For a friend's birthday recently we decided to stay over night in the Hickstead hotel. It's quite close to where I was living in Brighton and to where she lives in London but far enough away that it would feel like we were going away without having travel for too far or too long. We really just wanted somewhere where we could get away from everything for the night. The Hickstead looked beautiful on the website and seemed like an ideal place.
Booking the room was easy enough when I finally managed to get through. I had to call a couple of times before anyone actually answered the phone but when they did the booking process was quick and easy. I had to give my debit card number, as you usually do when you book a hotel room and then a confirmation email was sent. It was all very smooth, the member of staff who took my booking was efficient although not particularly friendly and everything happened fairly quickly.
Neither my friend or I drive so we took the train to Burgess Hill station and got a taxi from there. The taxi cost £10 to get to the hotel and roughly the same to get back the next day. It's not the most conveniently located hotel but there is plenty of parking if you drive. They do have a disabled parking space but as it doesn't have space either side or behind to allow a wheelchair user to get out of the chair it's not really accessible.
My first impression of the hotel was pretty poor. The hotel itself looked nice enough and I found the décor to be very warm and inviting but the receptionist was so rude. She didn't greet us in a friendly way, she didn't make conversation, she didn't smile...she was just so rude. The check in process went smoothly and she was certainly very efficient but she left me feeling really unwelcome.
Check in time is 3pm.
I had asked for a twin room when I booked the room and when we arrived at our room we found that we had one double and one single bed. I'm not complaining, I didn't mind taking the single bed and it was nice for my friend to have a huge bed for her birthday weekend. The beds were really comfortable and the room had everything that we needed. I've never stayed in a three star hotel before so I wasn't sure exactly what we would get and how much difference there would be between three and four stars. My dad (who knows his hotels very well having worked in the industry for a long time) had assured me that the main difference was a lack of leisure club but I was worried that we would arrive to find a very basic room with no luxuries (even though the hotel wasn't cheap). Fortunately my dad was right. The rooms contained much of the same luxuries as a four star hotel. There was a television, tea and coffee making facilities, a hair dryer, trouser press...basically all of the usual things that you would expect in a hotel.
The room was clean which is always important to me. The room was free from dust, the sheets were all crisp and clean, the floor appeared to have been vacuum cleaned and the bins had been emptied. In fact the only problem with the room was the lack of air conditioning. It was a very hot day and night so we really needed the cool air but there wasn't any air con and we spent the night being very hot. It's really unfortunate because the room was so comfortable if not for the heat.
There was an en-suite bathroom which was just as clean as the bedroom. The bath was a little bit on the small side for my friend who is over 6" tall but it was perfect for me. The bathroom contained the basic things that you need, such as towels, soap and shampoo. The bathroom was a pretty decent size for an en-suite.
When we arrived in our room we decided that we would like to have dinner in the restaurant. I called reception to see if we could book a table for dinner and the receptionist actually answered with a sigh, like she was really fed up. I would have to conclude that she's either very rude or having a really bad weekend (she wasn't any better when we checked out) but either way it didn't exactly make us feel welcome in the hotel.
My friend and I decided to spend all of our time in the hotel. We had planned to do some walking before hand but found that we really just wanted to relax and do nothing. We went down to the bar for a drink but ended up feeling a bit uncomfortable. The bar was more like a living room and I found that it was very difficult to find anywhere private to sit. The bar is very small and you feel like wherever you sit people can hear your conversation. All of the seating seems to be around a television which was what made me think of the bar as being like a sitting room. I guess this is fine if you just want to watch whatever's on television but we had hoped to have the chance to sit and catch up but ended up feeling too uncomfortable to do this. The seating is comfortable which is a plus but the bar could be arranged in a better way so that people feel like they have some space and privacy. There is an outdoor seating area but it looks out over the car park so it's not the most pleasant place to sit.
Service in the bar wasn't great. There were people sitting at the bar who appeared to be friends of the barman rather than guests in the hotel and it took a while for the barman to tear himself away from his friends and serve me. When I asked what alcoholic drinks he had he seemed shocked that I didn't want anything alcoholic. When I told him that neither of us drink his response was one of disbelief. I was quite uncomfortable with how judgemental he seemed. His recommendations weren't very good, he just listed the soft drinks that they had. As it was my friends birthday we had hoped for something a bit more exciting than a coca cola and J20.
The restaurant is a lovely room. It's not particularly big but they manage to pack a lot of tables into it without it feeling over crowded or you feeling like everyone around you can hear your conversation. In fact I felt like it was very private when I was in there with my friend and felt completely comfortable talking to her even though there were a lot of people around us. The tables were spacious and the chairs were comfortable.
