Maids Head Hotel Norwich
My brother and his family had just moved over to Norfolk and invited us over before they had actually sorted their new house out, so we were left with only one thing to do. We had to book into a hotel for the night (Luckily he paid half as it was his fault for not telling us!). We were not disappointed, though, as Norwich is a very pleasant and boasts to be a perfect place for some historical sight-seeing (From my brothers pocket of course!)
The Maids Head Hotel is a 13th century building in the heart of the city, directly opposite the famous Norman Cathedral.
On first view of the hotel, though, it did not give me much of a historical view and on entry it seemed rather shabby compared to the descriptions we had read online.
As we walked into the reception, we were greeted with a pleasant and welcoming young lady who was extremely helpful and we felt very welcome and comfortable.
All the Rooms are furnished in a welcoming manner and have an old fashioned, yet comfortable feel to them. They are ensuite and offer facilities including: television, hairdryer and trouser press. The décor was slightly dated, though I am not sure whether this was to keep in with the old feel of the whole hotel or whether it was simply in need of decoration!
The rooms can only be described like ones you find in cheep travel inns, if not smaller (at least ours was). To be fair, though, the rooms were clean and tidy except for a small stain by the window, and the cups were washed well, yet there were no teabags or coffee granules for the following morning. We did mention this to a member of staff who informed us that there was a shortage at the time, though she would do her best to replenish our supply. We never saw any teabags or coffee, yet we were given some sugar granules...I assume that the member of staff believed that a hot cup of water and sugar alone was a perfect wake up drink!
The bathroom was absolutely fine, though. It had the basics like a bath and shower and it was clean with running hot water and plenty of towels and soap.
The following morning we were woken abruptly by the morning newspaper, (which we did not ask for) being thrown roughly against our door, frightening the life out of me! If we had wanted a rude wake up call, we would have asked for a morning telephone alarm!
Perhaps the saying that you get what you pay for is true, as we had one of the more inexpensive rooms, yet I still felt that good money was paid and the service should be a much higher standard no matter what expense of room you stay in.
*****The Bar and Resturant*****
The Maids Head bar is one of the oldest bars in Norwich and gives a brilliant atmosphere and a fast and efficient service, although it was not at all busy when we stopped there so I can not comment upon their busy times. We were able to relax in the lovely comfortable lounge without interruption, which was a lovely welcome.
The Courtyard Restaurant is presented well, if not slightly cramped in its busy times. We were shown to our seats and decided to select a meal from the main menu.
The menu was not as vast as what I have seen in other hotel restaurants, though we were extremely hungry and so decided to stay rather than visit a restaurant in town (which we later found out would have been a much better deal and all were in a short walking distance).
Luckily there were no big functions on at the time that we were there, though even so, the service was slightly slow and we had to wait near half an hour before a waitress came to take our order. The service was also not given with a smile and we had to prompt the young girl many times, asking whether vegetables were served with the meal (which we later found out they were not and they were extra in cost!), or whether we were able to have potatoes or chips...the usual that a waitress should ask you, not the other way round.
Finally the meal arrived and it was edible, yet slightly lukewarm. The atmosphere was a plus which was the biggest plus to the dinner, yet I was slightly disappointed with the meal. My husband's meal was slightly warmer and he seemed to enjoy it, so it could perhaps have been a one of bad meal. I have to admit that I ignored my husband when he told me to send it back to be warmed up so I can not say whether the staff would have been helpful with that aspect or not.
The following morning we went down for breakfast, which was not without incident. They seemed to have run out of everything we wanted and when we were finally served our toast and jam, it was bone cold. To top it off, we were given a tiny pot of tea to share between two people. When we asked for another pot, we were quickly told that one pot was enough for two people and we would have to pay a silly price for another small pot. Sad to say, we rushed our 'breakfast' and quickly went to our room to pack.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 9:30am and offers a full English for £12.50, Breakfast Buffet for £9.50
Lunch is served from 12pm to 2pm , at a minimum cost of £6.95
Dinner is served from 6pm to 9.30pm with a minimum cost of £17.50
Although I did not have any reason to enter into the meeting rooms, I thought I would mention them as they are of great importance to this hotel, although when I peeked into one of the rooms (as you do!) it looked well spaced out and well presented. Luckily there was no one in there at the time of peeking!!
