- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
It was my partner's birthday and we had a table booked at Forbury's restaurant in Reading so we decided, as we were getting the train in, to stop for a pre-dinner drink at Malmaison. Malmaison is handily located almost opposite the train station.
We stepped in from the cold to a lovely warm bar that was buzzing with other drinkers but without being overcrowded. We couldn't see a drinks menu but the woman serving behind the bar quickly procured one. After perusing the list of cocktails we both decided on a Bellini champagne cocktail (Raspberry for me, peach for him) and our drinks were quickly created for us.
We took a seat close to the lovely roaring fire, which made the bar feel very cosy despite the very modern decor. It's a dark, plush bar that does feel very chic but seemed to be without any snobbishness. We sat and enjoyed our drinks in a lovely atmosphere that was perfect for the birthday occasion. The only down note was that there was a flatscreen TV that was on the wall with sport on; this didn't seem to befit the other upmarket wine relaxing feel to the bar, which was a shame.
All in all I would definitely recommend this bar for pre-dinner drinks or a nice evening out.
I stayed at this hotel for one night on business. I booked through Superbreak as a Mystery Hotel for the cost of £107.50. Normally for this price I would be expecting a very nice hotel but Cambridge seems to have a dearth of reasonably priced hotels so all I was expecting was a fairly standard chain hotel.
On arrival I was greeted in a friendly manner by the Receptionist who checked my in efficiently, noting that I had paid for B&B through Superbreak already and asked if I would like to pre-authorise a card for any extras; I chose not to use this option and so I was directed to my room.
I headed towards the room, which I was expected to be around the corner and up the stairs, however it was a rather long walk that took me outside of the main building and into another. As a woman staying alone I would have rather have been put in the main part of the building so that I felt a bit more secure (access to the other building was not restricted to those who had a hotel key) and also so I didn't have to walk outside in the dark after dinner, which made me feel slightly vulnerable.
On arrival in the room everything was clean and tidy, most of the standard facilities were available but although the TV had some additional channels it did not have Freeview, which I expect as standard for business hotels these days. Also my pet hate in hotels is no plug sockets near a mirror (for the essential hair straighteners!!) and no plug socket near the bed (to use laptop whilst lying on the bed) was present here. These are however some minor points.
I used the bar restaurant as the main restaurant had an Indian buffet style meal that I didn't fancy. I had a steak, which was a little fatty in places but nicely cooked but I thought it was a bit overpriced at £18.95. The service was efficient and friendly but the tables could have done with a bit of a wipe.
On return to the room I had a comfortable nights sleep, even though the room itself was a little on the chilly side (which the air con control didn't seem to have any effect on) and there's a choice of firmness of pillows in the hotel, which is a nice touch.
I didn't eat breakfast at this hotel. There is a pool and gym but I didn't use these, although I walked past them and they seemed to be of a reasonable standard. Check out was quick and efficient.
All in all a nice enough stay that could be improved with a few minor improvements.
I have been visiting Cambridge for business a few times over the last month or so and this was one of the hotels I stayed in. I stayed in this hotel twice and my experience was fairly consistent on both occasions.
When looking around for hotels in the area I noticed that hotels in Cambridge seem to be fairly pricey; this was one of the cheaper hotels (£85-95 per night at the time I stayed). I booked through Superbreak and paid in advance for the room and breakfast.
On arriving at the hotel I was checked in fairly efficiently but on both occasions I had to tell them I had paid in advance - they tried to put £100 security on my credit card, which is unnecessary given the bill had already been settled. On one occasion my room's key card did not work so I had to return to reception to get it re-activated, which was a bit annoying when I had bags to carry.
I ate in the bar (I can't bring myself to call it a restaurant!) on both occasions. The steak was not worth the money (I think it was around £16 so not cheap) as it was not very tender, however the portion of this and it's accompaniments was quite large. I had a cheeseburger on the second occasion (healthy options are few and far between!) and this was okay, if a bit bland.
