Of course, the first room didn’t work out, and we soon found ourselves back at the bar, where we’d been instructed to wait while check in struggled with the arduous task of assigning us one of the 78 unoccupied rooms for the night. It was then, as we were drinking an underwhelming Hix Mix cocktail, that a charming member of bar staff asked if we wanted to eat – and then, whether we preferred the bar or the restaurant. She ran down to the restaurant and came back with the news that there was a free table in five minutes. It was 8.45pm. Score! We ran upstairs to dump our stuff, and came down five minutes later…
At which point we were informed there was no longer a table at the restaurant, and would we like, instead, to eat the restaurant menu at the bar. Welcome to Belgraves, where trying to get a meal is like walking into a Kafka novel.
We tried squatting on a horse hair poof, hidden from the main bar round the side of the counter – the only bar seat left – but by that point, we were over it. Back to the room for room service, where we only had to tell the person on the other end of the phone our order three times before they understood it (had anyone actually showed staff the menu beforehand?).
Room service promised to be up in 25 minutes. In under 20 (score!) there was a knock at the door. “Come in!” we said, shivering on the bed (by that time we’d realised the heating wasn’t up to scratch.) “Um, we don’t actually have keys, can you let us in?” came the reply.
We opened the door to one uniformed man bearing a tray, and another man in a suit. Both piled in, not explaining who they were. Being a single woman alone in a hotel room, our minds immediately thought the worst was about to happen.
But hurrah! We were not murdered. As the uniformed one put down the tray, the non-uniformed one explained that he was there to show the uniformed one how to prepare the pici pasta with duck ragu that we had ordered. The preparation consisted of scooping the pasta from a steel pan into a bowl and sprinkling some duck crackling on it – tricky stuff. As he grated some parmesan on top, we asked whether this dish would always require double delivery. Oh no, said the non-uniformed man, I’m here now because he hasn’t done it before.
The pici were excellent, but, by the time the men had done their stuff, luke warm. We snaffled them down, but with the wind chill coming in through the window, they were cold when we finished them. As was the sticky toffee pudding, because both dishes had been delivered without covers. Fail.
There is, however, an upside to this tale of woe. The next morning, over breakfast in the restaurant (we were allowed in! Praise be!) our server asked how our stay was. We told him. He seemed shocked, and asked for our email so he could investigate what had happened with the restaurant debacle. He said not only should the restaurant have found room for us because it hadn’t been full the previous night, but that they wanted it to be a place where you can walk in off the street. Turns out he was the Assistant Manager of Hix. Two days later, he emailed to say that there had appeared to be some “confusion” over when we’d wanted to eat, which he was investigating, that the lukewarm food was “unacceptable” and that he was refunding our bill.
The same thing happened at check out – we were asked how our stay was and, salty from error after error, told them exactly how it was. A manager was called who seemed disturbed by our reportage, agreed that some rooms are too cold (apparently it depends which way they face) and offered us another night on the house. According to her, we’d had “too many muffins” – Thompson speak for problems. Because one muffin is dealable with, but five in one night will make you miserable. (Actually, we’re pretty sure a tray of muffins can only ever be a good thing but still.) This morning our voucher arrived with a personal letter of apology from the GM. (Interestingly, it was numbered 002 – does that mean someone else had problems on opening night?)
So there you have it – Belgraves fed us an entire batch of muffins over the course of the evening, but, crucially, management appears to be open to constructive criticism and to want to put things right. Why didn’t they iron out the kinks before opening? Who knows. We just hope they turn things around, and quick.