This wasn’t my first stay at Malmaison Belfast, but unfortunately it was probably my last. I’m not usually a grumbler; my standards are quite low, but this was the most disappointing hotel experience I’ve ever had – especially as we paid full rate due to late booking and it was therefore pretty much the most expensive hotel stay of my life. We checked in around 2:30pm just to drop our bags in the room as we were heading off somewhere for 3. On exiting the room, we found that the door was not locking when it closed. Phoned to reception and they sent a person up to fix it about 5 minutes later. As we were in a rush, we left him to it. We came back, had a few drinks in the bar, had dinner in the restaurant and at around 7:20pm went upstairs to freshen up quickly before a show at 8pm, but our key would not let us in. Fair enough, we thought, he has reprogrammed the lock and we’ll have to pick up a new key. Back to reception and got a fresh key – but it didn’t work either. Back down to reception twice more to reprogram the key before the receptionist finally came up and let us in with a master key (we were in a bit of a rush at this stage). We left the key with them and were promised it would be fixed for our return. On return picked up new key from reception – guess what? The key didn’t work! Back down to reception to get fresh key – it didn’t work either. Eventually got let in by the receptionist again. I won’t bore you with the details, but we had to repeat this performance with different staff several more times, it was incredibly annoying and was never resolved during our stay. With hindsight, I really wish we’d asked for a different room (quite frankly it should have been offered to us) but I honestly didn’t think it would have been such a huge problem to program a key.
The meal in the brasserie was nice, but very expensive. In fairness the set menus were very reasonable (£19.95 for 3 courses) but the choice was limited and we didn’t fancy any of the mains. My husband opted for a steak. Now, the steak on its own cost £27 (it wasn’t even a fillet steak; that was £29). And I mean on its own. There was a watercress garnish, that was it. Sauce had to be purchased at £1.50 extra and if you wanted chips, veg or salad with your steak it was £3.25 per portion. I think even in this age of austerity salad or chips could be included in the price, non? On a positive note the waiting staff in the restaurant were very helpful and the meal was very tasty (I had spinach and mushroom crepe - lovely, but again £14 for a pancake?). Nonetheless this was our choice so it's not really a complaint, more of an observation.
Some other points of note – the room is filled with lots of enticing snacks and drinks, unfortunately all of which have a (not insubstantial) charge. There isn’t even a free bottle of water in the room (each bottle is £2.75 in the minibar). The room was stiflingly hot, even with the radiator off, and we couldn’t open the window as there was a second pane (presumably for sound proofing from street noise) covering the outside sash windows and it didn’t open wide enough to allow access to the sash. I only became aware of the fan in the wardrobe the next morning but I doubt it would have helped all that much. I would have very much appreciated a bottle of water when lying awake parched at 3am– the tap water was very unpleasant. Not so much of an issue, since the room was so hot I didn’t actually need the duvet, but the duvet didn’t even reach to the edge of the mattress. However (positive point!) the bed was very comfortable although my pillow smelled of aftershave which wasn’t so pleasant.
But by far the biggest issue, eclipsing all the other gripes outlined above, was the noise from the bar. Our room was on the first floor, directly above the bar. There appears to be no soundproofing whatsoever between ground and first floor. We went to bed about 12:30. The music was very loud and went on past 2am. After that we could still hear people having loud conversations at the bar til after 3am. I think we were maybe able to fall asleep about 4am, but were awake again by a loud door slam of a neighbouring room at 6:50. We have a 1 year old and were spending our first night away together to get a “full night’s sleep and lie in” while she stayed with her granny. Ha! The joke was on us.
Although the staff were well aware of our key woes, we did not complain overnight about the noise. Maybe should have, but I was utterly paralysed by tiredness, as was my husband and spent the night hoping it would end soon, or I’d “nod off” and didn’t want to jeopardise the slim chance by getting up to make phonecalls. As I said we are not usually grumblers. Would the hotel have turned the music off in a busy bar because one room complained? Probably not. (The night manager said he would have when we saw him in the morning, but it’s easy to say afterwards). The receptionist (who had been involved in the key debacle the previous afternoon) was very sympathetic and offered to refund us the price of breakfast - £30 (again, £15 each for breakfast, what?!). We accepted, but expressed our disappointment again and left. The receptionist said that she would leave a message for the daytime duty manager to call us when she arrived, which she duly did a couple of hours later and we were refunded a further £50, which made a 50% reduction on the room price. We accepted and left it at that. £80 is still expensive for a night of no sleep and having to be escorted to your room. But credit where credit is due, they did their best to mitigate it after the event.
To conclude: there absolutely needs to be a policy in place of not allocating the rooms above the bar on weekends. There also should be free water in the rooms - that simply not acceptable for a £160 a night (B&B) room in a 4 star hotel. The staff were unquestionably very friendly and "nice", but our problems failed to be resolved at the time. If someone had taken the initiative early on after the first couple of times the key failed and moved us to a different (un-noisy) room, this would probably have been a 4 or 5 star review.
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- Also Known As:
- Malmaison Hotel Belfast