My wife and I were going to see "For the Love of Mrs Brown" at the LG Arena and therefore this hotel should have been an ideal place to stay and give us a relaxing evening/night. Oh dear, what a disappointment.
Where do I start? How about the 15 minutes it took to check in? Two receptionists on duty at the desk and both were busy with customers. So my wife and I stood and waited. And waited. And waited....... Eventually I suggested that my wife sat down with our overnight cases and I'd wait in the "queue". And wait. And wait. Finally a man appeared from behind the reception area and asked if there was anything he could help me with. I said that I was waiting to check in. There then followed a magical "rabbit in the headlights" moment where his eyes widened and his face froze. He then moved over to one of the receptionists (who appeared to be having a problem) and started talking to her. He never did say anything else to me after the first question.
The second receptionist eventually finished with her customers (what were they talking about?) and I managed to check in - I'd booked online and I'm a platinum member of the points scheme so my check in took about 2 minutes as all was ready for me. Goodness knows what the delay was.
The room was clean and tidy although I wonder if the rooms are ever checked as the standard lamp didn't work and the bathroom door didn't close properly. I forgot to mention those on our departure. Also, we'd reserved a lake view which we got, but also got a view over the building site next door (not the Crowne Plaza's fault I grant you, but worth noting that you can get "extras" with the lake view :-) ).
Now comes the tricky part. The LG Arena is about 6 or 7 minutes slowish walk away from the hotel and the show started at 7.30pm. Therefore we decided to go downstairs to eat at the hotel around 5.30 to give ourselves 2 hours to order, eat and then freshen up and get to the show in a nice relaxed manner. When you've got youngish kids, evenings away together are pretty precious and should be savoured.
Problem No 1 is that the restaurant, Pendigos doesn't open until 6.30 (according to my welcome letter). I'd assume that most shows etc on the NEC site start at around 7.30 so that's a bit tight to say the least. However we thought we'd eat at the bar. It was 5.20 when we arrived in the bar area (I looked at my watch) and there appeared to only be one person serving! I assume from what happened later that he was the bar manager. I was 3rd in the queue behind 2 other guys but somehow got served behind 2 women who appeared from nowhere but seemed to be known - the guy next to me remarked on that as they pushed him one down the pecking order too. Service was slow, why only one person doing the bar? A couple of people asked about ordering food and were told that you needed to sit at one of the tables where a server would magically appear to take your order. So my wife went off to get a table.
Eventually I got our drinks served by a "different" guy in a suit (it was then 5.35, so about 15 minutes!) and joined her. She suggested that in order to save time, we got the Brasserie Boards (note that the British one differs from the one on the website as I write this). These involved no cooking as far as we could tell and we were starting to get a bit nervous based on check in and bar speed. After a 10 minute wait, no server appeared so we asked one of the staff who was passing if we could order some food. She said she's get us a server, who arrived about 3 or 4 minutes later (we were after all at least 20 feet from the end of the bar).
We ordered our food, one of each of the boards (a Spanish and a British) and finished our drinks. About 5 minutes later our server appeared and said that the kitchen had told her that there would be a 30 minute wait for the food so did we still want it? After looking at our watches and weighing up the options, we decided to carry on and wait. At 6.10 the server appeared and said that our food would be along in about 2 minutes. We ordered a couple of glasses of wine which appeared rather quickly. At 6.25 I called the server over and asked where our food was. She went back to the bar and spoke to the guy who had served up the drinks at the start. He came over and began to apologise, saying that the kitchen..... At this point I stopped him, pointing out that it was now 6.30 and we wanted to have something to eat and then get off to the show. I pointed out that they were a hotel and as such, guests should expect to be served in a timely manner (my son is a chef by the way and he would not have put up with a customer having to wait for that length of time). I asked if he agreed that it was poor service and he said that it was and started to blame the kitchen again. At this point another server arrived with our food. I asked if we could be allowed to eat our food as this was what we wanted and all of the talking was delaying us further. He said that he's take the cost of our drinks off of our bill. I told him that that was not what I wanted, what I wanted was to be served in a reasonable time. He did take the drink cost off, but again, that's not what I'm after.
Part way through our meal (which we had to "bolt" down now, my wife looked at the menu as she was certain that there was supposed to be salad on the British board. She was right! I called the server over and showed her this. The server apologised and said that they had introduced a new menu and the kitchen hadn't got to grips with it yet! She said that all the servers were doing their best to speed up service but that the kitchen was a problem.
We managed, by dint of some quick walking to get to the show on time (excellent if you haven't seen it - or even if you have) but decided against an after show drink at the bar - well would you?
We woke up and looked to see what time the restaurant was open for breakfast. According to the welcome letter, it's 07.00 - 11.00 Saturday and Sunday. According to the information in the room, it's 7.00am - 11.30am on weekends and Bank Holidays. Are you prepared to chance an 11.05 arrival on a Sunday?
Actually, for us the service and food was pretty good for breakfast. However it cannot make up for the annoyance,explanations and excuses of the night before. It was supposed to be a relaxing night away for 2. It turned in to a joke - and not a very funny one either.
How can a hotel which is obviously targeted at the NEC and LG Arena have a restaurant that opens at such an inconvenient time?
How can said hotel have a bar menu that takes so long to prepare?
How can said hotel have a kitchen staff who don't know the menu?
How can it take so long to check in?
Unfortunately they made the mistake of asking me if everything had been alright with my stay when we checked out. Guess! They took all the bar food off as well, even though I told them again that this isn't what I complained for. I just wanted a good stay. They asked if I wanted to speak to someone, but I explained that I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
I won't be going back so please do not phone, write or e-mail me to offer me discounts/freebies. You ruined the night away and you're not going to get another go.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in the heart of England the Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC offers a unique contemporary style and simple elegance on the doorstep of the NEC and within close proximity of Birmingham International Airport. Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC offers a luxurious accommodation featuring air-conditioning, high speed Internet access (subject to an additional charge) and TV with movies on demand. A fashionable bar and Pendigo's Restaurant is also available for all residents and non-residents. With 11 custom-designed meeting and banqueting suites, Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC has the flexibility to host events of many shapes and sizes. Set in landscaped grounds overlooking Pendigo Lake, Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC is only 5 minutes walk from the National Exhibition Centre and NEC Arena, 5 minutes drive from Birmingham International Airport and International Train Station, 10 miles from Birmingham City Centre and within easy reach of major UK motorways (M5, M6, M40 and M42).WI-FI Internet Access is available in all meeting rooms, bar and the restaurant. We also have very reasonable Park and Fly packages packages available. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Crowne Plaza Birmingham
- Birmingham Crowne Plaza