Hanover International Hotel & Club Reading, Pingewood, Reading, Berkshire, RG30 3UN
Tel No: 0118 950 0885 Fax No: 0118 939 1996 „
Hanover international hotels are a group of hotels. Their website (www.hanover-international.com) proclaims them to be a chain of luxury four-star hotels with the individuality, friendliness, comfort and personal care found in the best quality independent establishments. A colleague and I had to visit Reading for three days, and required accommodation for two nights. The managing director's secretary very kindly booked the rooms. I am given to understand that this is where the MD stayed on a previous visit to Reading. At the end of our day in Reading, we hailed a black cab from Reading station, which took us to the hotel. The journey lasted took about half an hour, and cost £12. As we drove into the hotel grounds, it all looked very pleasant and luxurious. The hotel boasts of a large lake, where waterskiing competitions are held. The entrance and lobby were equally aesthetically pleasing. We presented ourselves at the reception desk and were given our room keys. I was very surprised to find that we had been allocated rooms in different wings of the hotel. Did they think that placing two computer type people close together would result in too much rowdy behaviour? No matter. I had been awake since four in the morning, and it was now seven in the evening. It had been a hard day, and I was longing for a shower and to divest myself of my now rather crumpled apparel. Lugging my assorted paraphernalia and mysteriously multiplying paperwork, I trudged through several doors, twisting corridors and levels of stairs to my room. The room was disappointingly dim and drab, although the furniture was agreeable enough. I do like having a decent level of lighting in my environment, but it was not to be, not even with every single light turned on. The subdued wallpaper did not help. More annoyingly, it had very definitely been given a through going over with an air freshener. I must admit t o not being a big fan of such products, and have only found a handful of fragrances which I like. I believe that a thorough airing is a better way to freshen up a room, although more time consuming. Off to the shower. First thing I had to do was leave the bathroom on a hunt for a bath towel. A hand towel had been laid out, but thankfully I noticed the absence of the bath towel before commencing the shower. Two were lurking in the bedroom's wardrobe. The shower fittings looked as though they might have been rather good in their heyday, but the showerhead was gunged up with limescale, and I can only assume that the same applied to the associated pipework, as the water pressure was insipid, to say the least. It was then time to meet my colleague for dinner. We eyed up the set menu, which looked rather inviting to me, but which proved all a bit too elaborate for my companion. I pointed out the discreet little section at the bottom of the menu. The person who had arranged the selection of food had made thoughtful provision for such an eventuality, and the paragraph stated that if any diners found themselves requiring simpler dishes such as bacon and eggs, or plaice and chips, they had merely to ask. Smaller portions for children were also available on request. Phillip, my colleague, perked up at this. When the waitress arrived, I ordered, and Phillip submitted his request for the fish and chips. Her response was surprising. It was as though she was half afraid of the chef, and we had to explain about the problem of overly elaborate meals and convince her that this alternative was actually on the menu. With an "Ooh, I'm going to have to ask about that", she vanished. She reappeared, apologising that plaice and chips were simply not available. It seemed to me that she had just had a bit of a confrontation in the kitchens. Phillip was quite disheartened at this news, and I could see h im skimming the menu, resigning himself to one of the main options. Looking through the menu myself, I noticed an option offering haddock or some other fish, served with a loving description of some vegetables, and finished off with a "thimble of rice". I asked if the kitchens could simply serve the fish on this option, leave out everything else, and add some chips. Although still doubtful, the waitress wandered off with this request willingly enough. Happy news. The chef was willing to oblige this request, and I had the pleasure of watching my dining companion's unhappy droopy ears perk up. I would definitely fault the service at this point as we had explained what the problem was, and the staff should have been capable of suggesting an alternative. When it all arrived, all three courses of both the set menu and alternative meal were indifferently prepared. All in all, very unsatisfactory service and quality of cuisine. Breakfast was even worse. We resolved to have our dinner in town before returning to the hotel the next night. The catalogue for the hotel shop was a good one, offering various toiletries should the unwary traveller find himself wanting. It being his first business trip, Phillip found himself without one of the classics, i.e. toothpaste. He therefore tried to avail himself of the 99p sachet of toothpaste offered in the catalogue, only to be informed that it was not in stock. The only alternative was a set consisting of a toothbrush with a minute 3cm tube of toothpaste for over £3. He declined to buy this overpriced product as a matter of principle, and we arranged that I should hand over my tube of toothpaste at breakfast time. I could see his point of view, as he would have been hard pushed to get two uses of toothpaste out of the amount contained in that tiny tube. The following night, I accompanied him to his room to regain ownership of my toothpaste. We went through the set of doors for the other wing of the hotel, and I expected another long trudge. Imagine my surprise when he stopped after a 15 yard trek in front of his room door. To cut a long story short, his room was easily double the size of my room, and BRIGHTER to boot! That was really irksome. Whilst discussing the differences in our rooms, it transpired that his shower was, in his words, "Awesome". Like my room, his room also had a balcony. But whilst mine overlooked an expanse of grey water hedged by skeletal trees in the distance, his opened up onto a view of pretty bridge and a fountain. He admitted to being rather impressed during his first night, but had had the effect ruined for him when daylight arrived, only for it to reveal evidence of ongoing maintenance, with a skip bang in the middle of the view. Again, this is where I would like to have a bit of a moan about the hotel's level of service. We had had our job titles clearly noted in our room bookings. I was a Senior Thingamajig, and he a Trainee Thingamajig. I would have thought that protocol alone would have assured me of the better room. But that aside, I think that I should have been assigned his room. Phillip is 6'2", 21 years old, and bursting with energy. I appeal to you, gentle reader, as the older, tireder, more washed out individual, shouldn't I have been assigned this room, which was so much more easily accessible? On humanitarian grounds, if nothing else. Phillip agrees with me. Probably only because he got a laugh out of it, but the important thing is that he agrees. To summarize, I would say that the hotel was founded with the best of intentions. It felt as though the framework for a truly excellent hotel had been laid down, but had now been undermined by current management practices. It had the feeling of being rather run down. All the staff were operati ng slightly below par, and I felt as though it was because they weren't being given the time and resources to do their jobs properly, rather than because of a lack of willingness. There might have been a time when it was an establishment well worth visiting, but in its current condition, definitely not worth the long trek out of town where there are more convenient hotels. The only thing which I would commend for it are the rabbits. Being situated in the countryside, the grounds abound with rabbits. I'd noticed them, and during my second day in Reading, I'd accumulated a hoard of food. That night, rather than spending the night in the bar, we went rabbit stalking. They were rather shy, and lopped away from us as we approached the various groups. In the end, we retreated indoors and stood by a likely window, lobbing out various foodstuffs. Slowly, over the course of about two hours, they devoured grapes and bread. Shortbread biscuits were appreciated, but ginger ones received a small frown before being accepted with some reluctance. We left three of them sitting in a triangle around a big juicy apple. I wish I'd had a camera. Maybe this hotel isn't all bad after all.