We booked into The Gallivant on a 3 night "Eat and Sleep" deal for £140 per night. Having looked at the website and seen the Mr and Mrs Smith recommendation, I was excited about this and felt that it seemed good value for money. However, I wish that I had read the Tripadvisor reviews more carefully as our stay at the Gallivant was truly a cautionary tale of the perils of relying on the term "boutique".
We arrived at about 6.45pm on the evening of Thursday 1st December. Although we had been called by the hotel a few minutes earlier asking when we intended to arrive and had told them that we were 10 minutes away, when we were shown to our room it was freezing cold as the heating had not been switched on and the blind (which I'll come on to in a moment) had not been shut. Furthermore, the room smelled stale and not entirely clean. It was pouring rain and very cold when we arrived and the fact that the room was so unwelcoming was made even more surprising when we were told by the receptionist that we were the only guests at the hotel.
We were given virtually no information about the hotel by the receptionist who didn't even walk into the room with us or offer us any assistance whatsoever with our luggage. Not least the wifi code is not written down anywhere (including in the welcome pack) so do make sure you ask for this.
Once we had warmed up, we inspected the room (Room 17) a little closer. I had seen that the beds in thr double rooms were small so I paid a bit more for a deluxe room. While the room was a decent size and nicely laid out in that it had a sofa and large TV, it was quite bare in appearance. Rather than having the wooden shutters which appear on the website, it had a cheap Roman blind which was tricky to put up. The sofa was stained and weirdly the bed did not have a headboard - more student bedroom than boutique hotel. The bed was indeed very large (and comfortable) but the pillows were tiny, flat and smelt unpleasantly of other people. The sheets were ok but felt as if they'd been washed in someone's old washing machine and lacked the usual hotel crispness. I agree with another reviewer's description of the furniture as being "Homebase". That said, the room could be so much better with small improvements such as a headboard, a few lamps, decent cushions on the bed and sofa, some nice blinds, a few more pictures and a nice throw. It could also do with a good airing.
The problems with the bathroom however could not be addressed quite so easily. It was very cold and there were mildew spots all over the ceiling and on the blind. The grouting was stained and the shower was one of those attached to the bath with no pressure. There was a shower curtain which while it appeared to be clean is unhygenic in itself and should be replaced by a glass screen. As commented on by other reviewers, the toilet had an incredibly weak flush. The fan worked on a sensor which meant that it came on during trips to the loo during the night and did not switch off for some time which was very noisy.
We went over to the Bistro for dinner. It is a welcoming and cozy space and has been nicely done (although the Ikea dining chairs are not comfortable on the back). Our waitress was extremely professional and friendly (I believe she was called Judit). My partner ordered the fish soup to start and I ordered the vegetable tart. As we had had a late lunch we decided to have 2 starters. My partner had the vegetable tart and I ordered what was described as prawns in spicy tomato butter. The vegetable tart and the soup were fine (although not great). The prawns were absolutely disgusting (and I don't use that description lightly). I could smell them before they arrived. What was put down before me was a plate of prawns smothered in chopped tomato sauce with no discernible sign of butter or spiciness. After a taste it was clear that the prawns were off as they tasted a bit like blue cheese. My partner tasted them and agreed and I had no choice but to send them back. Judit took them away and offered to give me something else but at that stage my partner was halfway through her food. I genuinely believe that I would have been quite ill had I finished the plate of food.
Although Judit was apologetic there was no apology from the kitchen nor did the chef come out to say anything (even though he could not have been busy as there were only 2 other couples there that night). This is at odds with Tudor's comments that the chef takes complaints seriously.
The food on the 2nd and 3rd nights was fine but not great given how pricey the food is - comparable to my local London bistro but not as good. We were surprised that no bread is given before the meal. We were very hungry on Friday so asked for some bread only to be served ice cold, stale bread. We had to ask for butter as it was originally presented with nothing. The service on the whole was pretty good although the waitress on Friday was not great. She just poured the wine without asking us to taste it and we had to ask for things (eg the bread) a number of times.
The one stand out bright spot with the food was the raspberry and chocolate pudding which was absolutely delicious and I had on all 3 nights. If the rest of the food could be brought up to this level, the Gallivant would be doing very well.
Despite the fact that the Gallivant clearly caters for tourists and holiday makers as opposed to the business traveller (and the fact that we were the only guests on Thursday 1st December) we were told that breakfast was only available until 9.30am which is obviously very early. As a result we chose to miss it on 2nd December although we had it on the 3rd and 4th (it finishes at the still early time of 10am on weekends) and it was good as was the service. Despite being busy, our waitress was friendly and efficient. We liked the fact that we could make our own toast (although the settings were a little off on the toaster).
As other reviewers have mentioned, the bill was put in the pigeon hole outside on the Sunday morning before we checked out. To my immense irritation, I saw that although we had been on the Eat and Sleep deal, we had been charged for all the food. Although the prawns had been taken off the bill, no reduction was made meaning that this was meaningless as we had paid an inclusive price. I telephoned reception . The phone was answered by a surly and unhelpful woman and no apology whatsover despite overcharges of some £150!! When I finished breakfast I went to speak to reception as it had not been explained to me what would happen next. The lady I had spoken to on the phone did not bother to stand up and speak to me and instead went through her colleague who said that the items would be removed. (The distance from the small office behind reception to where I was standing is about 8 feet at most). I understood that I was to come back before we left to confirm the reissued bill. However, when I returned to reception 15 minutes later there was no one there. I sent an email early today to the Gallivant about this bill and have not yet had the courtesy of a response.
Some reviewers have commented negatively on the exterior of the hotel. I don't agree with this as I think the exterior is well maintained. It is not (despite the impression perhaps given by the website) overlooking Camber Sands which is about a 10 minute walk away and the hotel has no view of the beach.
In summary, it is easy to see what the Gallivant is trying to be and it can get there if money is spent on small changes to the rooms and refurbishing the bathrooms as well as improvements to the standards of the cooking.While some of the staff are excellent, a number of them are not with the result that the service is far too patchy for a hotel pitching itself at this level. As things stand, it appears to me that it is trading on its inexplicable Mr and Mrs Smith recommendation and its proximity to Camber Sands and Rye. There is far too big a disjoint between what it claims to be (and prices itself on)and what it actually is.
Would I go back to the Gallivant? No (although I do hope to get back to beautiful Camber Sands)
Would I recommend the Gallivant? No - not without significant changes being made.
I see from Tudor's comments elsewhere that he claims to welcome criticism and I hope that these comments will be taken in the constructive spirit with which they were intended.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to our coastal restaurant with rooms, across the road from the dunes of Camber Sands and beautiful sandy beach beyond. Inspired by the coastal motels you might find in California, we're a calm and relaxing hideaway from the stresses and strains of modern life. We have 20 amazing bedrooms all decorated with an eye to the Hamptons and serve great food using almost exclusively locally sourced fresh ingredients. In 2016 we were included in The Times 'Coolest Beach Hotels - No. 4', The Mirror's 'Top 10 Seaside Hotels in the UK' and Squaremeal's 'UK's Best 100 Restaurants'. The private coastal garden incorporates mini secluded decks behind all the Garden and Luxury Garden rooms and is also home to The Beach Hut, where guests can enjoy relaxing massages and lovely facials after a day on the beach using ethical and natural health and beauty products that are exclusively blended in the UK. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Place At Beach
- Place At The Beach Rye