Our visit to the restaurant for dinner was really the highlight of our stay. It did get off to a rather shaky start when we arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by a man who seemed to be confused by our presence. We were there at the time we had booked the table and being greeted in a way that suggested we shouldn't be there made me feel quite uncomfortable. However, another man came out from the kitchen and greeted us in such a warm and welcoming manner that we soon forgot about the man who had originally greeted us. The second man took us to our table and seated us before a female member of the waiting staff came out and gave us the menu. She was wonderful. She had such a bubbly, bright personality that you couldn't help but feel better after talking to her. She was really friendly and she left both me and my friend smiling after every single interaction. I can't remember the last time that I received service that was so consistently friendly and attentive. Throughout our meal she would check on us to make sure our food was fine without being intrusive. When we had questions about the items on the menu she was able to answer them all and didn't ever make us feel stupid for not knowing things
What made our experience in the restaurant even better was that the food was amazing! The only downside with the food was that there was a very poor vegetarian selection. I started with the soup which was lovely. It was just perfectly flavoured, so much so that I didn't even have to add any salt or pepper. The bread that was served with my soup was wonderful, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. I had a moment of weakness with my main and ordered a steak. I could blame the restaurant for their poor vegetarian selection but the truth is that I love steak and it just sounded so lovely on the menu. I ordered it medium rare but it arrived well done. I mentioned this to the waitress who offered to get me another one but I decided just to eat the one I had. Although it wasn't cooked exactly to my liking it still tasted wonderful. It was very tender and had very little fat on it. It was served in a lovely sauce that just tasted so rich. I had the tiramisu for dessert and although I was surprised at how good it was. I find that outside of Italian restaurants it can be difficult to find a good tiramisu but this one was wonderful. The flavour was perfectly balanced and the texture was beautifully creamy.
We paid £60 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, olives, two coffees and two soft drinks. I thought that this was pretty good value for such a lovely meal. The service was friendly and the food was all served in a good time, not so fast that you worry but quick enough that I wasn't left hungry and didn't have to wait long between courses.
Breakfast seemed to be a much less relaxed affair that dinner. We arrived at the restaurant and the staff were all really rushed and busy. The waitress from the night before was still friendly but she seemed stressed and didn't have the time to spend with us that she had the night before. We had to wait for a short time for our table but not too long. Staff were polite and courteous throughout but too busy to provide the exceptional service that we'd become accustomed to the night before.
The breakfast was pretty unremarkable. It was a buffet and there was the usual selection of hot and cold breakfast foods. I started with a cooked breakfast and then had some pastries. The cooked breakfast was warm and tasted fresh. There was a good selection of cooked foods but again not a huge selection of vegetarian food. There was an excellent selection of different teas which impressed my friend who does love her tea. As I've said breakfast was unremarkable. It was good enough, tasted fine, had a decent enough selection and that was it.
My friend and I decided to order room service while we watched some television. We didn't order anything complicated, just a couple of drinks. The drinks arrived quickly which impressed us a lot. I know it's very simple to make a couple of hot drinks but I often find that it still takes a long time for them to actually be delivered. This wasn't the case with the Hickstead. The drinks arrived within ten minutes of us ordering them and they were still hot which is always a bonus. Unfortunately they did send us the wrong drinks. We had both ordered hot drinks with no caffeine in because it was so close to bedtime. I called down to tell them that they had sent us the wrong drinks and the corrected the problem really quickly. The man who delivered our drinks was very apologetic.
Check out was quick but like check in it wasn't a positive experience. It was the same member of staff who we had seen the day before and she still appeared to be in a terrible mood. She barely spoke to us as we checked out and what she did say was said in an abrupt manner. I asked about ordering a taxi to the station and she gave me a card for me to call them. She seemed quite put out that I'd even asked. She was very efficient though so I have no complaints there. I paid the bill and we were ready to leave within minutes of approaching the desk.
Our room cost £130 including breakfast for two people for one night.
Check out time is 11am.
I can't exactly recommend this hotel. £130 is expensive for what you get with this hotel. The bedrooms are good enough but not exactly luxury rooms. The restaurant is excellent and certainly worth paying a bit extra for and if you get a chance to have dinner there I would highly recommend it, I just think there are better hotels to stay in. Service is very mixed in this hotel with some members of staff being wonderful and attentive and others rude. This is a hotel that I would stay in again if it was the most convenient hotel but it's not somewhere I would visit for leisure again.