The room on both occasions was clean, although the hallways do smell of smoke this was not the case in the rooms themselves. There is a large dispenser with soap that acts as an all in one handwash, shower gel and shampoo - I prefer separates and some conditioner but this is a minor point and I suspect fairly standard for a Holiday Inn Express - you get what you pay for!
The bed was comfortable and had a choice of pillow firmness and the room on the second stay was quiet. On the first stay I had some rather noisy girls in the room next door and due to the rooms being interconnecting this did cause a bit of disturbance.
The TV had some additional channels but did not have Freeview and the room also did not include wireless internet access (you can pay extra - £9.95 for 24 hours at the time of writing) - both of which I expect as standard for business hotels these days.
I did not use the breakfast on either occasion so cannot comment on this. Also I understand that the hotel offers special rates for guests at the David Lloyd gym next door but I did not use these facilities.
Check out on the first occasion was swift but on the second there was quite a queue, and despite there being four members of staff behind the reception desk only two were serving (the other two just looked on and did not seem to be engaged in any activities.
To sum up, this was okay for a one night stay for business purposes; reasonably priced for the area, clean and comfortable but I would not stay here for leisure or longer trips.
Arrival into Liverpool Lime Street and the taxi journey was very quick - a few minutes at most so a very convenient location (also only a few minutes from Liverpool One shopping centre). Check in was quick and efficient.
The room itself was adequate; the carpet looked a bit marked in places, which was surprising given how new the hotel was and the minibar selection was a bit limited if you wanted an alcoholicdrinbut fine otherwise. The bed was comfortable and there is both aircon and a window that can be opened.
As there is no free wi-fi (which I would expect for the room rate in a modern hotel) I chose the TV package that included broadband through a cable so that I could watch a movie too. However I could not get the connection to work so I watched a film instead and put out my door tag to order breakfast for the following morning.
The following morning no breakfast arrived so I picked up the phone to call down and find out what had happened. No dialling tone so I gave up. Later I wandered down to reception and told them I had not received my breakfast and received an apology and was told they would ensure I received it the following morning. I also told the Receptionist that the phone was not working and neither was the internet, which I thought could be related and was told it was so I was given the access code for wi-fi, which I thought would therefore be complementary, having already added the TV package to my bill that I could not receive full service from. I also expected that someone may be sent to check the phone line but no-one ever came so presumably the problem won't be rectified for the next guest,
In the evening I ate in the restaurant, the food was very nice but a bit over-priced. The area is quite modern and not very cosy or atmospheric but perfectly adequate.
The following morning my breakfast arrived as ordered and was not exactly gourmet but met the description (although a bit more butter would have been appreciated as the slices of toast were large).
On checking out I found that they were trying to charge me for both the TV bundle and the wi-fi, this was quickly rectified and the Receptionist ordered me a taxi. On checking the bill more closely in the taxi I found that I had been charged the £3 room service fee for breakfasts on both days, despite never having received it on the first day and notifying staff of this, which rather added insult to injury!
Summary is that this hotel is in an ideal location and is modern and clean but some of the service elements do let it down, particularly for the room rate.
I booked this restaurant through Toptable for my partner's birthday meal. I booked the £26 deal - three courses and a glass of champagne. On arrival the restaurant was fairly quiet but we were still early in the evening (around 7.15pm). We were greeted with a smile by the staff and asked if we would like to go straight to the table or have a drink at the bar first, I mentioned to my partner that as it was his birthday he should chose. He chose a drink at the bar first and as we were directed to the bar area the lady who had greeted us wished him a happy birthday, which was very friendly. We decided to have our glass of champagne and this was served to us promptly and we were left with menus to look at.
A waiter returned after an appropriate length of time had passed to see if we were ready. He was able to answer our questions about the food and wine. They have the wine of the racing driver Jarno Trulli and as Formula 1 fans we asked if it would go with our food choices. The waiter agreed that it would and we had a friendly chat with him about F1 and about Jarno Trulli who he showed us a picture of visiting the restaurant - this was a nice bonus to our evening.
