I phoned the hotel directly to make the booking and Chloe was extremely helpful. When I arrived at the hotel I found an incredible, and somewhat imposing, building. I had seen pictures but the hotel is far more impressive in real life. It is, simply, stunning. I had a lot of baggage, I was moving home and was staying at the hotel for a month, and was having difficulty getting through the rotating door but a member of staff quickly came to my aid and helped me to the reception desk and waited to see if I needed help getting to my room.
The member of staff on duty on reception was extremely friendly and made the check-in process very easy and quick, even with a printer problem. The lift is tiny, with a maximum capacity of four people… I am at least the size of two people and I had baggage equal to another two people and there was already someone in there but it made it up to the fifth floor, so maybe I'm not as heavy as I thought… or the lift has greater capacity (although not surface area) than stated.
I was on the fifth floor, right at the top, and the window looks out onto Plymouth. It's a fantastic sight, especially at night, with the lights of the city shining and the Plymouth Pavilions (just across the road) constantly (though slowly) changing colour. The hotel often hosts parties and other special occasions in the Ballroom on the ground floor. Being on the fifth floor is ideal, because it not only offers great views you're also far enough away from the Ballroom so that the noise is hardly noticeable, in fact the hotel is one of the quietist I've been in.
The room had all the old-world charm I had been hoping for but it was very small and hot, even with the windows open. The bed, there were two, was comfortable with a good view of the wall mounted tv, one of the few anachronistic elements in the room, the others being an electric kettle, iron and hair drier. The room was decorated with wallpaper the fitted the Victorian atmosphere of the hotel, in fact there is a great deal of wallpaper in the hallways and dining room. The bar and lounge are decorated with wood panelling and, with the Chesterfield style sofas and armchairs, resembles a London Gentleman's Club, only without the institutional sexism and racism.
The hotel is beautiful inside and out, each floor has its own delights, like the small bar and lounge area on the second floor or the library, as you walk around you feel almost as if you were in an episode of Upstairs Downstairs (showing my age there) or Antiques Roadtrip. There are antiques everywhere, it's fun to wonder and spot them.
The real stars of the hotel, and what made my month stay so relaxed, are the staff. I didn't encounter a single unhelpful or impolite staff member, from the person I phoned to book a room with to the maids who make up the room (and always left extra tea and milk as they soon realised I drink a lot of tea) to the wait staff in the restaurant, to the bar staff in the lounge bar (who know what I am going to order but never presume to get it before checking), and, finally, to the reception staff who were so helpful in so many ways.
An example of how the staff went out of their way to help is when I spotted on the hotel website something called "Tea at the Top," afternoon tea served at the top of the hotel, in a turret like structure with 360-degree panoramic views and your own personal butler (better watch him though, as we all know, "it's the butler wot done it.") Wow, I thought, that would be perfect. So, I asked at the reception if I could book it, I had a friend visiting and thought it would be a great way to catch-up and enjoy a cup of tea at the same time. Unfortunately, Tea at the Top is only available from April (this was clearly stated on the website but I was so focused on the pictures to notice tiny details like that), it was currently the beginning of March. However, the receptionist went off and when she came back said that they would make an exception and I could book it. Sadly, due to the sudden snow fall, I had to change plans and was in London on the date arranged but I asked my friend if she'd like to take someone else. She found someone and they both had a fantastic time, they were made to feel very special and important and I was made to feel very envious!
The price for my room included breakfast, which I must admit I didn't take full advantage of (I tend to stay up late and, so, rise late too) but on the few occasions I did venture down in time for breakfast I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, there is a buffet but it is just for cereals, pastries and fruit juices. The cooked part of the breakfast you select from a wide menu, which includes porridge, kippers, smoked haddock and the full English (eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and, my favourite, black pudding). You can order as much, or as little, as you want but, and here's the great part, it is freshly cooked for you, as you order. So, no cold rubbery eggs from the buffet, everything is cooked just right for you; you want two rashers of bacon, one crispy and one not, no problem, that's what you get.
The dining room is a rather grand affair, used both for breakfast and dinner. It has everything you would expect, a chandelier (just waiting for Del Boy and Rodney to clean) and nautical paintings on the wall. It is beautiful although not intimidating, as it might be, because of the friendly and professional wait staff. They couldn't be more attentive. The only problem, and one most guests probably wouldn't notice, is the restricted menu. There are seven or eight starters but only four main course options (a steaky thing, a fishy thing, a ducky thing and a veggie thing). The actual dishes change every week or two. So, most guests, who may stay for a night or a week, may not notice it but staying for a month I soon sampled everything the menu had to offer. However, for a hotel restaurant the food was excellent, I especially liked the artichoke and chestnut soup and west country ribeye steak (the accompanying beer-battered onion rings were incredible!).
If the full dining room experience isn't what you want, there is a bar menu available throughout most of the day, offering sandwiches, burgers, and things with chips. This can be ordered from the bar or, when the bar isn't open, from reception. It can also be ordered using the telephone in your room and delivered by room service. Room service is 24 hours, although through the night the menu is slightly restricted, mainly sandwiches and such like. less