St Giles Hotel, Norwich – UK

PlungerI worked for this client some time ago and due to my “unique style” I was asked back to help them again.  How could I refuse?  Most of this work was based in London however there was one week when I was based in sunny Norwich.

I asked a few people I was working with where to stay – Norwich is a bit of a strange place when it comes to hotels; they have very few known names.  The Hilton at the airport was sold some time ago and is now a Holiday Inn Express and aside from a Marriott in the countryside, no other major brands have a presence here.  I was told that I “simply had to” stay in St Giles House by a colleague and as I didn’t know any better I did as I was told.

The hotel is very central for Norwich – it is literally in the heart of the centre of Norwich with many restaurants and bars within easy walking distance.  I had taken the wrong way and was struggling in the heat (yes, there was one day of summer…) when I found the St Giles House hotel.  It looked fairly nice although for reasons that I am not quite sure of, the entrance hall reminded me of a church.

The small reception was situated directly in front of me when I entered.  I approached and realised that nobody was around to help me.  I looked for a bell (or even a person at the bar) to no avail.  After about 5 minutes (which felt like an hour) a man appeared and looked shocked to see me.  He shouted that he would find someone to help me and sure enough a few minutes later, the receptionist arrived.

St Giles House is a ‘boutique’ hotel.  I think the word ‘Boutique’ is subjective and can mean different things to different people; to me it generally means that things are less professional, but cost more than I would like.  This was demonstrated repeatedly throughout my stay here.

I informed the receptionist of my name and while she looked for my reservation she asked only one question; had I stayed at St Giles House before?  Replying in the negative I expected some form of welcome, however this never came.  We spent a moment in silence while she located me and then I was asked if I would like a paper (which I was later charged for). I was never really welcomed to the hotel which felt a bit odd to me.  My credit card number was checked with what I had provided when booking (although I don’t think any swipe or pre auth was taken) and I had my (enormous and real) room key in my hand.

I took the lift to the 4th floor and only once I had left did I realise that I had entered the lift on the 2nd – I am not that lazy really.

The room here was traditional – wardrobes, real hangers, small fridge that is mini-bar and tiny TV in corner.  The bathroom was huge although it only contained a shower, sink and toilet; still what else do I need?

I kicked my shoes off and took my laptop out and connected to the WiFi… or at least I tried to.  To cut a long story short, you need to connect downstairs in the bar to the main ‘St Giles’ network which will then follow you as you move around the hotel.

I went out for dinner and upon my return, went to bed.  I woke up around 3:30am and the smell of blocked drains was overwhelming.  I thought I was going to be sick.  I opened a window and put the fan on and the smell soon disappeared and I went back to sleep.  Naturally I explained to the receptionist what had happened and she assured me that someone would fix it.

Breakfast here had potential.  There was the regular selection of cereals and a croissant or two on the continental side which was fairly standard although the milk for the cereal was not cold.  There was also a cooked breakfast option which included bacon, eggs etc.  I opted for some toast as I was in a simple place.  I was presented with several slices of wholegrain bread that was thicker than the goats skin I had to endure in Lagos recently.  I was not impressed.

I left for the day and upon my return went to my room to find the windows open and the bathroom fan on.  I switched it off and went to the bar for a beer and then went up to fetch my laptop.  You guessed it – the smell was, once again overwhelming.  I went back to reception, moaned a bit and moved two rooms to the right.

After a rather unpleasant dinner at Bella Italia I once again returned to the hotel to find my room smelly.  I had eventually lost my patience.  I explained to the [same] receptionist that I was deeply unhappy.  She followed me to the room where she proceeded to explain that sometimes the water ‘gets trapped’ and the smell comes up through the shower.  She spent around 2 minutes fixing the issue and sure enough after a few moments, the foul odour began to disperse.  Why this issue had not been rectified before my arrival I cannot understand.  There is simply no excuse it.  I was offered no apology whatsoever – clearly a bottle of wine for my inconvenience was not even considered.

The bar here is also the dining room and doesn’t have much going for it other than the draught Peroni.  There was a fair selection of wines available by the glass although my choice of red (something Spanish that I cant remember) wasn’t worth anything like the £5.00 price.  During my three nights here I saw only one person having a meal; the prices were high and the food seemed a bit…posh?  It felt as if the hotel was trying too hard to offer something amazing but couldn’t quite live up to the challenge.  There was a restaurant just down the street called Paolo’s which looked great and was busy each night I passed it – I only wish I had managed to try it.

There was a couple at reception checking out as I attempted to leave and due to the limited space (and lonesome staff member) I had to wait until I could pay the bill.  The standard room rate here is around £120 a night, however I stayed on a corporate rate of £85.  During my last trip to Norwich I stayed at the Stracey hotel for £60 a night which offered better value.  I don’t know when I will be in Norwich again, however I do know that I won’t stay at the St Giles again.  Just like I said – high rates and poor service is what’s on offer here.  Oh – they also do weddings…

St Giles Hotel, 41 – 45 St Giles Street, Norwich, UK, NR2 1JR.  Website.

41-45 St Giles Street

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