Tales from the Riverside....
The Riverside Hotel (Branston, Staffordshire)
Member Name: Novabug
The Riverside Hotel (Branston, Staffordshire)
Advantages: Lovely Setting, Friendly Staff, Nice Food, Comfortable Rooms, good facilities
Disadvantages: Needs a tiny bit of tidying and decorating in places, Slightly overpriced maybe.
My pre-summer holiday this year was just a short break in Staffordshire, and while the main reason was to visit Drayton Manor Theme Park, we also wanted a place to stay over which was local and at an affordable price. Prices for the hotel at Drayton Manor were not acceptable according to my bank account, even though this would have been first choice. Only 17 miles north of Drayton Basset however is the town of Burton on Trent, and within one of it's perishes is a certain famous little village of Branston, where this smallish but very accommodating hotel is located. Here are my thoughts on my one-night stay in The Riverside Hotel in Branston.
--Don't Find Yourself in a Pickle a Staffordshire...--
Let me indulge you on a quick tale that may make you smile and give you more incentive to stay at The Riverside. Having never visited this part of England before, myself, my brother and my father had an amusing debate about the village of Branston whilst walking to the shops on the evening we stayed. We passed a large old style factory building currently used by the TNT courier company and a certain hardware giant using one letter away from BBQ as it's moniker. Thus my father proclaimed this must be the original factory for the famous Branston Pickle. This discussion lasted our entire short walk to the shops and back, me and my brother making up more and more ridiculous reasons for this buildings existence. A military base? A brick smelting plant? We nearly had him convinced it was an old ironworks. All the long however, after a cheeky glance at my smartphone, I knew it really was the original home to the brown sticky vegetable concoction that goes so well with a slice of Chedder. Kind of obvious really, but you never know do you?
So yes, this hotel is located in the village of Branston, which gives it's name to one of the few world famous foodstuffs we British have produced. It's a small thing really, but a nice thing to see, a classic industrial brick building, somewhat of which is a rare thing today, and was home to a huge local workforce. Unfortunately, main production of the pickle moved south with the owning company Crosse and Blackwell being bought by Premier Foods. The site is now partly converted to housing, and leased to B&Q as a midland distribution depot.
Anyway, onto the Hotel.
--Getting There and Parking--
The Riverside Hotel is located in the village of Branston, just over a mile south of Burton-on-Trent, so transport link in are relatively good. By car, you can head into Burton by the A444 coming off the M42/A42 from the east. Once in Burton, you have to pick up the B5018 Branston/Burton Road. (The name changes) and you will find The Riverside sign posted clearly with a large white sign once in Branston. It's a little awkward to drive in this way, because the sign posting around Burton is not great. It's a lot easier to approach from the west, via the A38, which leads almost straight onto the B5018 Burton Road and into Branston. Train links are at Burton to, and local buses can take you to Branston, with a bus stop right on the entrance to Riverside Drive, where The Riverside to located at the very end.
There is ample car parking available, and it is of course free to patrons on the hotel. As you approach the drive in entrance, there are two car parks either side of the main building. The one outside the reception can hold about 25 cars, and the other larger car park can hold approximately 50 more vehicles. The parking bays are clearly marked, with dedicated disabled spaces close to the main building, the the car parks are generally well kept with very little litter to speak off. Plenty of space in my view, considering the amount of rooms the hotel has.
--Booking, Checking In and Room Charges--
I look for certain modest things in the hotel at first glance, and top of this criteria is the ease of booking, check in and check out. Happy to report that things are straightforward here. The reception is through the double wooden doors, and your are taken straight into the hallway adjoining to the bar and restaurant area. A small check in desk is here, with convenient toilets opposite. We were greeted by the assistant manager with a smile, and was very courteous and patient to my children who found this new surrounding rather exciting. After filling out a few simple forms, checking the booking, and given our keys, we were guided to our rooms. This was all done without fuss and was very easy indeed.
