“ 34-35 High Street, Southampton, Hampshire, England, SO14 2HN. Phone: (44 2380) 339955. Fax: (44 2380) 333650. „
The Dolphin Hotel in Southamptons’ old town is a wonderful 13th Century coaching inn. Entering the car park you drive through the original entrance, designed for horses and carriages. This does feel nice, but is a bit of a pain if there is a car coming the other way. Previous guests include Queen Victoria, Jane Austen, Titanic passengers, and me, so you are staying in good company. Architecturally the building is very interesting, and boasts the oldest bay windows in Europe. Each of the public rooms is named after a famous guest, and there are accompanying historic notes on the walls. All of this makes for a wonderful experience, enhanced by aged art work on the walls, a grand staircase with a giant mirror and roaring log fires. Rooms are a little erratic, and the age of the building means that there are plenty of twisty corridors, uneven floors and oddly shaped rooms. Some are giant with two double beds, a single bed, a sofa bed and armchairs. Others are best described as servants quarters! Sadly the Corus/Regus group have failed miserably to capitalise on their asset, and seem determined to run the place into the ground. When staying in such a historic building I really don’t mind rattly windows, creaky floors and draughts. What I don’t accept is dirty floors and windows, inept and impolite staff, food on the chairs, cigarette butts on the floor, and most offensively blood on the walls. Not historic, famous blood, but fresh, Saturday night fighting stuff! The food is just plain dull, along the steak sandwich and chips, salmon in sauces and curries and pies line. Breakfast is even duller a half hearted attempt at English that would have the Little Chef sobbing, and a continental which is grounds for invading the EU. The location is excellent, perfect for the Isle of Wight ferries and a short walk from the new West Quay shopping centre which is a retail heaven, branches of Habitat an d Sephora. If you happen to be in love and want a romantic weekend of retail therapy you are unlikely to notice the hotels shortcomings if you eat out and spend the evening at Jongleurs down the road rather than the miserable bar which should really have a dedicated Samaritans line installed. Single travellers and business folk should probably look elsewhere if cleanliness and efficiency are on your travel shopping list.