Wednesday, 26 June 2013

REVIEW: Qhotels - Chesford Grange, Warwickshire.

A little while ago I was asked if I would like to review a 4 star family hotel, Chesford Grange, in Warwickshire. I of course, jumped at the chance. Sometimes what is needed is a little break away from everyday life and for me it could not of come at a better time. Craig could not get out of work so I asked my mum if she would like to come along instead. Perfect for her to spend time with the grandchildren.

As everyone knows I am an obsessive planner so before we went I had a good look around the Qhotels website and I have to say it looked lovely, although the pictures do not do it justice, especially the rooms. I was told that Chesford Grange has been given TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013 - this award is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor. So that gave me lots of confidence that the hotel would be great.

From Kent it should of taken around 2 hours but due to traffic it took almost 4 (including a stop to stretch our  legs). Despite being situated in a lovely country location Chesford Grange was not difficult to find with the help of our sat nav. This is what we faced when we arrived....

Beautiful, and what is very clever is that some modern parts of the hotel are very well concealed behind this lovely frontage.

Check in:
We arrived at 2pm which is an hour before check in time. We thought we should just let reception know that we were here and then we would head back out and explore the local area a little bit. The reception staff were lovely, they explained that our room was not yet ready and then they helped me out when I asked for advice on finding a local toy shop!

When we came back to the hotel, our room was ready and we were directed to our superior family room. We were asked if we would like help with our bags, but as we were staying for just one night I politely declined. Looking back now at how much baggage 2 children under 5 come with I should've said yes!

The room:

Our room was on the ground floor, the floor below reception. It turned out that it was the perfect location for us as the swimming pool was just a short walk down the corridor!

We had requested a travel cot ahead of our trip and we were very pleased to see that our requested had been noted and that the travel cot was up and ready when we arrived in our room.

The room had two very big double beds and even with the travel cot we did not feel cramped at all. There were two chairs at the window end, which the children found very useful for bunny rabbit spotting! The hair dryer was cleverly concealed behind a mirror which you could pull out further into the room.

The bathroom was very spacious, the bath was lovely and deep and the toiletries were a very nice touch. As well as towels we also had 2 dressing gowns, which came in handy when walking to and from the pool. The water in the sink would not heat up which was a bit annoying, however, the shower/bath water was lovely and consistent. The pressure on the shower was just right too.

Also in the room was a mini fridge, complete with complimentary water. Tea and coffee making facilities with a great choice of hot drinks (including a very yummy hot chocolate!) as well as dunkable biscuits! Plus a safe, which was surprisingly spacious for a hotel safe. The wardrobe was a lovely size, its only downside being that the door was made of glass and the bottom kept coming off of its runner (not great with small children).

The TV in the room had the basic channels plus a few extras. As a family I would've liked more than one childrens channel, one with cartoons would be perfect. It was easy to use and just the right size for the room.

Chester and Millie were given a Quackers childrens pack each, which contained a badge, a post card, some activity sheets and a flag which cleverly concealed some crayons! This kept the children busy whilst I was busy checking out the room! A lovely way to get children more involved in the stay.

The Swimming pool:

I had not seen any pictures of the swimming pool before arriving so did not really know what to expect. I had seen people walk about the corridors in their dressing gowns so we felt comfortable walking down to the pool area in our swimwear/dressing gowns. This was especially handy with 2 children in tow! When arriving at the pool changing area we had to use our room key to gain access. I was really happy about this, makes me feel more secure with the children. The changing area was lovely and clean with lockers and hair dryers to use.

The pool area was bigger than I had imagined. There were two heated seats, and a handful of plastic seats around the edge. Then there was the the main pool, a steam room and a shower. Chester has just got his 5 meters swim badge, which is a good thing really because before I had even had a chance to get my dressing gown off he had walked down the steps and was in. Only to find that he could not touch the floor. The whole of the pool was 1.2 meters deep, there was no shallow end. That was its only downside though, we found the pool to be warm and spacious. On the times when adults were in the pool at the same time as us we just moved to one side and let them swim, there was enough room for us to do this and be comfortable that we had enough space to swim/play. The pool has an adult only session on Saturdays between 11am-3pm, I actually think this is a great idea, I can imagine how annoyed some guests may get with the thought of children constantly being in the pool! When we went swimming on Sunday morning we were lucky enough to have the pool to ourselves (most people were probably still in bed!) and both children were more than happy to spend over an hour in the water without getting cold.

The food: 

Some of the packages you can get when booking Chesford Grange have the option to include dinner and/or breakfast. Sometimes when hotels offer this kind of package you do worry about the quality of the food they are serving so I was looking forward to seeing what was served up here!

We had pre booked our table for dinner. The restaurant does not open until 7pm, I was not happy about this. As I am sure most parents of young children will agree 7pm is, or is very close to bedtime, so not an ideal time to feed young children. But as we booked in advance I tried to plan naps/lunch time around this problem.