As with many hotels, you really must pre-book as availability is not always guaranteed on the day, as is with a smaller hotel such as this. The girlfriend had booked 3 rooms for us, all different for our requirements, and this was also simple and stress free. We all got exactly what we had booked, and each of us were satisfied fully. As far as the charges go, I felt these were a little higher than I personally would have thought. I have to confess however, we did have all our rooms at the staff discount rate. (The girlfriend works for the owning company Old English Inns), and these rates were very good indeed. The normal rates would have been considerable higher, particularly for the feature suite, the room I stayed in. Single rooms start at £49 for the night, £55 for the doubles, and the prices vary from season and chosen day up to £84 for the feature room. The prices for the double rooms I felt were a little inflated due to their size, not much bigger than a single, and the top price for the feature suite is also a touch over what I would consider correct taking into account the quality of the room. Not massively overpriced, but not fully worth the full cost.
--Grounds and Surrounding Areas--
I supposed the slightly higher cost can be justified with the setting and atmosphere of the hotel. The main building is a converted riverside farm house, which still contains many aspects of it's past, with well preserved interior wooden décor and riverside terrace. Directly outside of the rare doors to the bar, is the outside area, where there are a good amount of seated garden tables with parasols, well kept grasslands and flower pots which is all tidy and clean. The outside are adjacent to the hotel, beyond the restaurant terrace, is bordered off my a old stone wall, with stone staircase in the middle and to either far sides. This leads directly to the river bank, the garden island and public walkways that extend into the neighbouring fields. The fact that the River Trent is right next to the hotel is a big draw for me, and my children and family very much enjoyed sitting by the banks, walking around the wild-flowers and watching the locals boating. It was very relaxing and pleasant for all of us as we sipped our drinks in the sunshine, watching the ripples on the Trent and had fun with my children. It's a lovely setting, and something the hotel is very proud off. Not the usual thing you get with any old hotel certainly.
The only small issues I have would be that you must watch out for cyclists on the public walkway that runs through the bank-side area, as well as dog walkers and so on, only for the safety of your children of course. Other parts of the grounds were generally clean and tidy, with lots of stone paths, plinths and stairs, another thing to be wary of with young children. the very front of the building could have been kept more tidy however, and the lack of a outside ashtray does lead to many unsightly cigarette butts discarded on the floor outside the main entrance. Small problems, but is doesn't detract away from the general peaceful and serine setting, with bordering green and yellow fields and the absence of traffic noise.
As the hotel is located at the end of a quiet residential cul-de-sac, there are no immediate shops or facilities outside of the hotel. Is only a short walk to the top of the road, and about half a mile walk to the nearest Tesco Express, Chip Shop, local Pub and most importantly, cash machine. This passes the Branston Pickle building, and leads onwards to the village centre.
--Service and our Rooms--
During a stay in any hotel, I always like staff to be on hand when they should be, and it would be fair to say that the staff at the Riverside achieved this about 80% of the time. The assistant manager was very helpful indeed, knowledgeable, well turned out and always buzzing around the reception or bar areas. There were very few guests when we arrived, but by the time we had had our evening meal, the hotel was quite full, mostly of business people and sales rep types passing through. Even thought there seemed to be not many staff on duty, things all went along without any major problems. The young lady at the bar who also doubled as our waitress was friendly and cheery for the most, at least after I had small chat with her when buying a round of drinks. As for the other staff, a bar manager was also on the bar floor, with another more senior but equally helpful waitress. Apart from one of the cleaners having a cigarette rather rudely on the front doors in the morning, all the staff were professional and helpful, and that's all really what I wanted. Extra services include free Wi-Fi, Iron hire and wake up calls.
The rooms in the hotel are primarily in the modern-built extension to the side of the old farmhouse building, and look like a typical small apartment block, not matching with the rest of the hotel. That said, it was mostly well kept, with clean rooms which were all fitted with TV's, telephone and en-suite showers. The décor was less than original, matt magnolias and light browns gave the feel to the rooms rather basic, but adequate nature, but they were light, roomy and odour-free. I didn't have any complaints from my parents nor my brother, as this was the rooms they stayed in. Overall, the quality of the rooms and clean corridors made up for the slightly lacklustre exterior of the main hotel block, but this was not all that bad and nothing a lick of paint and a few nails wouldn't fix.
The upkeep seems definitely to have been focused on the main farmhouse building, with only a few small emissions. Whilst the wooden interior, carpets, bar, restaurant and functions rooms were all rather tidy and clean, as previously mentioned, the discarded cigarettes and bits of litter around the main doors, and slightly in parts of the car parks did take a little of the quality away, however all the important aspects were problem-free.