My first glimpse of the Hickstead Hotel was as we turned around a bend in the road leading directly to its doors. The scenery was lovely, very green with geese and trees and space, loads of space. I was there for a wedding, lesser mortals were situated ten minutes walk away, in the travelodge. I revelled in the knowledge that I had a room in the very hotel where the evening reception was being held, no hassle for me then! The first hiccup was the room. As we reached it I spotted the 'no smoking' sign on the door. My friend, a non-smoker sighed as I insisted I would not be going in, as a smoking room had been booked some months before. The receptionist merely handed me an ashtray and said it would be no problem to smoke in the room. Non-smokers beware! In this hotel a no smoking sign does not signify that a room has not been previously inhabited by a smoker. Even as a smoker I am disgusted about this. I liked the general space of the room, it was ground floor and easily accommodated my wheelchair, although opening and shutting the door whilst in it was a bit of a challenge! The bed showed clear signs of having been used by a smoker. A huge cigarette burn on the bedspread showed this. Okay so this was only a three star hotel, but I was not impressed by the shabby look of the bedding. The blanket beneath the bedspread was extremely bobbly and worn. The sheets were frankly disgusting! Grey and uninviting with curious stains, I ended up sleeping in between the bedspread and the blanket, the lesser of two evils. The Hickstead has that curious quality of eccentricity that is so english. A curious mishmash of olde worlde charm, tinges of luxury, bar furniture that looks inviting and is not in the least comfortable, staff who look smartly dressed, are courteous and pleasant, whilst at the same time showing themselves capable of gross inability to perform their tasks. After all,
I would expect a waiter to know which way around the knives and forks should be laid on the table. Is that too much to ask? Especially considering the extortionate prices they charged for inferior food. You may think that 19.95 for a 3-course evening meal is not extortionate, until you spot the 'extras' include the only decent looking starters costing an additional 2.95-3.95 (remember, they have already been paid for) and the desserts being so insipid that I felt there was only one item to choose from. When you consider that a sizeable group of us attended a meal with the groom on the eve of his wedding there, consequently bumping up their income for a Friday night, you may be as disappointed as I was to hear the waiter tell us to hurry up because he wanted to go home, and shifting us out of the restaurant into the bar about 10pm. We were neither loud, or drunk or anything other than the perfect customers, but they wanted to go home and that was that. Breakfast. I can't fault the actual breakfast served at the Hickstead. It was a veritable feast, great if you are a breakfast person, which I am not. I did however make an effort! A breakfast that is served up to 10am fits in with my lifestyle far better than most hotels offer. A wide range of cereals, honey, nuts, croissant, toast, full english breakfast, juice, coffee. Breakfast was a decent offering and nicely served by cheerful staff. On Saturday that is, on Sunday, owing to some inconsiderate so-and-so's having a wedding reception the night before in the restaurant and not leaving until the small wee hours, the restaurant was more than a little out of sorts the next morning. Sunday morning, I dither over whether or not to use my wheelchair to go to breakfast. I decide my sticks will do the job, after all, it is only a few small steps to breakfast. Hmmmm... something not right here, I can smell breakfast, but there is nothing but a sea of empty table
s before me. At first I think I have arrived too late, but a quick time check shows otherwise. I go to reception and ask where I can locate breakfast. GREAT! Upstairs. This is where I have to maintain my sense of humour, I took about 20 minutes to get up the flight of stairs, bumping into a waiter en route who suggested I complain, he could see the state I was in. Well, I made it, only to find it was self-service that morning. Great, now I had to find someone to carry over a plate of food for me. The hot plates were nearly empty but I could not wait around for reinforcements, as it hurts to stand around and I was seated a good 50 yards from the food, so I took a couple of rashers and some mushrooms and flagged down a waiter to take the plate over for me. There was no butter at the table but no waiter around to fetch some, so I had unbuttered toast. When the manager walked into the room I caught the eye of the waiter and he sent the manager over to me. I started to complain. The manager smokes a pipe, that much was clear. As he spoke to me I felt physically sick at the smell of stale tobacco which surrounded him. I was far from happy but dismissed him as soon as possible as I was in danger of losing my undigested unbuttered toast if I had to breathe one more lungful of his odour. I would have my revenge, I thought, I would write up my experience for my dooyoo pals and forewarn them. Checkout was an absolute farce.I kept looking for the cameras or Jeremy Beadle to arrive. Unfortunately this was for real. The receptionist had no idea how to check folk out and there was a queue of about 14 people waiting to make a getaway. It took almost half an hour, and then only because the odourous one had appeared to help out. All of this ennabled me to observe the vast anomalies in pricing. Whilst my single which was really a double room had cost 55.00 GBP for B & B others were paying up to 80.00 GBP for a singl
e or a double room plus 9.50 GBP for that farcical breakfast. I am sure it was only the sheer relief of getting to the end of the queue that wore down the patrons into not complaining about this. All I can say is if you do decide to stay in this hotel, make sure you get a room at the far more reasonable than advertised rate that I got. Anything more is just daylight robbery!