“ Address: Stafford Road / Lichfield / Staffs / WS13 8JB / Telephone: 0845 11 26 071 „
The Hedgehog pub (an 'Innkeeper's Lodge') is situated on the A51 going north out of Lichfield on the road to Rugeley. It is in a delightful setting, nestled amongst a small wooded area, with views out towards the south and east. The building is old, and quite large. In addition, there are extensive grounds with outdoor seating both on patios and the grass. Many tables have large umbrellas and heaters, and in the summer, there's a really nice atmosphere as the sun goes down.
Inside, the pub is well decorated and laid out. It's a bit cramped, and like so many of these pubs these days, they do try to cram in as many tables and seats as possible. Sadly, the time we visited coincided with the end of a weekend beer festival, and consequently, there seemed to be a lack of staff. We'd booked a table, though it took 15 minutes to find a member of staff to show it to us. The table was very pleasant, though tucked away in a corner which I know doesn't suit everyone.
You order everything yourself at the bar. I was disappointed to find that when I returned with my gin and tonic, they hadn't put any gin in. I went back to the bar, and to be honest, they weren't particularly interested, and it was obviously a great inconvenience for them to have to redo it.
As in all these pubs these days, the menu is extensive, from starters, to light bites, mains, pub classics, and puddings. I do sometimes wonder whether they'd do better sticking to fewer dishes and doing them really well, rather than trying to please all the customers all the time (which to me seems impossible). I had Slow Cooked Lamb with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Baby Carrots. This was delicious and very good value at only £11 or so. One disappointment, though I realise it's a personal thing, is that if they're going to serve these blessed baby carrots (which are generally tasteless), I wish they'd cut off the stalks!
Puddings were equally as good (sorry...I've forgotten what I had). There was a nice selection of puddings, and for once, they weren't all stodgy cakes and crumbles.
I think that overall, the place had a nice atmosphere (no loud music), but the staff weren't really very attentive. The food was excellent though and highly recommended. If only they'd put as much effort into their customer service as they did their food, the place would be all the better for it.
Accommodation is provided, though I can't comment on this.
As a preamble to this particular review, and I beg the indulgence of those who regularly read my hotel reviews, it should be mentioned here that this is actually the fourth review that I have published on various Innkeeper's Lodge properties. The three previous ones were all attached to Toby Carvery pubs, and have proven entirely satisfactory.
The best Innkeeper's Lodge that we ever stayed in, four years ago, was the Church Mouse located just outside Durham, this was a Vintage Inn and was the lodge that introduced us to - and sold us on - this particular lodge hotel brand.
This in itself I hope stands testament to the fact that I do not go "looking for trouble" in order to come home and write damning, or sensationalist, reviews unfairly.
Reading this review, I urge you, not to judge the whole "crop", i.e. the entire Innkeeper's Lodge chain, by this one "rotten apple" so to speak. However I do feel that it is my duty as a reviewer, hopefully of some repute, to bring you the good, the bad and the indifferent alike. I will wholesomely recommend a good hotel, that you may too, hopefully, enjoy a pleasant stay. On the other hand, if I can save you a great deal of money and one or more lost nights' sleep, then that too I will unflinchingly do.
In order to be fair, I must comment here that the subject of this review has reportedly (by Innkeeper's Lodge) been "investigated" by the management following our detailed verbal and written comments, following our one night stay in Lichfield on Wednesday 28th November 2007.
WHY DID WE BOOK THE INNKEEPER'S LODGE LICHFIELD?
November being the time of year that we go out with Company promotional calendars and literature, there are complex routes across the country to plan in order to minimise the mileage covered and maximise the number of sites visited. On this particular journey we had two 'far out' single sites - Hull and Uttoxeter to visit, followed by approximately 15 customers in the Nuneaton and Coventry areas. Covering some 670 miles, during two long working days, a planned overnight stay in the Lichfield area, should have allowed this to have been comfortably achieved.
Innkeeper's Lodge, usually our first choice of place to stay on business, very conveniently have a property just outside Litchfield - attached to a Vintage Inn, The Hedgehog.
We booked then, thanks to previous positive impressions of other Innkeeper's Lodges and with this one being in the ideal location for our purposes.
HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY
I have in previous Innkeeper's Lodge reviews commented that they are refreshingly honest with their publicity and generally tend to "undersell" their qualities - especially on the very efficient website.
