Saturday, 9 November 2019

Novotel Bristol Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Baffling!

We've just returned from a stay at the Novotel Hotel, which is situated about ten minutes' walk from Cabot Circus in Bristol. We booked through and paid about £195 for two nights, which is towards the lower price end for a fairly last-minute booking in this area. This secured us a double room with a sofa bed for myself, my adult daughter and teenage son. The hotel is part of the Accor Hotels group and is described on their website as a 'mid-scale hotel for business or family trips'. We've never stayed in a Novotel hotel before and it looked very swish from the outside, so we had high expectations. How did it measure up? Read on to find out.

Our first impressions of the hotel, on Victoria Street, were very good. A large, welcoming reception, where the friendly staff greeted us on arrival and where we were quickly checked in and directed to our room on the first floor. One of the two lifts was out of action, so there was a bit of a wait, but, once there, we found our room really easily. The room was well presented, in the standard motel-style; a large bed, sofa bed, TV, chair and tea-making facilities, as well as some hanging space and a shower room. The decoration was clean, if a little tired in places and some of the lesser-used areas, such as the hairdryer, were dusty. The bathroom was modern, but the shower tray was discoloured, making it look dirty, although I don't think it was. The beds were comfortable and the room benefited hugely from a small fridge. I can't tell you what a welcome addition this was. It was so lovely to be able to keep our own drinks cold so that we didn't need to use room service or go to the bar if we didn't want to.

The fridge and kettle area in a Novotel hotel room.

One area of irritation was the lack of tea bags and milk. This issue is not specific to this hotel, it's something I encounter a lot, as hotels often vastly underestimate how much tea is required to function and how far those annoying little milk pods will actually stretch. However, this was a new level of stinginess, in my opinion. As I explained at the start, I booked this room for three people, so why, oh why, did they leave us two mugs and two glasses? That's right, as well as the two tea bags, which we were presumably meant to wring out and use again, we were also expected to share the mugs and drink our morning cuppa in rotation. I rang down to reception to request another mug and more teabags, and a lovely lady appeared shortly after, with the extra mug and two more tea bags. At this point, I gave up, as we had already used the two teabags that evening and would need at least three for the morning and I wasn't prepared to keep wrestling the staff for teabags, two at a time. The next day, I found a Pound Shop and bought myself a box of Tetley, which does lead me to wonder why they would scrimp on something so cheap when it is clearly at the detriment of their guests' comfort.

Two white mugs faded out in the foreground a bag of Tetley tea bags behind in focus.

The weather was really bad and it was dark and cold, so we spent the evening watching the TV and playing games, whilst we waited for Jade to return. She was taking part in an event in the town centre and wouldn't arrive until gone midnight, so I had let the front desk know to expect her and they said it would be fine, as the desk is 24 hours. The room was quite noisy, there were lots of banging doors and shouting coming from outside, but I am not sure that the hotel could have done much about it, except perhaps invest in soft closing doors and maybe extra glazing, but that might be a bit of a big ask. When Jade eventually arrived, it was long after midnight and she wasn't overly impressed with the welcome she got at reception. They were unaware that she would be arriving, despite my best efforts,  and it took some time to convince them that she was part of our group. Once convinced, no real effort was made to show her to the lift and she didn't feel especially welcome. She was in full makeup though, so, even the day after Halloween, perhaps this look was a little distracting. What do you think?

Jade in full zombie make up

The first thing Jade wanted was a shower and the first problem this threw up, was that there weren't enough towels. There was only one towel that could actually go all the way around an adult human, so we had to share that one. Luckily, I had showered early so it had a chance to dry. The second issue was that during her shower, there was a power cut. We found out later that this was due to outside sources and not the hotel's fault, which was fair enough, but it got worse. Once we had rescued Jade from the now pitch-black bathroom, using the torch from my phone, we all decided it was best to go to sleep. About half an hour later, not long after finally drifting off, the power came back on, along with the lights and TV. I tried to turn everything off, but the lights started flashing and then went off again. Back to sleep, we went, but then it happened again and the light switch seemed to have no effect. The flashing lights were driving me mad and, even after that seemed to settle down, I couldn't find a way to get the TV to stay off. I went out to the corridor and found a staff member, but he just said it wasn't the hotel's fault and couldn't help. In the end, we covered it with towels and hoped for the best, but it was nearly 3am before we finally got to sleep.


In the morning, we were pleased to find a small games area, with an Xbox, so while L enjoyed some relaxing gaming (!), we sat in the comfy seating area with complimentary cucumber and lemon water, before heading out for the day. It was refreshing to find facilities for children, as they often get overlooked in the design of reception areas. On our return, we had to get the second card key fixed because it didn't work and Jade needed it, as she had another late night ahead, then we went back upstairs to our room. There had been a visit from housekeeping, who had straightened out the beds, which was nice. They had also removed our third mug, leaving us once again with two and they were both dirty. I had to assume they hadn't seen a reason to replace them with clean ones, which seemed an odd decision since we had no washing up facilities in the room. Worse still, I couldn't be sure they weren't new ones that were generally unclean and we were back to being a mug short, so that was annoying. After much nosy rummaging around (there's not a lot to do in a small hotel room), L happened upon a tray of three mugs in a small cupboard on the floor, beneath the safe. This did solve our problem, but one of those mugs was dirty too. Was it the third mug from earlier? Or had the kitchen run out of washing up liquid? Either way, discovering unwashed crockery in a hotel cupboard is pretty gross.

The children's games area, featuring an Xbox station, a box with toys and red table with books on.

The second night passed almost without incident, except Jade's card key still didn't work, so it was a good job I was still awake to let her in. The next morning we really made the most of the 12pm check out time. It makes an enormous difference not to have to rush. We had plenty of time to pack up our things and tidy up, so we didn't have to worry about it the previous evening. We are used to much earlier checkouts so this is a massive plus point with Novotel. We sidestepped the breakfast, as we were only ten minutes from the town centre and I felt £18.95 a head was pretty steep, although I believe children eat free with a paying adult and it does have good reviews on Trip Advisor. Our check out was straight forward and that concluded our first stay at a Novotel hotel. I'm not sure it would be my first choice for our next hotel stay. There were too many inconveniences that were completely avoidable and not what I expect from a mid-range four-star hotel. However, there were some advantages that I haven't seen in other hotel chains, such as the in-room fridge and the later check out time, so there is hope that with a bit more attention to detail, this hotel could be a great option for the family traveller.


1 comment

  1. Oh dear, it does seem a bit hit and miss. Great for some things and not so great for other things. It sounds like you had an eventful stay. x


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