After a short time we were taken to the table by the window (overlooking the pretty fairy lights in the square) and served some lovely rolls (the choices were poppy seed or a roll with cream cheese in). An amuse-bouche followed shortly, which was a warming cup of soup that was very flavourful - I didn't catch what it was but believe it did have asparagus in. In between this and our starter arriving we were offered more bread. We were also served our wine, which was decanted (a nice touch) but was a little cold for a red for our tastes.
We had both chosen the same starter and main. Our starters arrived and looked delicious; it was an egg poached in red wine with bacon bits and a sauce. The eggs were ever so slightly overdone so they did not have a completely runny yoke but were still a bit runny. I really enjoyed this course but my partner felt he would have liked more sauce and bacon as it was really good.
Our main course arrived promptly but not hurriedly after our starters had been cleared. We had ordered the venison with fondant potatoes and green beans. We had both been expecting a whole piece of venison but what arrived was actually more like a burger (i.e. a mince patty). We both thought this course was fairly ordinary and could have done with a bit more flavour; given venison is usually a very gamey flavour this did not come through as much as we would have liked or expected.
Following this we tried to decide on puddings; I choose some blue cheese with walnut bread and my partner chose to pay an extra £4 (which was no trouble to organise) to get the chocolate fondant from the specials menu. I also asked for advice on which port might be suitable for the cheese and the waitress was not sure, this was not a problem however as she promptly sought help from a colleague (possibly the manager or sommelier?) and he gave some advice.
My cheese was very flavourful and served with some delicious accompaniments. My partner also enjoyed his chocolate fondant and the sugar work that it came decorated with was very artful and attractive.
Soon after we settled the bill and went on our way by which time the restaurant had really filled up and was buzzing. We really enjoyed our meal here which was really made by the excellent, friendly and attentive service we received. The food was good but could have been even better, next time (and we would definitely return) we will try the a la carte menu to see if there's a difference. I noticed also a private area for small parties and think this would be a lovely place to hold something like that.
Overall a great restaurant that with a few tweaks could be really excellent.
I arrived at this hotel just as it was getting dark so didn't see much of the view but it was right on the seafront so location-wise seemed a good bet if you want to be right on the coast. The car park looked fairly big but quite busy, not a problem for me as I arrived by taxi as the metro station is too far a walk.
I entered the hotel and my check in was dealt with in a friendly and efficient manner. I was advised to take the lift as I had a case with me. On leaving the lift it was still not an easy journey to my room along a rabbit warren of corridors and steps. There was a faint unpleasant odour as well.
On entering my room not only did the smell get stronger (I think perhaps it used to be a smoking room and they've tried to mask it with some kind of air freshener?) but it was like stepping into an oven! I took a look around my small and slightly odd room (113). Three steps led down to my bathroom, on entering this I discovered it was equally as hot, so much so that the bath was actually very warm to touch.
I had been booked a single room and the bed was a very dilapidated divan that they had tried to spruce up with more modern bedding. However on sitting on it it did not feel all that sturdy and the mattress was rather lumpy. The carpet also looked somewhat questionable in terms of cleanliness - more because it was rather old than because an effort hadn't been made.
Thinking I had been unlucky I asked to swap rooms and this was dealt with quickly and efficiently without any fuss. My next room however was little better. It was still incredible hot, what initially looked like a large double bed was actually two more of the old single divans pushed together and again the carpet definitely could do with replacing. I don't know why this hotel is so hot, I tried opening the windows but to no effect and woke up a number of times during the night due to the heat.
As it was a Monday night the Thai restaurant was closed, which was a shame as I would have liked to have tried it out as the taxi driver mentioned it being good. Instead I went to the hotel's Italian restaurant. I found it very strange to have to go out the front door and back into the restaurant that was also underground. Again the staff were friendly and efficient but didn't have a lot to work with. I was not too hungry so chose some sole goujons with a side salad; the batter was very soggy but the sole itself was nice.