In a sense that is no different, when judging appearances here at Lichfield. Although we have stayed in another, this is the first "Vintage Inn" Lodge that I have reviewed.
The site promises the guest that a warm welcome awaits.....
......that was certainly true in this case - VERY warm indeed!
BOOKING PROCESS 7 / 10
The booking process is another good reason for choosing to stay in an Innkeepers Lodge. The site is simple to navigate, quick to load, and offers all the required information and prompts in order to make a swift and correct booking every time.
Having used the site once, you can request that it remembers your details - which in future should speed up the booking process even more as you merely have to enter the required Lodge, dates required and confirm the credit card information.
On this particular occasion for whatever reason, the site did not remember us - having entered the correct username and password. I sent an email requesting help from the Innkeepers helpdesk and was impressed to receive a reply within about ten minutes. Regrettably however, it did not resolve the problem and we remain unable to Log On to their site.
The booking was however carried out within approximately two minutes, even having to enter the entire card and address details.
LOCATION 9 / 10
If, like us, your business takes you to the West Midlands, then the Lichfield Innkeeper's Lodge is within easy striking distance of Birmingham, Coventry and Tamworth, all of which are located at the very heart of the UK motorway network.
Lichfield itself is a small city of some merit, many years ago I spent a day here as a tourist, mostly admiring the superb cathedral, which is but a five minute drive away from the Lodge.
The Lodge is located 1.3 miles north of the city centre.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS 1 / 10
Our first impressions were entirely unfavourable. It was 4.50pm as we headed south on the busy A51, the main road from Stafford to Lichfield. The website booking confirmation gave us accurate directions, backed up by our own GPS system.
All well and good, except that when we arrived at our destination, the Innkeeper's Lodge was nowhere in sight. Fortunately the traffic lights at the junction of the A51 and Lichfield eastern by-pass turned red in front of us. In the dark, on the other side of the junction we spotted a pub sign, which we assumed to be The Hedgehog. There was nothing lit at all to inform us that there was an Innkeeper's Lodge here, we just had to turn in and hope for the best. To all intents and purposes, from the road, the place looked as though it was closed. Not a very warm welcome!
You approach this large pub, which looks a little like a country house, up a long (one way traffic) drive. It was pitch black, under a drizzling sky, there was no outside lighting at all, we neither knew where to park the car, nor how find the Lodge Check-In. Seeing a door into the building, which appeared dimly lit inside, we parked as close to it as possible. The door was locked!
Fortunately I was accompanying my wife, had she arrived in this dark and inhospitable place on her own it would have been a terrifying experience. The car park was dark and creepy with many shadows and corners, a stalkers paradise in fact.
We found our way around to the only open door, shared with the pub restaurant and Lodge, off to one side of the car park, down a slippery path, lit only by the dim lighting finding its way out through the windows.
CHECKING IN 5 / 10
This was not a pleasant experience. The warm welcome was as hot as toast. It was a mild (12deg.C) winter's day outside, inside there was a wood fire roaring in the fireplace - next to the unattended Check-In desk. Stepping in from the outside, the temperature inside the pub was unbearable.
Our immediate impression was one of a shortage of staff. There were two waitresses serving tables but only one barman, doubling as hotel Check-In attendant. We were ignored, left completely un-acknowledged (not a: "good afternoon, won't keep you long") for at least five minutes, rapidly toasting by the fire. Drinks were being served and we had to wait until all the thirsty drinkers were attended to before receiving any service at all.
As is usual procedure in Lodge type accommodation, my credit card was swiped - taking full payment for the room in advance, I now know why they do that - here you would never have paid them upon checking out! Asking if the place had any outside lighting, we commented on how dark and dangerous the car park was. Our "host" requested, to someone out of sight that, the lighting be turned on.
Having been asked if we had previously stayed here, we were escorted to our room.....room number 7......
...... unlucky for most I suspect.
ON THE WAY TO THE ROOM i.e. how easy is it to find your way around? How accessible is if for less able persons? What condition are the public rooms and passageways in? 4 / 10
Whilst, inside, the Lichfield Innkeeper's does not generally give the impression of being the smartest, newest or cleanest Lodge in the chain, that was not what was concerning us as we climbed the stairs and made our way down the corridor to the room. Climbing the stairs - there is no lift, disabled guests had better look elsewhere - the temperature became hotter and hotter. At the top of the stairs we were feeling giddy and overcome by heat.