There are 6 meeting/function rooms of different shapes and sizes, ranging up to a capacity of 200 people. They boast to provide excellent services for any type of function, especially weddings as the hotel holds a civil ceremony wedding license.
The rooms are available from Monday to Sunday and range from £22 for 4 hours to £135 for 24 hours, which is a really great price compared to many other places I have looked into. Also I believe that they offer discounts at weekends, but I would suggest checking on this before you book.
*****Leaving the Hotel*****
I have to admit, I was happy to leave the hotel and return to my brothers house the following day. We were given great instructions of how to get out of the city and on our way to our destination, yet I felt that perhaps they just wanted to get rid of us!
We also found out that the hotel was due to undergo extreme renovations soon after our stay which might have reflected upon the food situation, yet I feel that the staff had no reason to be inefficient and unwelcoming as they had been, renovations or not. If a hotel continues service during any kind of work on the hotel, they should be able to provide the service they are being paid for!
Perhaps after the renovations this hotel may change in its service, so research into whether these have been completed before booking.
Rooms start from approximately £65 for a single room and ranging up to over £100 for double rooms, which I found very expensive for the service we got.
The food prices (can be seen under the restaurant category above) were average, yet again, for the service we got on our particular visit I found that this was a little high and would have preferred to have gone to another restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.
* Hotel Tel No: +44 (0)870 609 6110
* 84 bedrooms
* Courtyard Restaurant
* Lounge with BT Openzone
* Number of meeting rooms: 6
* Meeting room capacity: 200
* Baby sitting service
* Cocktail bar
* Conference facilities
* Laundry facilities
* Room service
* No pets allowed in the hotel
* Parking Spaces: 80
* Nearest Rail Link: Norwich 1m
* Nearest Airport: Norwich 3m
* Check in from 14:00
* Check out by 12:00
Follow signs to City Centre. Take inner ring road to north of city. At roundabout for a1151, sign-posted Wroxham/Gt Yarmouth, follow signs for Cathedral and Law Courts. The hotel is approximately 400 metres on right along Palace Street, with car park at rear.
Although no one review can offer a full range of ideas about a certain place, I would not recommend this hotel after our experience. Hopefully, with the renovations, the hotel will become much better and would be interested to see whether the service has improved, yet this would have to be from another reviewer as I do not think I would go back there again for everything mentioned above.
End note: Please be aware that this review was written after our visit in 2007. Things may have changed since then though this review is accurate at time of writing and gives some idea of the place in question
When it came time to book accommodation for friends and family for our Norwich city-centre based wedding last summer I wound up selecting the four star Maids Head Hotel which is part of the Folio Hotels group. My parents spent a week there leading up to the wedding so we were in and out of the hotel all week. My brothers spent three nights in a room with two twins. My bridesmaids and I stayed in the Cathedral Suite the night before the wedding and then my husband and I stayed there the night of the wedding. Most of my husband's family also stayed in the hotel so we had a great deal of experience and feedback on the property.
The Maids Head Hotel is on the roundabout of the popular Tombland area in Norwich. There are a range of restaurant chains right on the doorstep including Whetherspoons, La Tasca, Café Uno and Zizzi's. It is also right next to the Norwich Cathedral. It is a walkable distance from both the railstation and bus station but those with luggage who are arriving to either of those locations would probably like to take a cab. For those driving, it has its own carpark behind the building. The receptionists will give you a code for getting in and out of the parking lot. For those wanting to be near the city centre and market it is an ideal location.