On check-out the following morning the hotel tried charging me for the room, which had been arranged to be paid for by the company who booked it for me, but the Receptionist dealt problem with this quickly along with the ordering of my taxi.
The only good points about this hotel are the location and the staff, everything else was pretty poor and I would never go back and it has seriously damaged any credibility Best Western had in my mind.
My boyfriend and I stayed in this hotel using Tesco Clubcard vouchers to subsidise the trip. First thing to note, if you are carrying lots of luggage do take a cab on arrival (either direct from airport or from Placa Catalunya where the airport bus drops you) as although the walk from Placa Cataluyna is very short with luggage we quickly became rather hot!! However that aside the location is excellent, less than 5 minutes walk from Las Rambles but fair enough away that you're not quite in the constant hussle and bussle.
We arrived at the hotel and were greeted with a smile and checked in quickly and efficiently. We were also given a map of the local area and shown the routes to walk if we wanted to avoid the nearby red light area. We did in fact walk through that area one early evening but were not given any hassle, although women alone may find it slightly intimidating. However I found the location superb, we were right on the square of Raval so easy access to an early evening or late night drink.
Our room was very modern and clean with lots of nice goodies - coffee machine, well-stocked mini bar and a nice selection of complementary toiletries. The bathroom/toilet set up is slightly unusual and probably not well suited to non-couples or those who are a little on the prudish side! However, we had no issues with this and the shower was really good. The beds were also very comfortable, although was a shame it was two twins rather than a double. The curtains were electronic (button by the bed) and blocked out the light excellently.
We didn't try the food in the hotel - too many other places to visit - but we did have a few drinks on the rooftop bar, which was a lovely place to enjoy a glass of cava whilst the sun sets. Beware it does get very busy in the evening and so the queue does mean waiting sometimes, also they don;t sell bottles of wine/cava, which is a shame as it would mean less need to queue again. The pool is teeny - not large enough to swim in but a good spot to cool off. My boyfriend said the gym was well equipped and very quiet.
We paid for a late checkout but this was only until 3pm, which seemed a bit early given the charge (20 Euros from memory) and a few more hours would have been appreciated.
The general ambience of the hotel was very cool and funky, the location excellent, the staff polite and helpful, the room more than adequate and I would definitely return. If you do visit be sure to make the effort to visit nearby Las Fernández on C/Carretas , a restaurant run by three sisters, it was the best meal I ate in Barcelona!
I stayed at the Park Plaza in Leeds last night as I was on business in Leeds the next day. My overall impression was good but could be better.
I booked online directly on the Park Plaza website. The website was easy to use and detailed the different room rates with clear explanation of what each rate included. I chose the entertainment package offer - £89 for bed, breakfast, a bottle of wine, four bottles of beer, free movies and (had I got there before 7pm) a food platter from the bar. This seemed like fairly good value to me.
Excellent location, right in the centre of the city. Parking was at the Q Park in Criterion Place, which is discounted for Park Plaza guests (ask for your voucher when you check out). The car park is secure and only about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Finding the entrance to the hotel is tricky though, it seems like the back entrance whereas the Chico Latino bar (part of the hotel) is at what seems like the front? Slightly odd but I got there in the end!
Less than inviting! The entrance is quite "modern" and had loud music playing (which seemed somewhat at odds with the fact that The Telegraph was the only paper available in the lobby area?) and was quite impersonal. There was a queue at the reception desk so I waiting about 10 minutes before I was served. There was no smile and no apology for the wait - in fact there was barely even eye contact. I checked in and was given no information about the hotel, breakfast, check out time or where my room was located. I discovered the lifts and assumed my room was on the 15th floor as my room number was 1506.