I would estimate the temperature in the corridor upstairs to have been around 30deg.C, at that stage it would have been wise to have gone elsewhere, but at 5.00pm in a strange city, where are you going to find a room?
THE ROOM 3 / 10
On first sight the room looked as good as any other Innkeeper's Lodge room that we have stayed in. Tea, coffee and biscuits were provided on a small tray on the dressing table, a hair dryer within it. There was a small TV which had both terrestrial and Sky channels. Provided along with the king sized bed was a double sofa bed, this was actually a family room, although we had not requested one.
The large, high ceilinged room had the usual attractive Innkeper's Lodge décor being comfortably furnished in rich reds, yellows and blues, the solid wood furniture lending a decided quality touch.
Unusually as well as having room numbers, the bedrooms in the Lichfield Lodge also have names - Thomas Hayward in our case. On the wall adjacent to the door was a framed plaque explaining that Thomas Haywood was Dean of Lichfield Cathedral and having overseen much of the building work on the cathedral, died in 1492.
However, the sheer heat inside the room combined with all that rich red décor made you feel more like in the fiery furnace of hell than a comfortable (£65.00 per night) hotel room. A quick tour of the room confirmed that both the radiators, one being in the en-suite, were completely turned off and that the intense heat must have been soaking through the walls and floor.
Adding to the rather sinister ambiance in this particular room was the decidedly dim and rather antiquated lighting. The best of a poor lot was provided by the single bedside lamp, the four wall lights had depressing dark cream lamp shades which soaked up the light, but the piece d'resistance here was undoubtedly the single ceiling lamp. This was an opaque glass dome, so dim that it was of hardly any use at all. It was so dim because it was filthy dirty and almost full of dead insects - moths drawn here by the heat presumably.
It was quite the most depressing and disgusting light fitting that I have ever had to attempt (in this case) to sleep under.
Moving swiftly on.......
......to the broken sash window.
We thought it a little odd that the large lower section of window was propped open by a small (maybe two inch) wooden chock balanced on top of a toilet roll. Obviously someone was aware of just how unbearably hot it was in this room. Looking at the chipped and gouged state of the window sill, it rather looked as though previous guests had tried all sorts of Heath Robinson methods of propping the window open - mostly I suspect using the metal net curtain pole which hung loosely across the lower part of the window.
Now I am an engineer, of sorts, and always look for the simplest solution to any given problem, but surely at £65.00 a night one shouldn't need to resort to off-cuts of wood and toilet rolls in order to attempt to cool a non-heated room?
Incidentally in the morning, upon drawing the curtains, the unsecured cast iron net curtain pole crashed to the ground. Being heavy and fairly sharp ended, I would regard this as a health and safety hazard - especially had it fallen on a child's bare foot.
THE EN-SUITE 3 / 10
Once again on first site, this windowless en-suite bathroom looked clean and tidy. Looking more closely this was actually the least clean bathroom that we have seen in an Innkeeper's Lodge. Sitting on the toilet one could not fail to notice a botched and un-painted bare wood repair to the lower door frame either.
My main complaint here though, was that although the bathroom LOOKED ok, it failed to function at all acceptably. The water pressure was absolutely feeble; it did not matter if you used the shower or basin tap. The basin took an age to fill, whilst the trickle of water forthcoming from the shower was pathetic. As with the air temperature in the room, the water coming from the shower was far too hot - it was either too hot to use or not running at all. Any form of temperature adjustment proved impossible. Combined with the lack of water pressure, taking a shower in this room was pretty much a non-starter.
As if the plumbing woes were not enough to deter you lingering in the bathroom, the hideously noisy extractor fan (a speciality in this establishment) ensured that you could not hear yourself think. I got up twice during the night - having drunk half a bottle of mineral water in a futile attempt to cool down - and was afraid to turn the light on in order not to disturb other guests, more fortunate than we, who may have been able to sleep.
For those interested in such details, a dispenser with Dove soap was provided adjacent to the hand basin; in the shower a similar dispenser contained Lux soap.
DID WE GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP? 0 / 10
I told the duty manager in the morning, that we would have had a better nights' sleep in our car on his car park. He and Mrs R thought that I was joking. I was not!
