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Millenium Madejski Hotel (Reading)

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      09.10.2003 02:56
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      Please forgive the inevitable idiosyncracies that occur with DooYoo ops. There may be stray question marks and a lack of capitalization in the first few paragraphs. You know that. I know that. That said, read on - I hope you enjoy the review of this hotel. A friend of mine was once extremely confused when an American tourist asked her for directions to a town in England called, apparently, "Loogerberooga". She was just about to admit defeat and affirm that she was sure that no such place existed, when she suddenly had a flash of inspiration and realised that the town in question was actually "Loughborough". Such are the vagaries of the English language and, more specifically, English place names. We've just stayed at the Millennium Madejski (and that's not easy to pronounce either!) in Reading - pronounced "Redding". I was delighted to note that their lifts (or elevators) were manufactured by "Otis" - hence, part of the somewhat feeble title for this review! It was the best that I could come up with! I apologise! Looking back over my previous hotel reviews, I'm very aware that I have stayed in some pretty bizarre places, and in many places with somewhat unattractive names. Those in the know might think I'm completely bonkers to visit places like Calais, Dartford Bridge and Basingstoke and it's probably fair to say that Reading, too, is hardly a holiday destination. That said, however, it's very well located for some absolutely cracking places to visit and, although the original idea was to take baby Josh to nearby "Legoland", we eventually opted instead to spend the afternoon in delightful Henley-on-Thames. Windsor, Eton, Oxford and even London would also have been feasible trips. Reading, located about 30 minutes west of London on the M4 motorway, is clearly a thriving university town with a very strong business portfolio. As I've already hinted, it's
      hardly a holiday destination even if it's within easy reach of some really great attractions. That said, it's not actually at all bad. I'll confess that I've had my beady eye on the Millennium Copthorne Madejski hotel (a bit of a mouthful, that!) for quite a while and decided it was time to finally cross the threshold. It's officially rated as 4 stars by the two major hotel inspection groups in the UK - the AA (the Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous) and the RAC - and its signature restaurant, "Cilantro", proudly holds two coveted AA rosettes - no mean accolade. I get, somehow, the impression that the restaurant is very much in the driving seat at this establishment; by that, I mean that they often do special deals such as "Eat at Cilantro and get a cheap - or even free - room for the night". With Baby Josh in tow, we decided to eat out rather than subject other diners, looking for the perfect evening meal, to his customary display of food-throwing, cutlery abuse and raucous singing (He was not quite two years old at the time of our visit, so it's understandable!), but the menu did look exquisite and the ambience - low lighting and modern décor, in keeping with the rest of the hotel - looked absolutely superb. This was clearly a dining experience that you'd certainly enjoy. But the real reason I was curious about this place is that it's part of the Madejski stadium complex. That's right - it is a completely integral part of a sports stadium that is home to Reading Town soccer club and the "London Irish" rugby club. And an impressive modern structure it most certainly is. It was thus, after perhaps too many drinks one night (although the concept of "Too many" when drink is concerned is one that I honestly find difficult to come to terms with), a few weeks ago, that I logged on to the Priceline website and made an absolutely silly bid for a 4-star ho
      tel room in Reading. It was rejected, but I was given a hint as to what might be accepted and made another, slightly less silly, bid. The Millennium Madejski accepted my offer of £40. In true Priceline style, I was now committed. No turning back. In retrospect, as I sit in my very comfortable room there, writing this review, I'm very glad I did it. Even Amanda - whose initial reaction, if I recall correctly, was "You've done WHAT?" (polite version) - is very happy that we decided to come. And Josh, fast asleep in his cot - which was installed in our room prior to arrival, as requested - is as happy as a pig in poo! As they say. Those who know me well, will know that I'm nothing if not a little cheeky - and after a quick e-mail to Millennium Copthorne reservations, I managed to secure an upgrade to a Club room. They're very nice people - and the rooms aren't at all bad either! Finishing work late on Saturday morning, we jumped into the car and drove the 108 miles to Reading. Leaving the M4 at Junction 11, the hotel was extremely easy to find, since (a) the impressive Madejski Stadium complex is very clearly identifiable and (b) it is very clearly signposted from the Motorway. We drove into the capacious free car park and took stock of the architecture. It's an extremely modern, yet compact, building and, as I've already said, forms part of an ultra-modern soccer / rugby stadium. There's a lot of steel and glass and, at night, it's floodlit in blue light, giving a very crisp, clean and modern feel to the design. Baby Josh gets excited by the most bizarre things and was delighted to see that entry to the hotel was by an automatic revolving door. Don't ask me why, but they just make his day. Oh, to be a toddler again! Anyway, round we went and we were deposited in the spacious and welcoming reception area. "Cilantro" is immediately on your right, and then there's the reception