The first think I noticed when I walked in to the room was the huge window, which I immediately went to and look out. What an absolutely FANTASTIC view!! Could see out over the city and into the countryside. The room itself was nothing to write home about - carpet and furniture was a bit tired but it looked clean. A bit of updating would be nice - big LCD TV , DVD player, Freeview channels (only got channels 1-5 plus the sky sports and news channels) and some new furniture would make this a fantastic room with a view. I also noticed the carpet was wet by one side of the bed - I suppose at least this means they have cleaned but did make me wonder what had been cleaned up? The toiletries were fairly basic - would have been nice to see something branded or at least with less basic packaging and more luxurious feel. The mini bar was very basically stocked but there was no price list for it and I didn;t use anything from it.
I called for room service (the line was terrible and the woman could hardly hear me!) and ordered a chicken liver parfait with ciabatta followed by an Aberdeen Angus burger. It arrived in about 30 minutes - the parfait was really quite horrible but the burger and fries were tasty.
I hung out my breakfast card to have it delivered to my room and it arrived in the timeslot specified. I ordered beans, scrambled eggs, sausages, sautéed potatoes, toast and orange juice. When the man arrived with it he told me they had no sautéed potatoes so he had given me hash browns instead. When I actually took off the cover though the scrambled eggs were also missing. The rest was present and tasty though.
Check out was quick and efficient.
Overall the quality was a bit patchy but would stay again just for the location and view though. Recommend it for a city break - but perhaps eat out!
Sheepdrove is an organic farm in Berkshire established in 1997. I first heard of it in the magazine of one of the weekend paper and after checking out their website decided to give them a try. My main reasons for choosing them was a) I wanted to ensure that the animals from which my meat comes have a cruelty-free existence, b) I like to support British and (where possible) local businesses and c) reviews I had read seemed to suggest high-quality, good flavour meat.
The website was easy to navigate (sections for each type of product available) and contained useful information about different cuts of meat and what do do with them. Placing my first order was very easy and I received an email confirming the order details and delivery date.
Local orders (and orders over £150) are free (postcodes SN1-SN16, RG1-RG2, RG4-RG8, RG14, RG17-RG20, RG30-RG31, OX1-OX4, OX10-OX14, OX44) and all other orders they charge between £5-10. The items are delivered in insulated card boxes with ice packs to keep the items fresh. We had our box delivered to a work address and it kept perfectly fine and cool all day without the ice packs melting even. The boxes can then be taken to the post office for a free return so that they can be reused - great for those who like to be green!
The products were vacuum packed and clearly labelled - I tend not to like vaccum packed meat so I took mine out, separated into appropriate portions for us and put into bags before freezing. The meat was delicious and flavoursome - you can tell this meat is from well reared animals.
The product range is vast and if you have special requirements Sheepdrove are always happy to try to help. You can even get whole or half pigs and lambs fully butchered and harder to get hold of cuts are also readily available at Sheepdrove.
The service received is second-to-none. If any of my requirements are unclear I get a quick phone call from one of their helpful staff to check what I need and any emails sent to them are quickly and efficiently responded to.
All in all a high quality product delivered with high quality service./ Cannot recommend this company highly enough!
Colleagues raved about the Ocado service so I thought I would look into it. As a regular shopper at Waitrose I knew the product base would be pretty familiar and signed up to take a better look.
From signing up it was quite a while until I placed my first order as I tend to do my shopping in store rather than online. What I did notice was that I would receive regular emails from Ocado with details of offers or news. It wasn't too much though so didn't feel like they were bombarding me with junk mail. My only disappointment with the offers were that you had to spend quite a lot of money to benefit from them - I suspect that their target audience is not the single person living alone with only one to shop for.
When I did finally decide to do a big monthly shop and take advantage of a voucher that was 15% orders over £60 (maximum discount £15) I was pleasantly surprised to find that the delivery costs were not as bad (either monetary or environmentally) as expected. You can choose slots at certain times that were less pricey and also, very importantly, choose "green" deliveries where the vans are already scheduled to be in your area.