I am sorry, but I cannot see how it would be possible to rate this section any more generously. I would be honestly surprised if we obtained one hour of un-broken sleep in room number 7 at the Lichfield Innkeeper's Lodge. I extract the following section from my email to Innkeeper's Lodge HQ:
The room barely cooled at all during the night.
Upon discussing this with the breakfast server, she actually said that there was an "over-heating" problem in this property and described the heat as "unbearable" during the summer.
It is now November and the intense heat was no more bearable.
Due to the heat problem it was not possible to close the window at any stage during the night.
1) Approximately 4ft below the open bedroom window was a very noisy kitchen extractor fan. This was left running all night - effectively preventing us from obtaining any quality sleep whatsoever.
2) Both the floorboards in the bedroom and the bed itself suffered from loud creaks. (The problem with the bed, I suspect, caused by the constant tossing and turning, all night long, of every occupant unlucky enough to have ever attempted to sleep upon it!)
3) Had I managed to get to sleep in room 7, I would have been awoken during the night by gurgling sounds of water backing up in the hand basin in the bathroom.
4) The radiator in the corridor almost opposite the bedroom door requires bleeding - throughout our stay it made a noise that could only be described as that which would have been created by a trainee typist stationed at a desk outside our room.
During the night, light streamed in from the corridor outside through a huge crack between the door and doorframe, the door fitted - and locked - very poorly. This too was very disturbing.
Indeed, I am sure that Shirley Bassey would have been quite happy giving us a turn in the spotlight beamed through the door into our bedroom.
FACILITIES ON OFFER - No score here, different grades / prices of hotel understandably have different facilities.
The facilities were standard Innkeeper's Lodge, apart from WiFi connection throughout, nothing out of the ordinary was offered here. As usual in Innkeeper's Lodge properties, complimentary provisions in the form of shaving kits, tooth brushes, sanitary towels etc are available upon request. In the en-suite was a small complimentary sewing kit.
£65.00 per night I would regard as the very top end of the spectrum for such basic facilities.
BREAKFAST / OTHER MEALS, FOOD & DRINKS 6 / 10
To be honest, tempted as we may have been by a cool salad that evening, the environment in the attractively decorated and furnished Vintage Inn below was so hot that we could not contemplate eating there.
The menu offered is a varied one, but again, by "chain pub" standards I can only comment that the prices are hardly cheap. We have previously enjoyed meals in Vinatge Inns, however I am not really qualified to comment on the quality of the food served here......
......I can guarantee that it would be served HOT though, even if not requested that way......
.......just do not order ice cream at the Hedghog - it will surely have melted between the freezer and your table.
The meal that we did have - breakfast, a standard, complimentary, continental one was adequate - no more, no less. There was a selection of cereals, bread for toasting, croissants, a choice of yoghurts, plus grapefruit - fresh fruit was also in a bowl, apples and oranges being offered.
Regrettably I was in no mood - having been awake all night, and with a full days driving, meeting and greeting ahead of me, to relax and enjoy breakfast.
OVERALL VALUE FOR MONEY 1 / 10
Well in actual fact, this room ended up costing not one penny! My complaint to the duty manager saw the immediate credit card refund of the £65.00 paid the previous evening. Whilst I thanked him for this gesture, in the spirit in which it had been offered, it really did not right the comprehensive catalogue of wrongs at this particular establishment. Nor, in a sense, did it compensate for the lack of a nights' precious sleep on our part.
In all previous Innkeeper's Lodges the value for money category simply has not been an issue. However, this is a review of this one specific Lodge. Paying £65.00 for a room in which it is impossible to sleep - or take a decent shower, has to rate as the worst value for money on any scale.
HOW LIKELY AM I / ARE WE, TO USE THIS HOTEL AGAIN?
That the cost of a room is refunded does nothing to alter the fact that such a room should never be offered to the public in the first place.
Due to all of the many issues raised in this review - of which both verbally, and in writing, Innkeeper's Lodge and the Litchfield management are fully aware - we would never dream of setting foot in the Litchfield Lodge again. Indeed, neither would we wish to slowly roast downstairs in the Hedgehog either.
If this had been our first experience of this chain of hotels, Innkeeper's Lodge would have never have been used by us - or by my company - at any time again in the future. As it is, our experiences here make us reluctant to recommend any Innkeeper's Lodge that we have not previously used.
