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As we have 3 young children, my wife and I don’t get much chance to go out for a nice quiet meal and the trouble we have trying to find a hotel that sleeps 5 people has meant that we don’t go away very often. My wife spotted a special offer at our local Holiday Inn where they were offering a 3 course dinner, a room for the night, and breakfast in the morning for £110 for 2 people as previously mentioned we don’t get out much so this sounded great, a little bit expensive, but pack the kids off to see their grandparents and off we go. My first impression when we arrived was ‘this can’t be the right place we cant afford to stay here’ the hotel is situated on the bank of the river Thames and there are paths where you can go for a walk along the river, car parking is provided for over 200 cars so that was not a problem. When you walk through the main entrance the hotel looks wonderful, the foyer is very large and spacious and very well decorated with statues and things that make it look very up market. The check in was very smooth, obviously we had pre booked and we had actually paid the bill in advance as well so all I had to do was sign the form that had already been printed with all my details and let the receptionist take a swipe of my credit card to cover any extras that we would charge to our room. Then it was off to our room, the hotel is only on 3 floors and we were on the top (2nd) floor, there were 2 lifts and we never found it was a long wait. I didn’t know until we were in our room that there are different types of room available, they have standard, executive, and suites. Obviously as the standard of room goes up so does the price but more about that later. The room we were allocated was an executive room, so some of the features etc that are contained in this opinion may not be available in the standard rooms. The room we had was very large, we walked through the do
or and were faced with a short corridor with a door to the left for the bathroom, along the corridor was the main room with a nice size double bed, 2 bedside tables with lamps and a telephone, a couple of easy chairs and a coffee table, a desk with the television and another telephone (Handy if you are working). You obviously get all the usual paper, pen etc available if you want to write to your kids and the tea and coffee making facilities that you expect now a days with enough to make about 4 cups of tea and coffee, there was also a pack of biscuits and a small bar of chocolate. On the table there was also a bottle of water and 4 glasses supplied if you are not into hot drinks. The obligatory hair dryer and trouser press were also supplied. We also had a set of drawers and a large wardrobe handy if you are staying for a while. The bed was comfortable (Well you have to check don’t you) but there was only one pillow each on the bed and I found that a bit low, but after a bit more exploring we found 2 pillows in the bottom of the wardrobe wrapped in a plastic bag so that was sorted. Then it was off to the bathroom, the room was spacious, well lit with a large mirror and shaving socket. All the usual bits were laid out with 2 glasses, 2 bottles of shampoo, 2 bars of soap, 1 bottle of hand cream, a nail file, shower cap (Very Useful (not)) and a sewing kit. There were 2 face cloths, 2 hand towels, 2 bath towels, a bath mat and a towelling robe (Only One). They also had pump dispensers by the sink for soap and in the shower for shampoo and soap. There was a bath with an overhead shower, there always seemed to be plenty of hot water (I was glad because I hate cold showers) but I lost the argument over the robe and had to make do with a towel. A couple of things that surprised me, there was a pair of towelling sandals and a pair of scales in the bathroom as well that was new to me. Back out into the main room to see what was o
n the telly, the telly has an interactive hotel information system where you can check things like the restaurant opening times etc and useful things like viewing your bill and finding out which telly channel is which. When you first switch the telly on it automatically tunes into the local radio station 210FM and a picture saying Holiday Inn Information Channel, but I never saw any information on this screen, only on the interactive part. All the usual channels were present with BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5, Sky News, Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Eurosport, CNN, CNBC and Sky One (Although the book said it should be Nickelodeon) there were also a few pay as you view channels with a mix of blockbuster movies and adult entertainment, but the films were all about £8 each so we decided to give it a miss There was a mini bar in the room, but we didn’t open it so I can’t comment on the contents, there was also an extensive (Or should I say Expensive) room service menu available, but I would recommend the restaurant so off to dinner we go. The restaurant is in the main foyer of the hotel, you go past reception, past the cocktail bar where there was a man playing some very relaxing songs on the piano then down a short flight of steps to the restaurant. We were greeted by a very smart looking member of staff who escorted us to a table and took our drink orders. The only negative comment I am going to make in this opinion is that I was hoping this would be a nice romantic meal for 2, but I don’t think this is the right restaurant for that, it is very large with quite a few tables around, I didn’t feel squashed or anything, but there wasn’t a quiet little table in the corner where we could stare into each others eyes in candle light, in fact there wasn’t any candles, but we soon got used to it and settled in. The menu looked fantastic, this certainly was not your cod and chips type of restaurant I am quite a fussy
