I recently fell in love with a luxury hotel in Wiltshire, and when the opportunity to spend a night at the Royal Crescent Hotel presented itself, I expected my loyalties would be put to the test. In fact, I HOPED they would be put to the test – after all, this was the Royal Crescent in Bath, a city known for its exquisite architecture, decadent spas, and celebrity residents.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t even a close competition. With its location and heritage, the Royal Crescent has the potential to be a fantastic hotel, well worth the exorbitant price that is currently being charged. But it’s certainly not there yet, and seems to be relying on its name and location to get people through the door. Once in, the standards slip. And it’s not that the hotel is that bad (hence the 4 stars), but it is certainly overpriced for the quality provided.
For example, the room we were in was nice. Not incredible, not wonderful, not any other adjective I would expect to use in a hotel of this type. Just nice. But it also felt worn (chipped paint in the bedroom, chipped and broken tiles in the bathroom) and in serious need of updating. The décor of the bathroom, including the plastic clock and antique plastic scale, seriously let the place down. Same with the modern furniture in the bedroom that was meant to look antique – it didn’t.
The lack of a tea maker in the room is inexplicable in a hotel of this standard. Well, I can explain it as the hotel wanting to make more money off its guests, which in itself is a black mark. The tiny TV was also a let-down, and the poor WiFi connection absurd. The system failed to recognise me at all, and I had to obtain a temporary voucher from reception, which was only good for a few hours. Admittedly I have had horrible luck with WiFi at a variety of hotels this year; is it really that difficult for places to ensure that 1) their WiFi works, and 2) it is available at a reasonable strength in each room?
Also, this was the first time I ever wished I had used the “Do not disturb” sign as a housekeeper came by offering turndown service at a rather inopportune moment. An easy mistake, but the annoying thing is that my husband and I had booked dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening; in all other hotels I’ve been to, the turndown is done when the guests are at dinner as it’s a time housekeepers can guarantee no one will be disturbed. The other problem with the particular room we were in (#12) was that there was an occasional knocking noise within the walls, which I believe was caused by the plumbing from the room above.
After all that whinging, there are definitely some high points to the hotel. The spa was wonderful, and I highly recommend it. Having previously lived in Bath, I’ve visited the Thermae Spa a handful of times and, while it’s a nice experience, it can also be incredibly crowded and loud. However, the Bath House Spa at the Royal Crescent Hotel was a perfect oasis of peace and tranquility.
The dinner at the Dower House restaurant was very good, albeit very expensive as one would expect. The only disappointment was that the egg (part of the starter) was rather rubbery, and I had to laugh when I read the TripAdvisor review of 23 November which complained about the same problem at breakfast. The service at dinner was top-notch, and some of the staff even seemed genuine in wanting to ensure we had a good meal (all of the staff were professional, but some actually put a bit of warmth into their words and behaviour). One slight issue, which is not unique to the RCH, is that there seems to be a disconnect in communication between front of house and kitchen staff. My husband is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, which we always mention when booking. However, invariably an amuse bouche or similar is plunked on the table containing fish. It’s more food for me, but it seems a bit silly that this isn’t relayed to the kitchen.
The breakfast the next day was also very good, and I thought the selection was decent. The service wasn’t as good though; upon walking into the restaurant we had several members of staff pass us without even a glance or a “Sorry, be with you in a moment”. We weren’t sure whether we should take a seat or wait to be seated, and it took a few minutes before anyone saw to us.
Overall, I’m glad we were able to experience the Royal Crescent Hotel and its spa, but it is not good value for the price nor does it necessarily meet the expectations that go with such a price tag. This was epitomised by the bill itself: I reviewed it before leaving and saw we had been charged for the morning newspaper. This seems tacky and cheap on the part of the hotel, especially since we weren’t even informed there was a fee (I’ve been at much cheaper hotels, and even B&Bs, that provide the service free of charge). Nickel and diming guests certainly doesn’t engender good will or an interest in returning, and I do wonder whether Relais & Chateaux will be able to do any better than the Von Essen Group at making a go of the Royal Crescent. My advice: take lessons from that hotel in Wiltshire.
- Also Known As:
- Royal Crescent Bath
- Hotel Royal Crescent
- Royal Crescent Hotel Bath
- Royal Crescent Hotel
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Royal Crescent Hotel is the most impressively located luxury hotel in the World Heritage City of Bath, occupying the two central buildings of the world's finest crescent. The Grade I listed buildings were designed by the famous Georgian Architect, John Wood the Younger and were first occupied in 1775.Beyond its magnificent facade lies a hotel renowned for its charm, elegance and superb service, and, the unexpected beauty of the beautiful one-acre, landscaped garden leading to the skillfully converted coach houses, which now accommodate the award-winning Dower House restaurant and The Spa.This iconic hotel is far more than a remarkable collection of buildings and beautiful gardens. It offers the opportunity to experience a style of gracious living from the age when Bath was the very centre of the civilized world.Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are served daily and non-resident guests are welcome. ... more less
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