The online site itself is very easy to use - you can either search for the product or browse the categories. Once you have placed your first order the goods ordered are automatically remembered for you for ease of ordering next time (and also so they can send you related special offers). It's very easy to add things to your trolley, change the quantity or remove them. It also alerts you if there is a special deal (such as BOGOF) on the item you've chosen.
When viewing your trolley you can choose picture view, text view or to view by how the item is stored. Another great thing about the Ocado website is that each food and drink product tells you the minimum shelf life.
The only thing I didn't really like about Ocado is that you have to buy prepacked vegetables whereas with the Tesco online service you can buy loose veg and choose the amount you would like. I think this also ups the packaging that is used.
After placing my order I was emailed a summary of it and could choose to amend the order at any point until the cut off point notified to me in the email. The delivery arrived on time (within the allocated slot) and I was very impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the driver. He was smartly dressed and polite, offering to carry my delivery to my kitchen if I wished. He checked all the breakable items (such as eggs) were okay and had they not have been could have refunded them immediately through his handheld device - as he could have done had I not been satisfied with any goods received.
All the bags were colour coded as to the type of goods they contained - so freezer goods were in a different colour bag to cupboard goods, etc. The bags were really strong as well, so will be reused many times by me rather than Tesco's thin horrors! Ocado also collect, reuse and recycle their bags so a plus point there too!
Overall I was really pleased with the easy of use and quality of the service (both online and post-order). The only niggle is no clubcard points and no loose veg!
Ever since a trip to a Thai restaurant in Oxford (Chiang Mai) I have been looking for ways to recreate some of the dishes at home. I quite fancy making my own Thai curry pastes but currently am a bit under-equipped in my rental flat's kitchen so some sacrifices have to occasionally be made (normally when it comes to anything that requires a food processor!). However in this little paste from Bart I think I have found a pretty good compromise.
My understanding is that an authentic paste would contain:
Kaffir lime rind
I'm not sure how the quantities compare but Bart's paste seems to come pretty close (Green Chilli (32%), Water, Vegetable Oil, Onion, Lemon Grass (5%), Coriander, Lime Juice (3.5%), Fish Sauce (Anchovy, Water, Salt, Sugar), Coriander Leaf, Garlic, Lime Leaf (3%), Spirit Vinegar, Ginger, Salt, Shrimp Powder, Lactic Acid, Acetic Acid, Sugar, Citric Acid, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate, Stabiliser: Guar Gum.)
For a Thai green curry you can either use the paste with coconut milk or coconut cream and I have found I prefer the results with the cream as it's a slightly thicker sauce. If you use the Bart Coconut Cream then I find about half the jar of paste and one carton of cream makes up the right spiciness for me (this makes it really quite spicy so those who prefer it less hot should add less paste or more coconut cream).
To start I cook some chicken, turkey, pork or prawns and along with it fry a medium sliced onion, one sliced red pepper, one orange pepper and one yellow pepper then add the paste and cream. This makes enough sauce for between 4-6 meals/people. Recently I also added (unauthentically!) some left over beansprouts, which tasted lovely too.
You can also use this paste to flavour other dishes (see Bart website or jar) such as Salmon en Croute.
It's a very simple to use paste, you just need to experiment a little to get the right level of spiciness. The nice thing about this paste is it's full of flavour and not just hotness so even if you use only a little for a mild curry you'll still get plenty of taste.
The jar will store for about 18 months unopened so is a good store cupboard standby and once open the rest needs to be used within 6 weeks. However I have had very good results when freezing the made up curry in batches for a later date.
Where to buy:
Sometimes I find Tesco don't stock it or hide it away in a random place (and my local one definitely doesn't stock the coconut cream) so the most reliable place I've found to buy it is Waitrose.
All in all an easy to use product that produces delicious results!
I've just joined Dooyoo and saw someone's review for it so thought I would put my twopenneth worth in!
