Looking for a break in the South West? Let us take you on a tour of Bristol’s most central Doubletree by Hilton.
Bristol is Doubletree central, there are three within the Bristol boundary alone. Another just outside of Bristol at Cadbury House and just a couple of junctions up in Swindon. Add in a mix of Garden Inn and Hampton you’ve got yourself the mattress runners haven – outside of London.
The Hilton used to be a Ramada, and is a fairly stark looking building but with a nice view over St Mary Redcliffe Church to soften the blow. They’ve made some renovations since then; think grey. There is on site parking, and on this quiet Sunday night there was a huge choice. Parking will be charged at £15 per night and is controlled by a number plate recognition system on reception – it is no longer free for Diamond Honors guests. I think the charge is pretty reasonable for a city centre location.
A little oddity here is that reception is located on the 1st floor, or R as they have dubbed it. I am not really sure why this is. It’s certainly not for the view as the reception and bar are completely windowless. There is a nice light ball chandelier and key type sculpture on the wall as you go up the staircase to make the most of the area though. The reception desk area has a good ambiance with a brown leather and marble vibe. Moving through into the bar area, the lack of windows and low ceiling does make it feel a little claustrophobic but, again, they have made the most of the area with some nice soft furnishings, including booths complete with power – ideal for working.
The welcome at reception was less than warm, there must be a Doubletree ‘kill their enthusiasm’ school somewhere in the UK, and no thank you for your loyalty, that I’d been upgraded or not, or even a real hello. I had not been upgraded – even though their top level is a ‘king deluxe’, there are no suites in this hotel, but they did provide drinks vouchers for 2. WIFI was free, as per the Honors benefits, and accessed via a code in the key card pouch. The signal was strong, and speeds pretty good throughout the hotel.
Up to the room, and it’s clear that the hotel is a little dated. The corridors are grey, dark and poorly lit – but not in the uber-cool Shoreditch way and the carpet has chemical stains. It’s not a great impression as you walk to the room. Once inside the room, I had a King, things improve a little in terms of decor.
Talking of little, that’s what these rooms are. I was surprised just how compact everything was. The bathroom was on the left hand side, with a small wardrobe with safe/hairdryer/ironing board inside on the right, and has a bath over shower set up. The tub itself is very small, and whilst the rain shower head looks lovely is too low for me at 6ft 3 to get my head under and stand up. The glass screen also suffered from having an old seal and let water onto the floor. The soap dish was hanging from the wall, the extractor fan full of dust and the overflow on the bath completely scaled and mouldy. Some attention to housekeeping is required here. The rest of the bathroom was pleasant, with a nice marble countertop, mixer tap and full set of Crabtree & Eyelyn toiletries. There is a large mirror, and also a separate magnifying mirror. The towels were of excellent quality and still fluffy.
Moving back into the room, the king bed took up the majority of space. The linen on this was excellent, but the bed itself was very hard and felt like two singles zipped together. Pillows were of good quality and still plenty of puff left in them. Each side of the bed was a lamp with reading light inbuilt, a standard power socket each side of the bed also gets a thumbs up – but there aren’t any USB charging points in the room. A classic Hilton alarm clock with radio built in was on one side and the other a telephone.
In front of the bed was a desk, plenty of space for working, with a funky lamp. In the cupboard of the desk there is a tea tray with Twinings herbal tea, Tetley regular tea and Kenco instant coffee. There wasn’t a fridge, also missing biscuits. Everyone loves a free biscuit, why are they disappearing?
Above the desk was the Panasonic flatscreen TV. This wasn’t working when I arrived but a power on and off made it work – with all your standard Freeview channels but no hotel information. Next to the desk was a table which had a Nespresso (nice touch) machine and a sachet of hot chocolate (yay!). Also on the table were the Honors two bottles of water, these again were the mini Harrogate spa ones. In a world of reducing plastic usage I can’t see how these are a thing, c’mon Hilton managers lets install some water fountains and give a refillable bottle to guests, Schipol Airport are leading the way here.
The window, complete with blackout curtains, provided a great view of the church. Despite being double-glazed the window did let quite a bit of noise in, sirens and traffic noise throughout the night. In the window recess there was a chaise lounge, but a little small to be fed grapes upon.
I then decided to take advantage of the 500 additional points for dining in the restaurant. The restaurant (Kiln) is located at the back of reception. This is a really unexpected and impressive space – a circular room with huge ceiling. Large windows flood in light to the area, and are complimented by hanging modern chandeliers and a mixture of tables and booths – again in a brown leather.
The restaurant wasn’t serving a full menu today, but instead you could order from the bar menu. This was comprehensive enough for me, with a range of grill and bistro items. I had a chicken breast cajun style and a cheesecake, they also give you a free bread roll and butter – something totally retro but welcome. I had a pint of local Pale Ale too, I really appreciate when chain hotels attempt to offer some more local produce – it’s so easy for them to offer your usual Stella and Fosters.
The food was of good quality and brought quickly. It wasn’t quite up to the standard of the Doubletree Oxford Belfry last week, but it wasn’t the full menu so an unfair comparison. There were only two other diners in the restaurant during our meal, probably due to the huge number of excellent restaurants in Bristol city centre.
I returned to the room about 8pm and realised I had used a bottle of shower gel and required another, so tried to use the phone to call down to ask. It took around 3 different shortcuts but eventually spoke to a member of staff who informed me one would be brought to me ‘once they had finished doing something else’. A rather odd comment considering all the signs in the room asking for me to tell them if they could ‘make it right’.
After an excellent nights sleep, the air conditioning kept the room consistently cool without being too noisy, I returned to Kiln for the Diamond inclusive breakfast. You’ll all rejoice in the fact that today they had mini muffins on offer, in addition to the standard Doubletree items. I also ordered two poached eggs, which were of excellent quality and brought to the table quickly. They also had a bean to cup coffee machine and a good range of teas.
After a good fill of eggs and crumpets I returned to the room to check out. I checked out using reception as I had the 500 additional points, again no greeting until I initiated one and then a total lack of communication other than ‘that’s all done, I’ve emailed you your receipt’. A friendly welcome and goodbye should be in every brand of hotel, from Hampton right up to Conrad/WA.
Is this the best option for Hilton in the South West? We’ll be putting more through their paces over the coming weeks, but I really hope not!