eater so I sometimes have trouble finding meals I like, but this menu was brimming with things I wanted to try, we both decided on our meals and again the waiter came and took our orders then left us to it. Another point worth making is the number of staff that seemed to be around, there were always people on hand when you needed them but they were not making a nuisance of themselves by hovering over you shoulder all the time. My wife finished her bread roll and within seconds there was a waitress asking if she would like another one, as soon as there was an empty glass someone came to ask if we wanted another drink. The food was absolutely fantastic, I went for mushrooms for starter with Garlic and Pienut sauce they tasted wonderful and were not overcooked, for my main course (If you are a vegetarian skip this next bit) I had steak in a cream and peppercorn sauce, I like my steak cooked medium so it is not dripping with red stuff but it is not burnt either, this steak was cooked to perfection and the sauce was amazing the creamy taste and whole peppercorns certainly did not come from a packet this meal was obviously freshly prepared it was served with a plate of vegetables as well, we had carrots, mange tout, shredded leaks and sliced potatoes covered in cream. I was grateful for the short break that the staff gave us after this course, in some restaurants they seem to want to get you in and out ASAP and you get the feeling of being rushed, that was certainly not the case here, they were happy to go with your speed, if you wanted to just sit and chat that was fine, anytime you wanted something you just had to catch their eye and they would be over straight away. For pudding I had a lovely apple flan served hot with Ice Cream again it was one of the best I have tasted, I am not a food expert but I would certainly say this was of the best meals that I have ever had. The usual pot of tea with mints after dinner wrapped up our me
al in the restaurant and all of this time the poor piano man was still playing, it was nice to have some background music and was certainly better than the music played in the lifts. After all that we were pretty tired so if was off to bed for a well earned sleep. In the morning we could not resist the breakfast, it was included in the price anyway so off we went to have a look, it was served in the restaurant between 7:30 and 11am, ideal for those people who don’t have to get up early because someone else is looking after the kids. Again we were greeted and shown to a table and asked if we wanted a hot drink. The breakfast was buffet style with a selection of fruit juices, cereals, fresh fruit, bread rolls and pastries, sliced meat, cheese, yoghurt etc on one table and a hot buffet with the usual bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato, egg, baked beans, hash browns etc on the other. Obviously being a buffet style you help yourself and eat until you are full. By the time we had got our food and got back to the table there was a pot of tea waiting, a quick look at the waiter brought him over where my request for fresh toast resulted in a few slices being delivered within a couple of minutes. After all that it was time to pack up and go home because check out time is 11am, the checkout was very smooth as well just had to produce my credit card again to pay for the drinks from the night before and we were on our way. One little point to remember if you use the hotel car park you need a token to get out, it is much easier if you remember when you check out rather that have to go back. All in all we had a thoroughly enjoyable stay at this wonderful hotel, we didn’t have the time to enjoy the swimming pool, sauna or fitness centre, and no need to use the business suite with phone, fax, internet access etc so I can’t comment on these features, but I do know that I want to go back at some time in the future. Fo
r those of you who want to know more here are the facts and figures. The hotel I have written about is: Holiday Inn Reading, Caversham Bridge, Richfield Avenue, Reading, RG1 8BD, ENGLAND. The phone number is 0118 925 9988 And Fax Number is 0118 939 1665 Directions are easy, find your own way to M4 (It is on all the maps) and leave at Juction 10 (A329M) follow the signs to Reading (A4) then follow the signs to Caversham you cant miss the hotel it is the big building with Holiday Inn on the front on a major roundabout just before the main bridge over the river Thames. Prices (When we stayed in February 2001, I assume they will change so you better phone to check). All prices are for Bed and Breakfast; you will need to pay extra for your Dinner (About £25 per head). If you want to stay during the week you will need loads of money, Standard Room £150 Executive Room £170 Suite £205 At the weekend the prices are a little more reasonable Standard Room £ 77 Executive Room £ 95 Suite is still £205 There are sometimes special offers on as I mentioned above we got an executive room for one night along with Dinner and Breakfast for 2 people for only £110 so it is worth enquiring. You can check out the website at www.holiday-inn.com/readinguk on this site you can check availability and prices and you can even book online.