I quite like Brighton so, when my wife mentioned that she’d like to wake up on the morning of her 40th birthday and see the sea (which sounded more like a final request to me than it did a birthday wish), the south coast resort seemed like as good a place as any to head to.
With a little help from my Monday Barmaid-cum-Travel Agent, we were quickly booked in to the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton, with a family room and a request for a seaview.
The hotel doesn’t have its own parking so, after depositing said wife and the children at the entrance to the hotel, I headed off in the direction of a car park that the slightly surly receptionist had said was just round the corner. A ten minute walk back to the hotel later and we were finally able to get checked in.
The Royal Albion is a grand looking hotel, perfectly positioned right on the coast, with bar, restaurant and lounge area all with views of Brighton Pier and miles of beach. Set over five floors, the hotel has 186 rooms ranging in all sizes to accommodate everybody’s needs, with prices – according to the website at the time of writing – starting from £45.00 per person per night.
We were given a family room on the top floor, with a view of the pier; much brownie points for me, but this did mean having to use the eccentric lift, which I became convinced was haunted by the ghost of Basil Fawlty. Getting in the lift for the first time was an experience: we pushed the button for the fifth floor and the voice announced “fifth floor, going up, out of order.” Closed the doors and descended to the basement floor. Then, without waiting, rose to the top floor where we were able to get to our room.
In fact, as an aside, the lift became a constant source of amusement across our two night stay. On one occasion I called it to the top floor and watched as the numbers rose to say 5 on the display. I even heard it arrive in the lift shaft. But then, without opening its doors it dropped back to floor four, where people waiting there were collected and delivered to the ground floor before it made up its mind whether to come back.
Our room was a lovely, double level family set up that meant the children were separated from the master bedroom by a flight of stairs. Malachy and Jacob loved this, and it meant that getting them to bed was a little easier than trying to do so in normal ‘family’ rooms. We also had a whirlpool bath but, on the occasion we decided to give it a go, discovered that it was actually just a great big bath with some holes in the side for decoration.
This being the height of August and the middle of Britain’s summer, on Wednesday night we had to close the window and switch the heating on to warm the room up. Needless to say, like the jacuzzi, the heating didn’t actually work. And the television’s reception was, considering that access to today’s modern digital signals and the fact that there was obviously a Sky feed in to the room, somewhat snowy.
For the past two days, Brighton – like pretty much the rest of the country – has been under attack by the elements, deluged by rain and somewhat dreary. As a family, we’ve never let wet weather stop us from enjoying ourselves, but waking up in the morning to find that the skylight on the top floor of our room had been dripping rain over night and then using the stairs to get to the ground floor (the lift never arrived) we discovered that every level of the large staircase was leaking water, was a little depressing. Indeed, on floor three the carpet was so wet that it squelched under foot and the leaking roof lead me to surmise that the lift’s eccentricities were probably caused by water getting in to its circuits. I was a little nervous of using it after that thought…
Obviously, when not having a good experience in a hotel, you should complain but unfortunately, despite the hotel’s website citing “friendly staff ready to offer helpful advice or tips on the best places to go in Brighton” we never found this to be the case. I’m a lenient guy, and I could forgive a hotel its foibles, its leaky roof and its broken whirlpool bath – especially as it was obvious that work was being done on the hotel during our stay – but poor service and a bad attitude from the people who work there simply make for an unpleasant experience.
The main receptionist who dealt with us was surly and rude from the moment of arrival, told me I should already have been aware that the hotel didn’t have a car park and should have made appropriate arrangements, and told Ali she hadn’t looked hard enough in the room when we requested some extra towels. (We’d only found one hand towel.) The cleaning staff only had access to eccentric lift as well and if you tried to use it at the same time as them you were made to feel unwelcome, especially as they would then obviously talk about you in their native Polish while you shared the ride with them. The breakfast staff got exacerbated with guests queuing for their first meal of the day, slamming down jugs of fruit juice in frustration so that the liquid slopped everywhere, and the bar staff…
As a publican, I can be a bit fussy about how well staff should be trained and it was obvious that those working the bar at the Royal Albion hadn’t been given any education in drinks, nor in how to be polite to the customers, nor – on one occasion – had they been taught the English language, and they clearly didn’t appreciate being asked to charge the drinks to my room. Trying to mention all this at the time of checking out was simply met with a blank face from the receptionist, blatantly disinterested in the issues we’d had. Perhaps she’d heard them several times before that morning already.
The Royal Albion hotel, then. Would I recommend it? Unfortunately, right now, no. Which is a shame. It’s clear that Britannia are trying to do some work to the building right now, and construction is taking place in the reception area as I type, and if it had been sunny and dry we’d never have noticed that the heating didn’t work in our room or that the stairwell leaked. The hotel’s perfectly positioned for a stay in Brighton and the prices, if there were no issues, are reasonable. It’s a beautiful big building with a lot of space and a lot of potential, but it’s let down terribly by those who work within it.
Polite staff, more than anything, would have made our stay so much more enjoyable, despite the little issues we found elsewhere, and I would have had no truck with recommending it to anybody had that been the case.
On the final morning I needed some change for the car park, as I had done each morning before. Reception didn’t have any (what they planned to give to departing guests paying cash, then, was beyond me) and so I was pointed to the Radisson Blu hotel next door. The receptionist there was bright, friendly and happy to help.
“They should have sent you here in the first place when you were looking for somewhere to park,” he said with a smile. “They know we have a car park here that we charge £10 a day to non-residents for.” The same price as I was paying to park ten minutes up the road.
Perhaps the staff in the Royal Albion knew I might have took one look around and booked a room there instead…
– – –
If you’d like to see some more photos from our trip to Brighton, click here…