I first came to know about Dooyoo when I was looking for information about Windsor Farm Shop and came across a very helpful review by Kingfisher111. I enjoyed reading her review so checked out some of her others too and thought they were very useful. It made me wonder why someone would spend such a lot of time and trouble to write such detailed accounts, which led me to another of her reviews that was about the miles you could earn. Although it seemed that she was, in part, driven by enjoying writing the reviews too I still thought that the reward system sounded interesting so I decided to investigate further.
I looked into how it worked and decided it sounded like it could be a good way of earning a few extra pennies whilst sharing my views on things - just like I would when telling friends about products or services I'd used.
The join up process was pretty simple and took no time at all. So now was the first challenge, what to write about first? Well I'd recently been to a great local "gastro pub" so I thought that might be a good place start. Unfortunately when I searched for it there was no sign ... what should I do now I wondered? Well I consulted the help pages and it seemed I could suggest ideas for new inclusions so that's what I did, not only that but you also earn miles for your suggestions - great stuff and a good way of keeping things up to date! Once suggested I seem a long way down in the queue for consideration, I'm not sure how quickly Dooyoo take to process new suggestions so I'll have to come back and edit this once I find out!
So after a couple of failed ideas due to not being currently available to review, all of which I suggested for review at a later date, I thought I would review Facebook as my use of it is verging on an addiction! So I got to work.
The reviewing process was very simple, I just searched for it, clicked on the write a review button and off I went, typing in the text box - loved the word count down, very handy! I thought 150 words seemed a lot to write and worried whether I would actually do it but once I started I couldn't stop and ended up writing close to 500 words! The only thing I think I need to work on is making my reviews a little more structured so that I don't miss out anything!
I was pleased to receive my first 500 miles but thought I probably wouldn't get that many points by other members reading. What a surprise though, within minutes of posting 7 members had viewed my first piece and some had even rated it as very useful! I was over the moon and it really spurred me on to write some more reviews.
So far I'm actually really enjoying writing the reviews and judging by the response so far, and what other members have written, it seems to be a great community here, which I look forward to becoming more a part of whilst seeing my miles add up! I am also beginning to find members whose reviews are very helpful and I'm sure will be using the site a lot for future purchases and decisions on places to visit.
If you're thinking about joining - go for it! It's quick and easy to join and very easy to use.
I have been a loyal Next Directory customer for ten years now and so feel fairly well placed to write up a review of the service.
The Next Directory offers everything you'd find in a Next store plus some (kitchen appliances, carpets, flowers, all sorts!). You can sign up for a catalogue or you can view the range online. I long ago asked them to stop sending me the hardback catalogues - they were good quality but were costing £3.50 to receive and also not so great for the environment. The online version is very user friendly (mostly) and the ordering process very simple. The only time the website isn;t great is during the sale time when you can't see larger images of the sale goods (not great if your eye sight isn't what it used to be!).
The ordering process is pretty simple, add stuff to your basket and you're told instantly if something is out of stock or has a delayed delivery on it. When you've got everything you need you can check out and choose your delivery date (if ordering during working hours then delivery is normally next day as standard). Delivery is charged for but returns are free if you have an account no matter which method you use; you can return items to a Next store, arrange for a collection through the courier that delivered it (you can do this online or via the phone) or you can return through the Post Office (annoyingly you now have to order labels for this, which used to be printed on the back of the invoice).
Now for the goods themselves:
I've always liked Next as the quality was reasonable, not too pricey and they stock longer leg and arm lengths (handy for long-limbed people like myself!). I've ordered thousands of pounds worth of clothes, shoes, gifts and homeware over the years and previously have been pleased with them - particularly liking suits for work!
More recently I have found the quality of clothes has really deteriorated to such a point where I will now not buy any more clothes (although will continue to buy shoes, gifts and homeware). Clothing I have ordered recently have often arrived with poor hemming and finishing, a suit I bought last season and have worn four times has started to bobble and a jersey and chiffon top I bought in the summer has started to disintegrate (the chiffon is tearing away from the jersey material). I think for the quality received currently the goods are very overpriced.