Despite the sad lights spelling out the hotel name (which my husband refused to vandalise in the middle of the night to remove them from our wedding week), the front of the hotel speaks of its history. The oldest portions of the building date back to the 13th century. The Courtyard restaurant has many pieces which indicate former church ownership and its Jacobean bar is oozing ambience. The claim is that in 1587 Queen Elizabeth I stayed here with a suite named in honour of its royal guest. Much of the hotel is much newer and the newer section does tend to have larger rooms though there are still many rooms with lovely beams and old fireplaces (which I don't think work!).
Prior to booking the hotel for our friends and family I was shown around much of the hotel and got to look in several different rooms. Over the course of 2008 the entire sleeping side of the hotel was renovated, a process which was still on going in August when our wedding party stayed (more on that later). From the look of the older rooms this renovation has seriously improved the quality of the hotel. As the hotel was build in several stages it can be a little complicated to get around. There are signs on the walls but they aren't always as helpful as they might be. I got very good at finding my parents' room and our suite, but never could get to my brothers' room without someone taking me there!
My parents' double room was very spacious, which was useful since they were storing my dress and some other bits and pieces for the wedding as well as all of their stuff for a three week trip to England (they live in Canada for those who aren't aware that I am Canadian!). Their room looked out over the roundabout giving them a nice view of some of the Cathedral Close but also a little noise from the street. They had air conditioning and could have closed all of the windows which would have virtually eliminated the noise but my Mum was singing at the wedding and overly cold air conditioned air sometimes bothers her throat. I crashed there with my Mum one night (long story) and can report they had a very comfortable double bed and a very nice bathtub. The room was very clean. The bathroom was well stocked with towels, shampoos and soaps and they had a good sized wardrobe.
The suite we stayed in was quite set apart from the rest of the hotel. I'd seen some lovely four-poster bedrooms that are the same price as their suites. If it had just been a room for my husband and I's "first night" I probably would have selected one of them, but having the very large sitting room was incredibly useful the night before and the day of the wedding. The sitting room had the original beams which made me happy. It also had a couch that pulled out into a bed (useful for bridesmaids the night before), a couple of chairs, a coffee table, a writing desk and a larger table with four chairs. It was very spacious! It also had great light, which pleased our wedding photographer. The bedroom had a king sized bed and another desk. The bathroom was off of the bedroom and was quite large with another very nice bathtub. There was a tv in both the bedroom and the sitting room as well as air conditioning in both. The staff came in and tidied up the room again after we'd gotten ready and departed for the wedding so everything looked great when my husband and I arrived after the wedding. We were actually so tired we didn't pop open the bottle of champagne that was sitting so fetchingly in it's bucket of ice.
We were all pleased with our rooms across the board.
The restaurant can be found by going through the couched lounge area (really the largest settee I've ever seen!), down the stairs, past the function room, toilets and coat area. It can also be accessed from the street. The Courtyard restaurant at the Maids Head is a lovely location, particularly for the colonials who just adore such things. It has a tiled floor and the tables are set up around the font. The font no longer has water, but instead holds candles. The courtyard has been glassed in providing great light.
Of great importance to anyone staying in a hotel is the breakfast. When I set aside a block of rooms I had guaranteed that breakfast would be included. I wound up eating there three or four mornings. They have the usual cooked breakfast buffet with bacon, sausages, mushrooms, hashbrowns, tomatoes and fried eggs. I discovered early on that you could ask one of the wait staff for scrambled eggs and they would have them prepared and brought out to you. There is an area for toasting your own bread with butter and various jams available. There is also lighter fair such as fruit, cheese and cereal available. We found their pots of tea and coffee to be of a good size for keeping everyone going.
I have also eaten dinner at the restaurant and they have a fairly wide range of options including local and seasonal produce. The menu changes regularly but has a fairly international flare. The prices are a little on the high side, starting at around £13 for an entrée, but quite what you'd expect merely from the décor of the restaurant. They have an extensive drinks menu as well.
My work Christmas lunch was also at the Courtyard Restaurant. They'd advertised a lunchtime group special which was about £20 for three courses which was very reasonable. We had a long table for 15 people that was decorated with streamers, noise makers and Christmas chocolates which was fun and festive. Our previously made choices were marked on our name card by coloured dots. I had the roast turkey dinner and the turkey was very nice. The veg were placed in dishes for sharing along the table and there was plenty of roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts for all.