      desk. Reception was fast, efficient and polite, if not overtly friendly and we were soon in the lift heading for our upgraded club room on the fourth (top) floor. There's a club lounge at the end of the floor, for which you need your room key card to gain access. For some reason, we didn't manage to get through the doors, so were unable to enjoy that significant part of the upgrade. Ho hum; these things happen, I suppose. We headed off to our room, number 409. Our key card worked and we were in. What struck me at first as truly bizarre was that, on entering the room, you had to insert your key card into a card reader in order to make the lighting work. How odd! On reflection, though, I've come up with two advantages. Firstly, it saves energy because you can't leave the room with all the lights on (unless, of course - like us - you are given two key cards). Secondly, I guess it means that you can select the lighting combination you like, leave the room, and return to get the same combination by inserting your card into the reader without having to fumble around with a load of switches. Small point - but it intrigued me more than a little! The concept is growing on me! If you stay in hotels on a regular basis, you'll be well aware of the "L-shape Law". This states that all hotel rooms - certainly in chain hotels - must be L-shaped. You enter your room and find a short corridor, with the bathroom leading off to the left or right (direction unimportant), before ending up in the bedroom proper. This bedroom was no exception. It was lovely, mind you. Sufficiently spacious, the windows would have provided a superb view had there been something nicer than a car park to look at. Programmable digital air-conditioning was very welcome and it did its job efficiently and very quietly. The décor was calming, in a cream / beige colour, with a comfortable beige carpet. French windows would have led out onto a balcony, had they not b
      een locked shut. The furniture was modern and stylish and comprised a wardrobe (with the ubiquitous "Corby" trouser press, an iron and ironing board, two - yes, two - bathrobes, and a safe), a cabinet containing minibar and tea / coffee making facilities, another cabinet containing the interactive TV, a comfortable workstation and a coffee table and two easy chairs that were very much more comfortable than they looked! Being a Club room, all soft drinks in the minibar were complimentary (my favourite word), and they must be used to playing host to foreign diplomats, since there was a free pack of "Ferrero Rocher" chocolates on top of the minibar. A tongue-in-cheek comment for British readers, there - do you remember the absolutely excruciating "Oh, Ambassador, with these Ferrero Rocher chocolates, you're really spoiling us!" adverts? Don't get me wrong, I love them, but - hey - get real! The bed was adequately sized and was extremely comfortable; on the soft side (which suits me), and furnished (Hooray!) with a duvet, rather than a blanket and sheets, and a deep russet bedspread. All in all, very comfortable and very easy on the eye. The bathroom was spacious and, like the rest of the room, impeccably clean and well looked after. There were ample towels and decent toiletries. I was struck, too, by how very well it was lit. What, I suppose, was really nice were the little things; the details that really make your stay special. My request for a smoking room had been accommodated, and - importantly - the air-conditioning meant that this didn?t create a smoky environment in the room. Also, Josh's cot (or crib) was in situ when we arrived. Also, any electrical sockets that might have been in reach of small fingers were sealed with baby-proof plastic covers. I honestly don't know if that is standard or because we had indicated that we were travelling with a toddler. Either way, it gets a huge - an
      d I mean "immense" - raised eyebrow and thumbs-up of approval from me. Well done! It certainly struck me as extremely thoughtful - unless they were trying to stop you using their electricity! I'm sure they weren't! With Josh fast asleep, it was time to make a quick visit to the bar. As ever, only for research purposes, you understand! It completes the review, in my opinion. We headed down to the ground floor and turned left. If the formality of "Cilantro" is not for you, then there's "Le café", a buzzing, informal and clearly popular café serving a decent range of more "snacky" dishes. Our destination, however, was the "Atrium bar". Well, it's a bar. And it's an atrium. Now, there's a surprise! It's also large, clean, bright, comfortable and very friendly. There's a fantastic stainless steel water sculpture in the centre and the acoustics are such that even when it's full of guests - as it was - you can still manage to hold a decent conversation without being drowned out by the background noise, or feeling that you're being eavesdropped on. Table service was efficient and friendly. Prices were reasonable for an hotel. Light snacks were available. Smoking was permitted, and yet the atmosphere was airy, rather than smoky. I enjoyed a cool lager, whilst Amanda raved about her Caramel Latte. This bar had a great ambience and very comfortable seating, and certainly earned a thumbs-up from us. I don't really do breakfast and - anyway, at £15.25, I thought it was a tad expensive, so we did without and I can't comment. The menu looked inviting; just not worth the price - I'm not on a corporate account! After an excellent night's sleep, we headed off for an afternoon's entertainment back home at the cricket. That?s the reason, I suspect, that Amanda thought I was mad for booking this hotel on this date and giving us a 108 mile return dri
      ve on Sunday morning to a pre-arranged engagement. We all enjoyed our stay very much and this hotel comes with my full recommendation; I couldn't fault it, apart from the inability to access the Club Lounge. Just don't tell anyone that you're going to Reading! By all means, tell them that you're off for a weekend near Henley or Windsor, and they won't look at you with raised eyebrows. Slough is near, too - but if you choose that as your alibi, you truly deserve to be pelted with eggs. And out of date ones, at that! Andrew

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