I think I’m fairly well travelled these days and have stayed in many hotels, both good and OK, and it seems British hotels are the worst in the world. Trip Advisor is usually the best way to ensure you don’t wind up in a shitpit, and as if to underline this, a couple of years ago, Trellis and I were lucky enough to stay at the Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath.
We visited Botherer and had to stay over, and we’d managed to coincide our trip with the first day of term for Bath University students. Hence, the Menzies Waterside Hotel was the only place with free rooms.
It has a tacky mirrored foyer, but the outside of the hotel looks like a 1960s office block. When we tried to check in, we were told we couldn’t, because of “a problem with the water.” No more information was forthcoming, so we were turned out into the streets for an unspecified period while this problem was sorted.
After a pleasant enough day out in Bath, we returned and were finally allowed into our rooms. Now this is where the typical British hotel malaise kicks in. As usual, there were threadbare carpets and a funny musty smell. Our room was brown, basic and tiny, with scuffed clear plastic guards to protect the bland wallpaper from scrapes and bashes. The bed itself was barely a double, and was made up with what looked like a folded back bedspread at the foot. However, when I picked it up it turned out to be a strip of unpleasantly patterned material, designed to look like a folded bedspread, but in fact nothing of the sort.
No air conditioning and, apparently, no heating, led to a night both stuffy and cold. In the morning, we rejected the prospect of a £22 breakfast (for that I expect it in bed, with foie gras, caviar *and* champagne) and checked out.
And the price for this dreary experience? £140 a night. Yes, £140. For the cost of some LK Bennett shoes, an iPod Nano, an Asus Eee or a 10 course tasting menu for two at Nobu, we had a night in what was basically a Travel Tavern. The Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath charges nearly three times as much as a Travelodge.
The Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath is now our benchmark for both quality and cost. When planning trips, we consider whether or not our choice of hotel is cheaper, and nicer than the Menzies Waterside Hotel. So far, the Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath is the most expensive accommodation we’ve ever stayed in (more so than the Wynn in Las Vegas or the Hotel Arts in Barcelona). It’s certainly the most depressing.
What niggles me is that the Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath has been panned in Trip Advisor for years, yet there seems to have been no response from the management of the place. It seems people just keep on turning up and paying through the nose for the privilege of an uncomfortable bed in a cheaply decorated room in a substandard hotel, and so there isn’t any need to change anything. It certainly has not changed in the relatively short time since I stayed there: just look at the most recent reviews.
The British hoteliers need to pull their socks up. The English Tourism Council’s accommodation ratings are quantitative, not qualitative: they grade a hotel according to its facilities, not its ethos or value for money. This is why the Menzies Waterside Hotel in Bath can call itself a 4-star hotel – it offers 24 hour room service and the bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms. There is a reason why Fawlty Towers was written by an Englishman and an American: the English are so used to shabby, shoddy hotels that it takes a foreigner (and one from a country that demands good service at gunpoint) to point out how crappy it all is.