We arrived to the restaurant at exactly 7pm and were greeted and taken to our table straight away. Within a few minutes of being seated a waitress came round to offer us rolls. This was a great way of distracting the children for a little bit longer! Reading through the menu I could see I would have a hard time choosing a starter and a main, there was plenty of choice and variety. Eventually to start, my Mum went for the soup of the day (curried vegetable) and I went for the beetroot and goats cheese salad. Now, anyone who knows me will say that is all lies! I am not a salad person at all and have never ordered a salad in a restaurant, but I do really love goats cheese so I wanted to try it! The childrens meal had fantastic choice too, a mixture of healthy and some child familiar foods. Chester chose to have Garlic bread to start and I chose the corn on the cob for Millie. Starters went down a treat, they were really very lovely. I can personally say if all salads were like that then I would live off of salads!

By the time we got to mains the children were both having a bit of a melt down and to be honest I was a bit worried that they were making a bit of a scene, especially Millie. Luckily it did not seem to phase the staff and the restaurant was not too full up. For mains my Mum finally chose the chicken pie (after debating for ages on the sea bass!) she said it was delicious and she was really glad she chose it. I went for the duck breast with noodles in a chilli and orange dressing. Oh My God. What an amazing dish! It was soooo yummy! The duck was cooked perfectly, still pink in the middle and the dressing was amazing! The childrens meal gave them the choice to choose a main plus 2 sides. Chester chose Pizza with chips and salad, I chose Sausages, mash and beans for Millie. Both were very nice and high above what I have come to expect from childrens meals!

During main course it was becoming harder and harder to keep the children entertained. They were just so tired. By now it was around 8.15/8.30pm so an hour and a half past their normal bedtime. In the past when we have stayed at hotels we have had an early dinner and then let the children calm down ready for bed back in the room. But here, they were hungry and very overtired. So I had a little word with the restaurant manager and he kindly allowed for our desserts to be sent back to our room. I am pretty sure the other diners were very grateful for this!

Back in the room I was able to get Chester ready for bed before the dessert arrived, knowing how messy Millie is I decided to not get her changed just yet! Our desserts arrived at exactly the time I had asked. With regards to the desserts I think that both my Mum and I were agreed that there was not enough choice. I think what the dessert menu was lacking was a traditional comfort pudding such as a summer fruit crumble or a jam roly poly (both with custard). I went for the baileys cheesecake, although it did not have the texture of cheesecake, it was delicious. My Mum had the ice cream sundae and said it was lovely but far too sweet for her. Chester and Millie both had the doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce which they loved. Thinking back now I should probably of ordered one of them the fresh fruit with mango dipping sauce.

The 3 course adult meal per person comes to £26 and I have to say that is 100% great value for what we got. If Chesford Grange was closer to me I would be broke as I would want to eat in the restaurant all of the time! I would be more than happy to pay that price for what I had eaten.

I should also mention at this point that children are supposed to get a refillable juice cup for the duration of their say. Sadly for our visit they had run out of the cups. This did cause us a problem because children are not very well catered for with regards to drinking cups at the hotel. The staff did do their best to help us, but giving a coca cola pint glass to a 17 month old and a 4 year old was just not practical. The other problem with childrens drinks was the lack of squash. They only had cordial or fruit juice on offer for them.

Breakfast was in the form of a buffet, the choice was very extensive. Having a hot food counter and sections for fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, cereal, juices and pastries. Staff came round to offer tea or coffee. The ONLY thing missing from the breakfast was the option to order eggs benedict. There was the option to order poached eggs, omelet and a few other made to order items, but no eggs benedict. My ultimate favourite breakfast. Having hollandaise sauce on the evening menu I do not think it would be hard to add this to breakfast.

We all went a bit overboard at breakfast and I practically rolled out of the restaurant! The food was very fresh and delicious. The pancakes were the best I have tasted in a long while. We did not feel rushed and again, all the staff were lovely and friendly.

Other points:
Chesford Grange is set in 17 acres of ground, they have a nature trail but sadly we just run out of time to try it out! Check out is at 11am and I think this is perfect, we did not feel rushed at all. There is a lovely bar area, which extends outside, perfect for summer months. The bar menu looked very appealing, again, sadly we just ran out of time to try it. The hotel also hosts conferences, in fact one was on during our stay. However, as the hotel is so spacious we did not notice crowds and had no trouble at all parking.  I also noted that they have some offers on for School holidays, which I think is great seeing as most companies seem to do the opposite and up the prices for family peak times. Chester starts School in September so this is something I will remember for future holidays or short breaks away.

We came home from Chesford Grange feeling very happy. The room was clean and spacious, the food was delicious, the swimming pool was just the right size and it was clear to see that the staff have very high standards, giving every guest the attention they needed. As a family hotel Chesford Grange ticks (nearly) all the boxes for me. They just need to sort out their restaurant opening times and supplies of childrens cups! I would be more than happy to stay there with my family for a few days, not only was the hotel to a great standard it was in close proximity to lots of local attractions, with Warwick and Leamington Spa no more than 3 miles away. Its the perfect place to stay if you are planning to explore the local area as a family, although I recommend staying at least two nights so that you can make use of the hotel facilities too!

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