We went for a meal last week – our first evening off since re-opening and the first time inside a restaurant since before lockdown. If was a bit of a scary experience and we realized we’re being a lot more careful about protecting ourselves and guests from COVID-19 here at The 25 than a lot of other places are. We were celebrating our recent double win – retaining the title of “Best B&B in the World” from TripAdvisor and gaining “B&B of the Year” from Visit England.
We were commenting that it’s a bit mad when you think about it that we have won such accolades over so many other places. There are nearly a million B&Bs listed worldwide on TripAdvisor!
The following day, we took ourselves off to another accommodation provider for two nights away, our first break without guests for 54 days so we were ready for some time off – and I was glad not to have to get up at 5:30am for a couple of days.
It was while away that we realized what sets us apart from others and why we are so good at what we do.
The property we stayed at was perfectly nice. It had recently been completely renovated so the paintwork was in good condition and it was very clean. However, there was so much lacking and missing, and the customer service and organizational skills were just not there.
The price of the room we stayed in varies like ours do but as far as I could make out, the general selling price was £190 per night. Granted it had a sea view of sorts but size wise, it was smaller than our smallest room (Goodrington) yet priced similar to our largest rooms which are over double the size of the one we had. We therefore had high expectations due to the price.
Our first impression was not good – no parking. Whereas we have enough space for a car per bedroom right outside, they had no car park, and the nearest, though well priced, was a good ten minute walk - up a hill! Once it was parked, we didn’t move it again as we didn’t want the hassle which limited our choice of what we could do on the second day. The first time we arrived at the car park there were no spaces, so we had to go away for a few hours and come back at a quieter time of day to get a space.
Breakfast should be good – it’s your lasting impression before you leave. It was a shame, as with a few tweaks it could have been great.
There were a variety of chairs. The first day we made the mistake of sitting at a table where the chairs had no back support so you were unable to sit back and relax. I have a back injury due to a car accident some years ago and did not find this comfy at all.
It turned out that breakfast was a very different experience from every member of staff – all doing and saying different things. We were only offered a full cooked breakfast or the vegetarian option the first morning. We were also offered toast. We had to ask if there was a choice of egg. There was no menu. The cutlery was not polished and could have been a little cleaner but was probably just dishwasher marked. After seeing another table have fruit and yogurt. we asked for and were supplied with these too.
What I received was different to what I ordered - the tomatoes I asked not to have were still on the plate and we received both brown and white toast when we asked for only white. The butter was on the same boiling hot plate as the toast in small individual wrappers and melted to oil before we realised how hot the plate was.
They only had one peach yogurt left so Julian had his second choice of flavour. The fruit salad was a plate of five apple slices, four orange slices and three blue berries. They were arranged nicely but not the fruit salad we were expecting. We overheard another table asking for juice and being offered apple or orange. We also asked for two orange and received barely cold glasses of juice – we found out the next day these are just sitting on the bar for the whole of breakfast service and not chilled so just going warm. It was also from concentrate rather than the fresh juice we have.
It has to be said that the hot breakfast was very nice. Good quality ingredients and cooked well in the main. The bacon was a little dry – probably pre-cooked and kept warm, and Julian’s poached eggs were a little hard but we enjoyed what we had. I left the tomatoes and unwanted brown toast. We had to ask for sauce – not an issue it not being on the table in these COVID-19 times, but it should have been offered pro-actively.
Talking of COVID-19, none of the staff were wearing masks which we found odd and we were the only guests who bothered to wear masks when moving round the building – a legal requirement since August 8th. We met several guests and staff along their tight staircases and a mask for both parties would have made us feel safer. We also had to get quite close to staff when walking into the dining area as they stand in the entrance with their laptop of bookings and room details. It’s also the main entrance and exit for all people.
The next day we came down to breakfast, again to be greeted politely and this time we sat at chairs with back support. We overheard a different waiter taking someone else’s order and as there’s no menu, the couple had lots of questions and we were surprised by some of the answers.
It turned out there was indeed a menu but you have to guess what’s on there. The couple were offered scrambled egg on toast and beans on toast as well as the usual full options. They asked if they did porridge and were told they did that too. They asked if they had Alpen. Unfortunately this foxed the waiter and he went to check at the bar, coming back with the answer that “it only says cereal but not which ones – I’ll have to check with the chef”! It transpired they didn’t have Alpen and no other cereals were proactively offered as alternatives.
When it came to our turn, Julian had scrambled eggs on white toast now he knew that was a possibility, and I had a full breakfast again with scrambled egg and no tomatoes. We asked for white toast again. We also ordered two apple juice. Whilst waiting for our food we realized we’d not been offered fruit or yogurt again. I found a waiter to ask and was told to help myself to a yogurt – only strawberry or raspberry available, and he went off to find out about fruit, coming back shortly later with a plate of fruit similar to the day before but arranged differently and a bit more generously.
It was at breakfast that you were expected to ask for anything you needed for your room. We asked for more fresh milk and some teabags. The waitress gave us four catering teabags which I presume they use in the kitchen. If we’re expected to ask for bedroom items at breakfast time, then they should have all house keeping items available. I was expecting the teabags in envelopes as per the tea tray.
We wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking for things like toilet roll in front of other guests and were pleased we didn’t need to.