Overall, a good service but with shocking quality clothes at present.
Having always been a bit of a Nokia girl myself (any old idiot can use them!) I have been surprised at just how much I love my iPhone - I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to a regular phone!
Firstly I should explain that I use my phone for work, it is provided by them and so I don't have to worry about tariffs and the like. However, before my iPhone I had a crackberry (for only 3 days as I hated it so much!) and I understand that it's cheaper to run the iPhone as with the crackberry you have to pay a monthly fee for the BlackBerry Enterprise.
Now on the more interesting stuff ...
The phone is slim and chic (I have the black version) and also lightweight. You may wish to consider a cover or film of some sort if you get one as they do scratch easily. Some colleagues have like a rubber edged "skin" for theirs as they are not very "drop proof"!
My requirements for my phone is that I can make calls (well, obviously!), that I can type a text message quickly and easily, that I can access, reply to and send Outlook emails and that I can access my Outlook calendar. I'm happy that all of my basic requirements have been met by Apple in the iPhone.
The set up is very quick and easy - I spent 2 days trying to get the BlackBerry set up to do the above basic functions and still was having problems, the iPhone took literally 10 minutes! Brilliant start.
It took me a couple of days to get used to navigation and typing using the touchscreen but now that I have I'll never look back - it's pretty simple and user friendly. I also find access the web is quick in most areas and very easy to use.
Other benefits are some of the brilliant applications available. I love MyRailLite, which allows me to check nearest train stations and see what times and from which platforms the are leaving from. Also handy for journey planning in London is TubeStatus. If I find myself in a new location then AroundMe helps find nearby shops, restaurants, cash points and loads more. These are all free, as is the Facebook one and many, many games that you can waste hours on ;)
It's great to have the iPod capability and if you find yourself travelling away from home a lot it can make business hotels a little less soul destroying!
Battery life is not too bad but certain settings and functions do tend to drain it quite quickly (internet on 3G for example) so you do have to take care.
So any downsides? Well a few minor niggles:
1) Not being able to forward text messages or copy and paste them is a small irritation
2) Not being able to send photos via text (MMS) is quite annoying at times when you want to instantly share a picture with friends
3) Whilst we're on photos the camera could be better as there's no flash so fine during the day but in night or in dark places not so great
4) The range of ringtones is not all that and you can't easily convert any tunes on the iPod part of the phone into a ringtone, which smacks of Apple trying to screw people for more money as you have to purchase them as ringtones through iTunes
However, minor irritations aside, I have found the phone to be perfect for the majority of my needs and I haven;t looked back since getting it a few months ago.
Before I start this review I should probably admit I am a Facebook addict! Since joining up about two years ago now I have come to realise I am incredibly nosey and Facebook allows me to feed my habit!
Those who don't know what Facebook is must have living like a hermit for quite some time! However a brief overview is that it is a "social networking" site, a site that allows you to connect and keep in touch with with friends, relatives, long-lost acquaintances you wished you'd never even met and perfect strangers.
Some of the most popular features are:
* Photos - you can share your photos with other members (or send a link to non-members so that they can view your photos too). You can "tag" other members in the photos, which is basically a label that links the photo to their profile.
* Groups - you join groups of like minded people on just about every topic under the sun, or in the unlikely event there isn't already one on your chosen subject you can create your own.
* Events - set up events - if you're having a party you can send out all the details and invites via Facebook and track the RSVPs.
* Status updates - tell all your friends where you are, what your doing or thinking every second of every day!
You can message people either publicly on their "wall" (basically like a little comments page) or privately using the message system that functions similarly to a web-based email.
Overall Facebook is a great way to maintain day-to-day contact with people who you may otherwise not talk to much and it's good for sharing photos with friends. It's also a brilliant time-waster - I'm not sure I've ever wasted so much time as I seem to these days!!
Ever man and his dog is on Facebook these days - my "friends" on Facebook range from 18-60 currently! So go on, you know you want to sign up, but beware - it is addictive!