My wife and I recently chose to stay at The Surf Lodge, Montauk, tempted by their restaurant (Byron), run by the chef formerly responsible for Manhattan’s excellent Public. Firstly, The Surf Lodge is just off a busy road and near a railway, so it’s pretty noisy, but that’s probably the least of its problems.
We arrived on the Monday after Labour Day, pulling into the car park to be greeted by the smell of their bins being emptied, which was extremely unpleasant. Old fish and heat is not a good combination. Bins need to be emptied, but this wasn’t a great start to the stay.
We then made it into reception where we were greeted by an unmanned reception desk. We waited at least 5 mins before anyone showed up.
We were hungry after our trip, but we were told that the bar and restaurant would not be open for another hour. Again, a disappointment. We were told to drive out of town half an hour – not great after a long journey when all you want is food and a strong drink.
We were then shown our room. It was pokey, but seemed to be well turned out. Apart from the mouldy hammock, which certainly wasn’t inviting in either looks or smell, and there were wires protruding through the hole in the ceiling where the smoke alarm once was. There were cigarette butts out on the balcony, too. There were no drinking glasses in the room, or toilet brush in the bathroom. The products in the shower seemed to be very watered down, especially the shower gel, and the pump dispenser for it was broken.
We thought we’d relax out on their deck for a bit. They had a good live band playing and there was a nice atmosphere as the sun was setting. This could have been a highlight, if not for the conspicuously product-placed towels bearing the name of their sponsor. A professional photographer from this brand was engaged in taking pictures of people relaxing and enjoying themselves amongst the branded towels. Frankly, I don’t consider this appropriate. If I’m going somewhere to relax and pay for it, I don’t expect my relaxation to then be used as part of a product promotion. We were not asked if we were okay with this and no one asked for permission to take our photographs.
At dinner, we wanted to sit out in the restaurant and have a drink before ordering our meals. Apparently, this was a massive problem. If we wanted a drink, we couldn’t sit in the restaurant, despite our intention to eat there. We were even told to come back in half an hour. Eventually, after sighs and eyes rolled by the maitre d’, we were shown to a table so rickety that anyone in their right mind would have thrown it in a skip long ago. We were told that this usually is balanced up against a wall, but not today. As it was, we’d have been better off eating off a plank of wood balanced on a beach ball.
The food, however, was as we had hoped: Excellent. Our server, Chris, was knowledgeable and friendly. This was to be the only good point of the entire stay.
It was left then to a bus boy to tell us that the restaurant and bar would be closed for the rest of the week and that there would be a staff party there the next night. The staff does deserve a party, sure, but not where paying guests are staying.
No one we asked seemed to be able to confirm this. Some said the kitchen would be open on Thursday. Others said Friday. Others said they had no idea it was closed. One staff member apologised to my wife for being drunk.
Back at our room, we decided to complain. At no time during our communication with The Surf Lodge had anyone informed us that the restaurant and bar would be closed. It wasn’t featured on the website, either. We felt we were paying high-season prices for off-season services.
The next morning, we asked to speak to the manager, who apparently was not in until later that day. Fair enough, I suppose, but I don’t know many managers who roll in late everyday.
We went to see what was for breakfast: Apparently, not much. Despite the high room rate, there is no cooked breakfast at The Surf Lodge. A few boiled eggs and toast do not a substantial breakfast make. There was a girl reading a book in the corner we assumed was a guest, who turned out to be a server. I’m not sure now how we ascertained this, as she did absolutely nothing to help us during our entire stay. Ah yes, we asked the front desk for some sugar to go with the luke-warm coffee. At this point, the server managed to stop reading long enough to pop into the kitchen to get some. The next day, this would be my job. The following day after that, I didn’t bother asking.
Anyway, during breakfast, a peculiarity of the surf lodge made itself known. Situated near a power station, it is in a particularly good position to hear the alarm. This alarm sounds like an air-raid warning and lasts several minutes. It’s loud enough to prohibit any conversation.
On returning to the room, we were hit with a new smell. The cess pit was being emptied. I don’t need to describe it to you. You know what that smells like.
Anyway, we decided to air our grievances to the manager, now that she was in. I’ve personally worked in customer service for over 15 years and have received training on how to handle customer complaints. Getting angry, interrupting and not listening are things one should avoid. This is not the approach of the Surf Lodge’s management.
Finally, we came to some kind of understanding. We had only really been after an apology, but were offered free use of the mini bar and bike hire as compensation. This seemed reasonable, although, we weren’t after compensation; we wanted to make the management aware of their shortcomings and our expectations as guests.
We were also promised that the next evening, we would be taken out for drinks as guests of the manager, and to meet her in the bar at 6:30. That evening, we shared a bottle of wine with the manager and we decided to make the best of a bad job. The staff party never materialised either, which was good.
However, the next evening we waited for the manager to show up at the agreed time. And we waited. We never actually saw her again.
As we waited more and more people came in asking if the restaurant/bar was open, indicating us when they were told it was closed. Eventually, we were told to pretend to be friends of the front desk girl rather than her have to explain the situation over and over. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to pretend to be a friend of the staff just to justify sitting in the lobby of a hotel that I’m staying at.
During this wait, we asked for some glasses and ice. I ended up getting the glasses and filling them with ice from the machine in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure the “laid back” approach to service shouldn’t include getting your guests to go into your kitchens.
The next morning there was a fashion shoot taking place at the hotel. Exciting? Not really. In fact, it was another mood killer. We had to find a spot that wasn’t being used by the crew or their equipment. We honestly felt in the way and rather inconsequential. Just how you should be made to feel on vacation. Again, we’d at least like to have been made aware of this.
During our entire stay, we felt as though we were the only paying guests. It felt like a hotel that had been shut down. We recognise that the season ends after Labour Day, but we’re from London, so we didn’t know. There is absolutely nothing to suggest on their site that this is the case, or that their bar and restaurant will be closed.
Upon checkout, we asked to pay our bill. Apparently we couldn’t. Only the manager could authorise the deductions of the mini bar and bike hire we’d used and we’d have to wait for her. As we had a plane to catch and had previously waited a fair chunk of the evening for her, we said we wouldn’t be waiting. We made it clear at this point that they could charge the bill to the card with which we paid the deposit and that we’d expect an itemised bill.
It transpires that they charged the wrong card, leaving our current account overdrawn, and it appears they charged us for more than just the room rate. But we can’t know, because they still haven’t sent us a bill.
I’ve been writing to them for over a week now to rectify the situation, but have so far heard nothing from them other than a message asking us to confirm when we stayed (this was just days after we had been staying there and already we were forgotten).
In conclusion, the only recommendation I can make about the Surf Lodge is its closure. As a business, its management is extremely sloppy. It has virtually no customer service and makes promises it utterly fails to deliver upon, not just figuratively either.
The rooms are inadequate for the price you pay. Just a few days prior to our stay at The Surf Lodge we had a few nights in a corner suite at the Hotel on Rivington (where the service was exemplary), with fantastic views of the city, for less than an off-season night at The Surf Lodge.
I can only urge you to avoid this hotel at all costs.
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- Also Known As:
- The Surf Hotel Montauk
- Surf Hotel Montauk