The bedroom -
Here’s what was missing from the bedroom that we provide for an equivalent or cheaper price…
Bottled water (they provided an empty glass bottle that you can I presume fill from the tap – but the fridge is locked so it wouldn’t be chilled) Complimentary minibar (for VIP members) Air conditioning (they provided a fan but no plug – see below) Comfy seating area (just one desk chair at the dressing table) Smart TV functions including Netflix and Prime Movies (they were on the TV but not set up to work) Choice of pillows ( two pillows each – both very firm) Straighteners Items you may have forgotten to pack (we’ve removed these due to C-19 but all are available on request) Room information pack (just a welcome letter but no info on the room, area or restaurants) Drawers (just some shelving in an open wardrobe and a wall hung wire basket) Glasses (we have wine and tall glasses) Coffee machine Home made treats Jar of sweets Magnifying mirror Bath robes Slippers Iron & ironing board Alarm clock iPad Face cloths Reed sticks Fresh flowers Bottle opener Alexa / Smart features Spare toilet roll (there was a double roll holder but only one provided) Luggage stand (and no floor space to put your case on so forced to step over it each time I got in and out of bed) Notepad & pen Shampoo (shower gel was the only toiletry supplied which was in a wall fixed bottle) Conditioner Hand / body lotion
The toilet was separate to the shower, both of which had siding doors on them. The doors were barely wide enough so if you were sitting on the loo you had no choice but have a 1cm gap down one side of the door or the other.
The shower room had half a mantle piece from an old fire place which had been utilized as a shelf. It would have been a good idea if the shower door were hung the other side so you could enter to the right rather than next to the shelf as it got in the way even for me. A larger person may have struggled.
What was good about the room?
The shower was great – they had made sure the water pressure was high despite the floor we were on.
There was a sea view over the roof - though the non-matching fan outlet pipes annoyed me! Two were black and two were grey. The grey ones were obviously new as they still had the bar code stickers on which I was dying to climb out of the window and remove!
There were some accessible plugs including USB sockets.
The shower room had a towel radiator – this is so rare and meant we could dry our towels and if it had been colder weather it would have been an additional source of heat. Unfortunately it looked very complicated so we just switched it on and left it set on whatever it was on already.
It was centrally located (hence no parking) so shops, bars and restaurants were on the doorstep.
There was a privacy blind and black out curtains.
There was a heated mirror in the toilet – this is useless as the toilet room doesn’t get steamed up. They’re a great idea and all our bathroom mirrors are heated, but this should have been placed in the shower room as there was no mirror at all in there.
What could be better with a little effort? Fan –
They had a Dyson fan which is the next best thing to the air conditioning we provide. It heats and cools. Ideal – an great thing to provide to ensure everyone is the ideal temperature. But – they placed it in the only corner of the room with no plugs anywhere near. You have to hunt for a plug and move it yourself.
Towels belong in the bathroom, not on the bed. As soon as I see towels on the bed, I think “the bathroom must be really small”. It turned out there was room for them but no where to put them as no towel hooks or rings had been provided.
The floor sloped quite a lot. This in itself isn’t an issue and to be expected in a building of a certain age. Our own previous hotel in North Wales was 400 years old and had sloping floors. In some rooms we leveled them up, in a couple we kept them for character. What I would have done differently though is level the bed. No one wants to roll to one side and I felt I could only sleep comfortably facing the downward direction. The bedside was so sloped that I dare not put my cup of tea down on it.
For the middle of August, in a high up room, I was not expecting a winter duvet on the bed. At The 25 we have 4.5 tog in summer and increase to a 10.5 tog in winter. We never increase to 13 tog. This felt like a 13 tog. It was heavy and not high quality. We also have a sheet and blanket option in a drawer in the room if the guest prefers.
Bedside lamps –
They get a tick for providing a lamp with both a normal night light and also a reading spot light. However, they never tested them before purchasing as they were very hard to switch on and off. At first we thought it was broken.
A single use printed menu would have made a world of difference to the experience described above.
Fresh milk –
I asked on check in if there was fresh milk in the fridge. I was told it was only the long life sachets on the tea tray so I requested some fresh. Providing this as standard is a quick win and very easy to do. However, bizarrely the fridge in the room was locked! It was empty, and when the girl came with the jug of milk, she also brought the key. She had to pull the whole unit out that the fridge sat in, and work out which plug it was and plug it in. Most undignified for her with her behind in the air.
There were only five hangers for the two of us. Had they bothered to become star graded with an official body like The AA or Visit England, they’d know this is not sufficient. The wardrobe was actually a purpose built open unit. It had a very thin section to the right which I presume was for the ironing board they had chosen not to supply as I couldn’t think of any other use. Strangely they had fitted the rail front to back rather than left to right so all your clothes were stacked behind each other. There was plenty of room to place it the other way round as is convention.
Could have been larger but as it was a small room, it wasn’t an issue. It was a Smart TV so setting up Netflix, even if you had to log in and use your own account would have been nice to see.
Bath mat –
There was no bath mat supplied, but three hand towels were, so we used one of those.
There was no evidence of COVID-19 measures. Our remote controls at The 25 are now supplied in a new sealed bag for each new guest. There was no evidence of sanitization here, nor any staff wearing any form of PPE for cleaning rooms.
We have always asked for feedback via a form in the bedroom and still find this invaluable even fourteen years later. If they asked pro-actively for feedback they may have picked up on some of the above points and already tweaked their offering.
So, there you have it. A perfectly pleasant stay, nothing bad enough to complain about, but so much that could have been easily improved. It gave us the confidence to know that what we are offering our guests, even in these strange times of COVID-19, is far superior to many other places and hence why we get such good feedback, often commenting on the “little touches” we offer.
If you haven’t stayed with us yet, we hope you can soon. If you’re a regular guest, we’re sure you must go to many other places and say “it’s not quite as good as The 25 is it?”.