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Down but not out
Down Hall Country House Hotel (Hatfield Heath)
Member Name: Cat19
Down Hall Country House Hotel (Hatfield Heath)
Date: 22/07/09, updated on 22/07/09 (62 review reads)
Advantages: Good restaurant, pleasant staff
Disadvantages: Decor starting to look a little tired, no air conditioning
Down Hall Country House Hotel is situated in Hatfield Heath in Hertfordshire. I have stayed here on three occasions, most recently last month to celebrate my wedding anniversary. The time before that was three years ago when I spent my final night in the UK here before moving to Bermuda for two years.
Reservation and prices~~~
I did not see any discount rates available through the intermediaries I sometimes use, like laterooms.com, so I booked directly with the hotel via their website about six weeks in advance. Or at least I thought I did. A couple of days before our anniversary, I could not find a confirmation of booking and realised that I did not remember seeing one ever. I called the hotel and they had no trace of me, they told me they had room but the dinner, bed and breakfast rate for two was now £215 whereas I had (thought I had) booked £188 on the website. Fortunately, the hotel agreed I could have the £188 rate if I prepaid. As we were going the next day anyway, this seemed fair enough. I think the booking mistake was mine, although I don't know how it happened.
The hotel is easy to find and well signposted from Hatfield Heath village. It was raining the day I arrived and I found the car park a little bit of a trek and over very uneven ground so my shoes and bottom of my trousers were wet through. In fine weather I would not have been grumbling, but they really could do with sorting the path out.
The reception is quite small and there were a few guests milling around, but I was checked in soon enough and directed to my room on the second floor. I took the lift up, it was very rickety and took forever to go two floors; I was too scared to use it again. Nice quirky lift though, all four walls were covered ceiling to floor with false book panels.
The room was a generous size and furnished in a traditional style and shades of burgundy, quite in keeping with a country house hotel. But three years since my previous visit and I did notice the decor and some furnishings were starting to look worn. I also thought the room was a touch warm, but there is no air conditioning and the windows do not open. I am not sure I would like to stay here in summer, the desk fan I found in a cupboard would probably not be adequate.
As well as a king size bed, the room was equipped with two armchairs, a coffee table, desk, storage and there was a pull out unit containing a kettle and provisions of tea, coffee and biscuits. The TV was very out of date, it was enclosed in an old fashioned wooden cabinet and the screen was very small. We did not switch it on during our visit, so I don't know channels were on offer or whether there was decent reception. The bathroom was reasonably modern and quite large too, it had double sinks, shower over bath and was in a cream marble.
After I had a quick look round, I sat down on the bed and found it to be very soft and lumpy. I am quite particular about the type of mattress I use and knew I would be in for a sleepless night on this bed, so I decided to call reception and ask to move. Within about ten minutes, the duty manager came to my room and offered to show me another a few doors away. This room was much larger than the already generous size room I had been allocated, but the bed was a queen not a king. It was also very low and when I sat on it, it was that soft my bum practically hit the floor. I quickly declined this room and the manager called down to see what else was available, there were two more options thereby. I tried the next room but it was just like the one before it so I did not have much hope for the final room. But I was in luck. The room was not only one of the larger rooms, but it had a nice firm king size bed and an additional sofa. I collected my bags, moved in and then went to collect my husband who had been working that day from the train station.
Eating and drinking~~~
There are two restaurants to choose from, the Grill Room and Ibbetsons. Ibbetsons is the more formal of the two, although I thought the Grill Room looked very smart as well but there is a notable difference in price. For a more casual experience, food is also served in the lounge bar and on the patio. We had booked a table in Ibbetsons, but as we had a couple of hours to kill we decided to order a bottle of wine on room service first. It was brought to our room within a couple of minutes.
At 8pm we went down for dinner, the dining room is open to non residents as well but was very quiet when we arrived, in fact there was only one other table taken (by an ex Eastenders star). Over the course of the evening, a few more couples came and went as did a group of about five or six. We had booked into the hotel on a dinner, bed and breakfast rate which enabled us to select three courses from the a la carte menu, just drunks being extra. I selected Thai fishcakes to start followed by a beef main dish whilst my husband opted for duck liver pate and pork. We were additionally served two pre-starters, always a nice touch. I thought the quality of food was excellent and portion sizes very manageable so we even a sneaky dessert. After the meal we decided to take a digestif in the comfy lounge just outside the dining area and this was complimentary as we had a little bit of a too long wait for our dessert.
Breakfast was also included in our rate, this is served in the other restaurant The Grill Room. The usual hotel hot and cold buffet is provided and just the tea and coffee made to order. As hot buffets go, I thought this one was good quality, there can be a tendency for food to dry out and look rather unappetising with these things, but not here, the breakfast was delicious.
Down Hall Country House is officially a four star property and as such, I thought the dinner, bed and breakfast rate of £188 represented good value for money. Indeed the food alone would have been £40 a head had we just gone to the restaurant. I would certainly be happy to go here again on this rate.
We were pleased with most aspects of our stay. In particular I thought management were very helpful and patient when I wished to change rooms. Additionally, after we returned home, we discovered that I had left some property behind in the room, we thought reception staff could have been more helpful, but the duty manager located our items within minutes and I was reunited with my hair straighteners shortly afterwards. Phew..
Summary: A country house hotel in Hertfordshire
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