Our room, which was the Feature Suite as they call it, was located in the main building, up a dark carpeted staircase leading directly to the bar area. I thought this was a little odd, and maybe we would hear noise from the bar in our room later that evening, but thankfully we didn't. As we had booked it as a family room, the staff had helpfully laid out two single folding beds, either side of the queen-size bed, and as the room was of a generous size, this didn't make things cluttered or difficult. The room itself is the hotel's highlight room, marriage suite and the most expensive in the complex. It's also the only room available for a family of more than 3, so this is why we stayed in it. It would be fair to say that while they warmly welcome families, it's not their primary clientèle, hence why there is limited family space.
Clean white and dark red walls, big wardrobe, a large TV, telephone, easy chair and a view of the River Trent from the window, it was a very nice room indeed, with the extra pleasure of a very large bathroom, with a deep tub bath, shower and more towels than you could shake a stick at. Happy to report that the facilities were very clean, all working and running hot water. All the bed linen, towels and pillows were fresh and clean too, and my daughters both had a very comfortable sleep on their put-up beds, and after a shower for me, and a bath for the girlfriend (she likes to indulge!), we had a very peaceful sleep. No air-con is available however, but it was a fresh night and therefore wasn't too stuffy, but I would think that on humid days things could get a little sticky, unless you like that kind of thing of course! Small negatives would be that the decoration of the bathroom needs updated a touch, it was looking a bit ropey, and a few light bulbs were not working. I didn't care to much for the hole in the ceiling either.
--Food and Drink--
I'm not going to dwell to much on what we had to eat and so forth, this is not an in depth restaurant review, but I will give you a few details on our evening meal and subsequent breakfast. After checking in, we had to book a table for the evening meal. When we all sat down, we were all put on the same long table, and the high-chair and extra cutlery which we had requested were all in place. We were asked for our drinks order almost straight away, and shortly after a good space of time were asked for our order. Our food arrived in a satisfactory time, albeit to meals arriving 3 minutes after the rest, my meal included. I had a very juicy gammon steak with fried egg, and the girlfriend had the lemon and thyme chicken. My steak was well cooked and trimmed, with a runny fried egg and slightly crunchy peas. I was happy with this, very tasty. The girlfriends chicken was also very good, nicely cooked with good vegetables. My other family members had no complaints about their food either, which all seemed nicely presented and as good in quality as our meals. The staff also were accommodating to my daughters, who shared a children's meal of fish fingers and potatoes, providing extra napkins and plates.
The prices for the meals are what you would expect, with main courses starting from £7.79 up to £16, which is not overly costly. With starters, desserts, children's portions, and a good selection of wines, spirits and beers, it's a well rounded menu. Plenty for the meat lovers, and also a good ranger for the veg-lovers too. Drinks prices are a little over the odds, but this is the sort of thing you can expect. Overall, the quality of the food is high, and I really have very little to gripe about in this department, aside from the breakfast waitress.
Breakfast, which is included in the room rate, is the usual choice of cereals, cooked, fruit or continuant style, with all the food fresh, cooked nicely, and an unlimited flow of coffee, tea or juice. While there was nothing wrong with the food, the breakfast was only being served by 1 waitress, whom was not the quickest of staff. Her grasp on English was not terrific either, and while she was trying her best with a smile, she mis-understood us several times. Extra toast for my brother turned into coffee, which he doesn't drink, and a polite request about the slight delay of 3 of our plates was answered. "Juice and cereal is over there, thank you." I don't think this was rudeness, just a mis-communication. With both meals, the plates were immaculate as was the cutlery, with no cleanliness issues to report.
It may not be the most perfect small hotel in Staffordshire, but it's certainly a good one at the very least. The lovely setting and views are treat and really relaxing, even with the family around. The rooms are good and comfortable, even at full price paid, and the food is of a high quality and not a ridiculous price. The service was great, no big complaints here, as was the general décor and atmosphere. It's a shame that the maintenance seems to need improving a bit, and the front outside area could look a little tidier and more welcoming. On the whole, it was an pleasant and enjoyable stay, and for the setting alone a nice place to get your head down for the night.
Thanks for Reading. © Novabug
Summary: A Treat by the Trent, A Safe bet in Staffordshire.