Well where do I start?
This is a privately owned hotel part of a small group of two - the other being the Icon in Luton where I have previously stayed not long after it opened and was very impressed, meeting the then owners.
They have obviously acquired the Aubrey Park and have really tried to modernise it and bring the modern twists you find at the Icon.
However, first impressions when you drive up are the annex buildings which remind you of Crossroads Motel (the 70's TV series), including an awful looking mobile classroom building with a banner sign on it saying "National Construction" I am not sure what the hotel was previously - a conference/training centre maybe?
Once inside you can see that the owners have made significant investment and general decor of the public areas is very good - the restaurant looked very impressive to rival a modern city centre establishment.
The check in experience was not good - I queued behind 6 or 7 other corporate travellers, with two reception staff, who despite being very polite were not very swift at check-in given the queue. I did enquire about a room upgrade and was assured I had a very nice room on the first floor. After what seemed a quarter of mile walk up and down corridors the room was located at the far end of the hotel in one f the room annexes which reminded me very much of university halls of residence and actually on an upper ground floor.
The room size was similar to that of university - only just squeezing in a double bed, with an ensuite that you had to contort yourself between the toilet and the shower - no bath which I would have liked - but the icon only had rooms with showers if I remember.
Despite this, the standard of the decor and fitting was excellent, modern toilet fittings, nice soft furnishings, contemporary decoration and colour schemes. The owners have really tried on this.
Now, the next experience was the restaurant, that evening being managed by a French Maitre'd. Now I wouldn't say he was rude, but very reminiscent of a typical Parisian waiter - professional but with an air of indifference that you had dared to grace his establishment! This was not the Left Bank - a corporate hotel in Hertfordshire full of business with fat corporate expense accounts to spend - so some warm customer service may have encouraged greater spend!
I do though have to compliment the executive chef - he or she knows their trade - their sourcing of excellent produce was also replicated at breakfast. Dinner was well cooked and nothing let it down except the Maitre'd.
My final piece of constructive advice is to ensure that the bar and restaurant postings are correct even if your company is settling the bill. I am not accusing anyone of bumping up the bill knowing it was just being signed and the corporate picking up the tab; but I knew I only spent around £25 and was billed for over £40. This was challenged on check out and sorted after I had to go through every line item - again the Maitre'd did the posting - so management, please look at some staff training here!
Check out was as painful as check-in with queues of execs - again a bit of staff training here from some of the large hotel groups would help in ensuring swiftness of check-in/out experience.
Difficult to recommend, as not many hotels in vicinity and obviously plenty of businesses giving them trade. As long as you understand the limitations, the price wasn't too bad. Hopefully the proprietors will pick up on the feedback to improve as it does have the makings of a potentially good hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Independent hotel, hidden in the village of Redbourn, St Albans Just in between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead you'll find our quiet woodland backdrop with acres of rolling English countryside sets the scene for well and truly relaxing stay...whether you're on business or just taking a break. And whilst our heritage stretches back to 1287, you'll find a fresh, contemporary design, including our light and airy Brasserie restaurant - serving fresh, seasonal food every day. We're proud to be independent -providing that special touch for all our guests, whatever your needs be. We're here to make your stay a memorable one. Enter our VIP experience for two competition! In autumn 2016 we will be launching our brand new weddings and conference venue, to celebrate we've got a VIP experience for two competition! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ramada Hemel Hempstead / St Albans Hotel Hemel Hempstead
- Hemel Hempstead Ramada
- Ramada Saint Albans
- Saint Albans Ramada