We dropped the ball in our Hilton Garden Inn, Abingdon review and stated there was only two Hiltons in the OX postcode, but as Sam Chris told us, there is another. We checked in to the Oxford Belfry and checked it out.
The Oxford Belfry should actually be called the Thame Belfry, if we are being geographically picky. That said it is pretty well connected being just off the M40 and great if you are going to nearby towns such as Stadhampton, Abingdon or around 20minutes drive to the centre of Oxford. As a result this is another Doubletree being heavily used by coach parties.
There is a large car park, free of charge and no parking control, and behind a large 1990’s style hotel building. A rather uninspiring entrance, including a manual revolving door leads into a recently refreshed reception area. They have jumped onto the Scandi bandwagon here where heavy herringbone textures are mixed in with bright yellows and blue.
The uninspiring exterior was mirrored with the welcome provided by check in. After a ‘Hi’ and a ‘fill in this form’ all in the same breath ‘there are no upgrades today but I have two bottles of water’ I had a keycard for my room and was told to follow the signs. No drinks vouchers like the Cambridge Belfry, or just about every Doubletree I’ve stayed in, nor was there any welcome amenity. I did ask to book a table for 7pm in the restaurant which was met with confirmation. Oddly enough, in spite of this welcome, someone had gone to the trouble of hand writing an Hilton ‘thanks for staying’ card for Diamond members.
Two minature bottles of water, the dog and an overnight bag I attempted to find the room. I use the word attempted as this is a maze of a hotel with the added issue of very poor and mixed media signage. The corridors and stairwells have not been refreshed in the same style as reception and are pretty depressing places to be – a horrible rug hangs unevenly from the wall above one staircase.
My room was around a 5minute walk from reception, and it was actually a really pleasing surprise once inside. The room had been refurbished to match the style of reception, and was large and bright. A note should be taken that this is another Doubletree that does not have air conditioning but, unlike the Cambridge Belfry, there were two large windows that open fully. There was also a large desk fan located in one of the cupboards.
As you enter there is a tiled area with a wardrobe (including a great nook where the dog slept in her bed), a space where the mini bar should be (now an empty cupboard) and a refreshment tray above – good quality instant coffee and Twinings tea are furnished on the almost standard Doubletree offering. Biscuit lovers will flick through disappointed, no shortbread here sorry.
Inside the wardrobe there was a decent iron with board and hairdryer, but you won’t be munching on shortbread in a robe here – none present, and a safe. Opposite the wardrobe is the large and well appointed shower-room, there isn’t a tub in the King category of room – which suits me well. Instead you have a great rain shower and detachable head set up, with the controls just at the entrance so you don’t have to get a wet arm when turning on. Sitting on the trendy sink unit are there usual Crabtree & Evelyn amenities (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion) including a bar of soap. Above this is a large illuminated mirror with a separate illuminated magnifying mirror. A heated towel rail with decent quality towels (bath, hand and wash cloths) complete the washing facilities.
As you come back out of the bathroom and into the main room there was a large full length mirror with two options for power point locations, so straightening and blow drying should be a breeze here. Next to this is a console table with a large Samsung flatscreen TV – with a fast and easy to use interface including full Freeview TV channel guide. Moving towards the window there was a large work desk, on a bias, with comfortable yellow chair and reading lamp. Just next to this is a comfortable armchair in a blue herringbone check, which was really supportive and comfortable.
The king bed was comfortable and large, but the linen felt hard and did have some loose threads around the edges. Each side of the bed is a reading light, a fitted lamp, a power point with USB charging and on one side an alarm clock which doubles as a bluetooth speaker. The doubletree pen and pad also sit next to the wired telephone, complete with the expected exorbitant international charges. You’ll be glad to know that the WIFI was free to all and a decent speed, and great coverage – not expected given the winding layout of the hotel.
The view was really nice, a view of the tennis courts which lead onto some Oxfordshire countryside. There was also a flat area of grass which was excellent for taking the dog out for a run on and easily accessed through a staircase next to the room.
After filming and photographing, I decided to take advantage of the on-premises swimming pool and spa area due to the inclement weather. The pool area is a little dated, but everything was clean. I think labelling it as spa is a little too far in my opinion, as it is a just a pool with sauna/steam off the side and a shower. The ice chute was in-operable at the time. You’ll also be disappointed if you search for a Jacuzzi, there isn’t one. There is also a small gym/weights area should you be into such activities.
After a swim I ventured down into the bar for a drink before dinner. The bar was pretty busy with those from the coach tour, who were waiting for their buffet dinner to open. A very friendly bar tender poured me a welcome glass of Camden Town Hells Lager in a chilled glass, a big plus for this being stocked and served correctly. It was the same price as I pay in central London, but we are captive in a hotel so it is expected.
At 7pm I made my way to the restaurant, which is actually pretty sizeable with the buffet at the far end. They seat regular diners at the entrance near reception which is a windowless affair, but still manages a nice ambiance due to the painted wood panelling and decent lighting. The staff did not have any record of my reservation but were very welcoming and courteous. The menu was a bistro/grill style with a good number of tempting options – I had already decided on the New York cheesecake before venturing onto the mains.
I ordered a jerk spiced chicken burger, with a selection of breads to start, and a glass of Malbec (250ml at £8). The breads – sourdough and flatbread – were warm and excellent, served with pesto oil and garlic butter. The burger was moist and tasty, served with excellent fries. The service was attentive and friendly, right up until the end where I had to visit the welcome desk to pay.
After a warm but adequate nights sleep I showered and made my way to breakfast. This is served in the same restaurant, with the same location as I had dinner in reserved for Honors guests. The well stocked buffet is also supplemented by eggs (omelette, poached) and upcharge items (waffles, eggs benedict, etc) served to the table. I ordered two poached eggs and these were delivered perfectly cooked to the table in a few minutes. In addition to the usual Doubletree buffet items there is also mineral water and a pancake machine. [Un]Fortunately they didn’t have any mini muffins on this occasion.
After breakfast I made the journey back to the room, packed the dog up and checked out. The story doesn’t quite end there though, as when I received my email invoice there was a line charge of £20 labelled as ‘MISC REVENUE’.
I called on the Monday after the Saturday stay to enquire what this was. I called the hotel and was told, sternly, it was for the pet charge. I questioned this as it doesn’t state the charge on the Hilton website in the usual section, when I swiped the ‘Travelling with a pet’ option on the app it didn’t state the charge (unlike Hilton Bournemouth, Doubletree Southampton) and on the hotels own website – I just can’t find it documented anywhere. She stated I was told at reception – not true – and it ‘was clearly marked to the best of her knowledge on the website’. I asked her to point me in the direction of this and she simply replied ‘it’s hotel policy’. Her next comment was ‘what do you want me to do about it?’. I asked politely for the charge to be removed, and was met with a huff and a comment about how long it would take. I have since contacted the Diamond Desk at Hilton to ask them to ensure the charges are clearly stated on the website. I don’t mind paying for services, but I cannot stand hidden or sneaky charges.
I’ll leave you to decide whether you want to stay at this average hotel, in an average location with some patchy service. Personally I’ll be leaving them with their coach parties – that’s the type of client they seem to pander to.