It's three years since I stayed at Congham Hall under the old Von Essen regime, the hotel then took it's place in my top five English hotels. I was looking forward to staying again and taking full advantage of the new spa. Last time we stayed for an anniversary we had a very special time - the hotel arranging lots of treats - this stay was very different.
The new owner has (in the words of one of the staff members) thrown a lot of money at the hotel, however Congham has lost something very precious - we were merely guests in an hotel rather than having a few days in he country with friends. We did not appear to be valued at all - indeed it would have been better all round if the management had declined the booking but obviously the revenue was more important than guest satisfaction. The new owner, renowned hotelier that he is, couldn't be bothered to speak to us unlike his predecessor who was very friendly. We were not really inconvenienced by the building works, except being woken by builders noise at eight o'clock, but the building works were very evident and definitely not in the aesthetic.
Apart from the restaurant there was one serviceable public room (the Library) the new hall being full of builders and their equipment . The bedroom (Echinacea - lovely first floor corner room with double aspect over garden and parkland) was very clean & comfortable except for the double bed which was two singles zipped together.
The well appointed bathroom was spotlessly clean and boasted fluffy towels, towelling robes and Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. My only small gripes were that some of the jets in the shower head needed to be unblocked before providing an acceptable pattern which incidentally could not be altered. WiFi in the room was unreliable & the razor point inoperative.
The restaurant "a la carte" menu was really an uninteresting Table d'hôte & at £39.50 for three courses seemed expensive. There were only 5 starter options (2fish, pigeon breast, pork and risotto) -there was a £7.50 supplement for the beef fillet main course (options of smoked saddle of lamb, venison, & 2 fish) and an extra £9 were cheese taken as an extra course
The "menu gourmand" gave the opportunity to have more than three courses taken from the Table d'hôte at a cost of £101.50 including wine !?
We opted for Room service on both evenings.
A club sandwich was very good although the cocktail sticks keeping the layers together were dangerous having been trimmed level with the toasted bread and therefore hard to find. A salad, served as the other "main", was insubstantial and poorly dressed.
On the second evening the Chef's first attempt at tomato & goats cheese risotto was sent back as undercooked, the rice retaining far too much "bite"and the second attempt was poorly seasoned, poorly cooked and bland. The vegetables, undercooked rather than "al dente", were thrown into a bowl rather than presented.
Steak sandwich was excellent cooked to perfection, medium rare. Mixed salad lacking dressing and any seasoning but the inclusion of salad onions worked well.
Hand cut chips varied in size too much so that although the largest were perfectly cooked the smaller ones were greasy, overcooked and burnt.
Poor - packets of Kellogg's that can be found in any cheap hotel - no dried fruit to add to the muesli other than dried apricots. Disappointing cardboard tasteless toast appeared to be mass produced rather than made on site. Full English very good except for bland black pudding. Coffee (often the cause of disappointment) was very good however.
Very poor standard of customer care! the hotel couldn't even be bothered to lay out the buffet because there were only two couples staying in the hotel. Menus were dirty. Workmen were actually working in the restaurant as we were taking breakfast! Pleasant but poorly trained waitress was unable to deliver exactly what was ordered. Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg "just enough to keep a sparrow alive" as my Father would say. The coffee was undrinkable, the offering from the coffee machine for a change far more palatable.
Tea trays are not provided in the room meaning that the guest must call reception to order tea delivered by room service. Whilst I fully appreciate the rationale behind this service - from the guests point of view it's very inconvenient. For example should tea be desired on waking in the small hours or indeed on waking and not feeling ones best. There are some cynics who might entertain the view that the income stream generated by tea trays costing £5.90 for tea for two is indeed attractive - I couldn't possibly comment.
I sincerely hope that this lovely hotel can regain its charm and return to being that luxurious country retreat.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you for taking the time to write a very comprehensive report about your recent stay with us and of course as I said when we spoke before your departure from the hotel, I am sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy elements of your stay with us this time round. Feedback of this nature is very important to us at the hotel as without it we cannot improve the service levels that we offer. The refurbishment is now complete and seems to be universally welcomed as a great improvement by all. Perhaps these changes might tempt you back to try us out again for an appropriate occasion?
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.