Last night I was staying in one of the wonderful self catering cottages at The Headlands Hotel in Newquay. The company have been booking them up for years. This is my third visit in three years. With my flight booked to leave late, I was looking forward to a slow start and a lovely breakfast overlooking the sea. Breakfast doesn’t start until half seven which is almost always too late for location pick-up, especially at this time of year so on working days I get no breakfast. I was looking forward to a nice slow morning looking at the sea, and a lovely Friday wind down.
At half past nine on a Friday night I wandered in to get myself a glass of wine at the bar. There was some sort of event on – lots of drunk people. I just fancied a glass of wine from the bar of the five star hotel I was staying in. I got to the bar in my tracksuit by walking confidently past a sea of suits. He poured me a glass of house red and pushed it towards me. My fingers brushed the glass of the stem. “Which room?” asked the barman. “Beach 2” The glass was pulled away. “We can’t serve drinks to people in the cottages tonight. There’s no way to charge for them.” “Can I pay for it tomorrow?” “No.” Can I just take it and unofficially settle at reception?” “No.” “So is there any way I can get a drink at 9.30pm on a Friday night in this five star hotel I’m staying at?” “People at the cottages have to go to the spa.” The spa is closed. I am curious the extent of this madness now so I ask reception if they can do room service. Apparently that’s impossible too. What a remarkable dereliction. There is one tab – the wedding tab – all night, and the bar manager doesn’t have the wherewithal to have another tab running for guests. Easier to say “no” than “yes”. Events take a lot of people to run, and you can never guarantee a good team across the board. Many of the staff are making a bit of pocket money before going back to uni to do ppe and grow up to be Liz Truss. But what a huge lack of flexibility. And having worked managing high end event catering, the way the barman made me feel as a guest is something I would have immediately taken him aside for. “What sort of establishment do you think we’re running here, young man? That man was a paying guest. Do you have any idea how much they pay for a room here? It’s half past nine on a Friday night, and he just wants a glass of wine. If you can’t work out how to charge him for it – and he made it clear he wanted to pay – then you damn well give it to him! Now draw up another tab, even if nobody else comes in, I’ll show you how to make it work. We never want to say no like that to a guest. Never do it again please. If you get confused just see me.”
The next morning I go for breakfast. I just want a slop of yogurt and a pastry – it’s towards the end of service. But it’s seems breakfast in the hotel is booked for the event too. We second class cottage dwellers are not allowed. I am told I’m supposed to eat in the same spa that was locked last night at half 9.
The spa can’t seat me without a reservation though. Nobody gave me any warning about this car crash – about having to reserve for a hotel breakfast. I’m a guest at this aargh hotel. The company paid over £200 a night… Surely … Surely I can get some breakfast? But the spa chef refuses to accommodate me. By now with all the talk it’s on the dot of ten thirty. Breakfast turns into a pumpkin at 10.30.
I have to actually pay for my breakfast latte with my own bank card. It costs me £4.18.
Five stars this hotel has. The waitress mercifully gives me a pastry, which I don’t have to pay for which is good considering the price of the latte when surely breakfast is supposed to be included in the £420 bill for 2 nights. I think she can sense that I’m almost apoplectic with hangriness. The pastry helps me not explode. A wedding guest though, fat in her entitlement and berobed for the spa, overhears her give the angry man the last pastry. I think she may have been the same inconsequential woman that glowered at me as I was refused wine last night at the bar “Do you have any pastries,” I hear her jowl pointedly at the poor young lady just as I bite into my raisin thing. I would have given her very low marks for acting in a LAMDA exam. She knew I had the last one and is just deliberately making things hard for the poor waitress. Roald Dahl’s Witches was shot in his hotel.
“The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS. That is why they are so hard to catch.”
All the facilities in the world. All the stars. Just something not quite right.
Despite all their attempts to put me off I love the hotel, the aspect, the facilities. I’m a happy mouse when I’m there. The staff are all very polite and vigilant. Most of them aren’t used to edge, which makes the ones that are a bit edgy into gold dust. The waitress in the spa, she absorbed my absolute discombobulation with the whole breakfast situation very well, and converted my energy with understanding and skill. She was thoughtful and personable. There’s a great night porter I remember from a previous stay (see blogs passim) The fact I’m dedicating another blog to being annoyed with this wonderful hotel isn’t to do with the staff. It really isn’t. They rock. It must be the management not being able to handle events that led to a little string of bother. “Oh … cottage guests can go to the new spa when it’s booked out for a wedding,” someone said but nobody thought to keep it open later than usual in the evening to match the hotel bar, and nobody thought to warn guests who might be affected that they would have to book their breakfast in advance and that they wouldn’t be allowed in the hotel…
I’ll be back there next week and I’m genuinely excited but I’ll need to ask some questions in advance this time. Like “will I be able to have a breakfast on my last morning?” Tristan just said “The problem is that nobody in the provinces knows how to run an event.” I’m quoting him so I don’t say it myself.