So this is where I have to bring up a few minuses! The front of house staff for the hotel really let the property down and the only complaints we have come from our dealings with them. From my first visit where they decided I was there to plan a wedding even though I'd asked to see hotel rooms flags should have been raised. The people at the front desk do not seem very well trained. Perhaps they have had high staff turn over in the past, perhaps it's because many of them did not have English as a first language. I'm not sure, but they were always confused!
The two women who were in charge of group room bookings were fabulous. They were helpful and took the time to show me around on two different occasions. They negotiated a fair price between £80-90 per double room including breakfast which was very good for the height of tourist season in Norwich. They gave me all the information everyone would need to reserve their own room out of the group we set aside. They set up my parents' stay for a week as well as my brother's stay that was slightly longer than the rest. Our suite was £120 per night including breakfast
So everything should have gone very smoothly, right? Sigh. My mother's call to book their room somehow lead to them being put into one room for the first five nights and then another room for the two nights attached to the wedding. We had to work this out in person. My mother in law called to reserve a room for my in-laws and my husband's sister and her partner. At the time they did not take a credit card. On a visit to Norwich she popped in to check that was ok and was assured that it was. Until the day of the wedding when they all arrived and somehow there had been no reservation made for them. They got settled into rooms without my being notified so it all worked out, but unnecessary stress!! Somehow my aunt wound up making a reservation and having a room but being informed that breakfast wasn't included in her room charge. It was all just ridiculous!! Everything got worked out, but unnecessary if the staff were properly trained.
There were other little things as well. At one point I called down to reception to request a phone number as there were no phone books in the room. After 10 minutes I finally got the number I'd requested. I wished I'd just used my phone to search for it online to begin with. Also, as mentioned the hotel was undergoing renovations. I'd been advised that works will still be going on in August, which was fine. However, no one ever thought to mention that the corridor outside our suite was where the work would be happening. I checked in carrying wedding gear only to be met with a dusty corridor! No noise ever disturbed our room but my father walking me to the car was a pretty funny site as we tried to keep the dress from catching on anything and me from tripping over anything in my heels! a
I must say that the restaurant staff were lovely. They were quick to refill the breakfast buffet and pleasant when we made special requests. The bridal party met in the Jacobean bar prior to the rehearsal and found the bar tender helpful as well. On other visits to the Maids Head the function staff have always seemed good as well. I'd say that if you are considering the Maids Head for a conference, business meetings or even a wedding, their co-ordinators who are slightly higher up the ladder are great. Just avoid who ever is standing behind the reception desk!!
The Maids Head is a lovely hotel. There was been some great work put into the rooms as well as the meeting rooms and the restaurant making it a beautiful venue. It has everything you could really ask for as far as food and amenities. It really is the front desk staff that let things down. I hope they work on that because those particular staff aren't really up to the 4 stars everything else deserves.
For further info, photos and special package deals (they tend to run these regularly) see their website www.foliohotels.com/maidshead/.
I have stayed in this hotel many times from the ages of 7 through to 18 and it has been a firm favourite with my family. The first thing to say is that it isn't cheap with prices of around £70 - £80 a night, always look out for the special offers as they help to bring the price down quite a lot.
Up until last year the hotel, I was feeling, was being let down by their lack of redecorating, but, they have just redeveloped a massive side of the hotel so I imagine they've caught onto this and are slowly changing things! As you can see from the photo though it does have a lovely rustic charm to it.
Location: This hotel is in the best place possible. The Cathedral is literally right across the road from this hotel and some rooms have lovely views of it. The main centre of town is about a 5 minute walk away so not far at all.
The staff are all very friendly and all know me and my family by name. They are always keen to help out if something is not as you expect.
The food there is good, but it is expensive! With the addition of a whetherspoons next door now they are losing a lot of business.
All in all a good hotel if you want rustic charm!