I am indeed hoping that this is the only rotten apple in the crop and that it is not a sign that our favourite Lodge chain is on the wane.
Never have we stayed in such a room, nor at £65.00 per night would we expect to.
RICHADA'S HOTEL RATING 39 %
In order to put that score into some kind of perspective, here are my current hotel rankings - all reviewed and scored using identical criteria:
Ringhotel Friederikenhof - Lubeck - Germany - 92%
Innkeeper's Lodge, Chester Northeast - 83%
Innkeeper's Lodge, Stockport - 83 %
Innkeeper's Lodge, Hull - 81%
Preston Swallow Hotel - Samlesbury, Lancashire - 74%
Hotel Drei Schwanen - Hohenstein-Ernstthal - Germany - 72%
Hotel Viktoria, Cologne - 70%
Hotel Piast, Boleslawiec (Poland) - 64%
Chadwick Hotel, St Annes - 63 %
Innkeeper's Lodge, Lichfield - 39%
CONTACT DETAILS: (Should you REALLY want to!)
Hedgehog Vintage Inn,
Innkeeper's Lodge Lichfield,
Tel: 0845 11 26 071
FURTHER COMMENT AND UPDATE:
Had the room not been so terribly over-heated, and had we obtained an at least half decent nights' sleep in this Lodge, a lot of the other complaints here may well have passed without comment - at least to the management.
That would not though have prevented the Litchfield Innkeeper's Lodge from falling well below the normal Innkeper's Lodge standards in this 'scored' review.
Making us doubly concerned was the absence of the usual Satisfaction Questionnaire in our room, which, as a matter of course, we always fill in. Here there was no opportunity to do that. I wrote out in full all of our comments in order that "in the heat of the moment" I neither forgot any items, nor allowed myself to be diverted by any response on the part of the manager.
THE HANDLING OF OUR COMPLAINTS:
The very pleasant young duty manager at Lichfield was well trained in handling customer complaints. He kept quiet and allowed me to talk all the way through the list before handing it to him - for forwarding, he said, to the General Manager. Without hesitation or prompting he refunded the cost of the room. I told him quite honestly that I would be both contacting Inkeeper's Lodge via email the same evening, and warned him that his Lodge would be the subject of this review.
My email to Innkeeper's Lodge was sent via their contact form at around 8.15 the same evening that we checked out. As well as a full list of our concerns it also contained links to my previous three (very positive) Innkeeper's Lodge reviews published on this site and on Ciao. I also offered to forward digital photographs showing several of the issues raised.
At 9.10 the following morning, my wife was contacted by phone, the lady at Innkeeper's Lodge HQ, having read and noted our complaints, informed her that the case had been forwarded to the manager at Lichfield, it is their policy under such circumstances, to give the Lodge Manager "the opportunity to resolve the matter".
After chasing a response from Innkeeper's Lodge (for the second time) by email on Monday 7th January, finally on the Wednesday evening I received a telephone call from the Manager at the Lichfield Innkeeper's Lodge.
His apology was twofold, firstly due to the excessively long time and cajoling on my part required, in order to gain any response at all, secondly for what he admitted was a thoroughly "below par" performance by his team at Lichfield.
He had inspected the room and agreed with my comments - the listed faults have apparently now been attended to. He has also promised a full written apology.
The offer of a complimentary stay at the Litchfield Lodge was viewed with open derision on my part - we really ar not that much of gluttons for punishment!
Oh yes, there's more!
On Wednesday a full written apology arrived in the post, along with an "Invitation" from Innkeeper's Lodge to; "Please enjoy a 1 x Night Stay with our compliments" Importantly, having turned down such an offer exclusively at the Lichfield Lodge, this voucher is valid at almost all of their properties.
The apology is fulsome and thanking me for my detailed complaint and reporting that the issues that I raised have been acted upon. I still have to say that we are disinclined to return to the Lichfield Lodge in order to find out!
Belatedly, I now have to lay this whole sorry experience to rest. It just remains such a pity that Innkeeper's Lodge's previously untarnished reputation, in our view, has been so severely dented in our eyes.
Indeed they have lost business through this already, as rather than automatically booking Innkeeper's Lodge by default, we have sought internet bargains on alternative hotels in locations where we have previously used fully satisfactory Lodges.
© Richada - April 2008.