire door outside our room was closed, I then checked the lift and they had been shut down. We decided to phone Reception to find out the status………….ring, ring, ring…………..We called quite a few other numbers listed…………ring, ring, ring. Oh dear seems everyone has vacated the building. We popped on dressing gowns and made our way downstairs ( we were on the 3rd floor). Rather suffer embarrassment than find ourselves trapped and people potentially having to get us.
We eventually got back to Reception and a young man appeared. We explained our concerns and was told that he had to stand with Manager at the alarm control panel, so couldn’t answer the phone. We explained that from a Guests point of view, it was worrying to be on the 3rd floor with the fire alarm going and we had done all we could but had to vacate………………we were promised that the manager would contact us during our stay. At this point, one of the Chefs came out, also saying he had been trying to find someone as the gas to the kitchen had shut off and he needed to prepare for breakfast service. We made our way back up to the 3rd floor, being assured that the lifts had been switched back on……..
Breakfast……………oh dear. Asked if we would like to sit nearer the windows….lovely I thought. The waitress left and as I went to pull my chair out, I noticed I was standing in food, as was my husband. There was a lot, and it was impossible for the staff not to notice it. Was it from the night before?? I couldn’t bear to wait and ask to be moved, as everyone had disappeared, so we stayed. We were both tired from the early morning alarm etc. Just wanted to have our breakfast and get out for the day……………….We both felt so deflated as things just seemed to continue to get worse. Off house hunting………….
Out all day, returned to our room and TRIED ( but failed) to call Hadrian’s to book a table for our evening meal. You can guess the rest. No response Called Reception to see if they could arrange it………………No response. I left my husband to change for dinner and made my way down. Stand in a queue, we all watch the Managers talking to just a few members of waiting for staff; I guess briefing them on service? We wait………………Finally, I manage to book a table and return to my room to change and get back down again.
Sadly, I learn that as at other service, salt empty, not all cutlery on the table. The list goes on and it may sound picky, but I would expect the basics to be addressed at this type of hotel. The star of the evening was our waitress Karolina, who actually engaged with us – what a difference. However, I noted a growing queue at the reception area of the Restaurant and the two young Managers, carrying out other duties as well as one of them trying to get back to man the desk.
The final morning, queue again for some time. Very short staffed. Table not fully laid. The manager assured us that someone would come and take our tea/coffee order. We waited and waited and waited. I suggested my husband get his breakfast and I would wait. He came back, still no waitress. The gentleman at the next table to us said, I still haven’t had my coffee. He was almost finished. We chatted and he explained that he had been a long-standing guest at Slaley over many, many years and it was no longer the Hotel it had been. He was accepting and resigned to the fact that he probably wouldn’t get his drink. Someone arrived to take our drinks order, halfway through our breakfast, I asked if they would kindly take the order for the gentleman next to us, as his order had not arrived. No problem………………….um, he finished his breakfast, the coffee didn’t arrive, he shrugged his shoulders when he left and wished us all the best. He kindly gave me his salt cellar, as again, ours was empty!
I did speak to the manager in a very polite and courteous manner. I told him I had noted they were struggling at every service since we arrived and that it was a pity that they did not have the opportunity to actually engage with guests like they do at Oulton Hall. He did explain to me that the problem is due to the time of year…………….many of the waiting staff are students and he was 6 down, as they were off to revise and sit their exams. I did point out that surely the senior management team are aware of this and that they should have contingency plans in place, as apparently, it happens at the same time every year? I showed my concern for him and his staff. He confirmed that he would speak to the Operations Manager when he returned to work the following Monday and that they would welcome the feedback being given from me………..I gave my name and room number.
So, the fire alarm episode did not bring any response and sad to say, I have patiently waited for the call – 11 days on, I don’t think the management team are interested.
The final nail in the coffin. I came through reception loaded down with suit carrier, beauty box, handbag and hat…………….husband had the suitcase. Different concierge, we made eye contact, he looked away and I continued down the stairs and outside, with my husband following. I remained outside the main entrance, whilst my husband settled the bill.
Next time, it will be a stay at the lovely welcoming Oulton Hall. Slaley Hall let down the reputation of Q hotels and I won’t be visiting when I am next in Northumberland.