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Hotels in Warwickshire in general

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      27.04.2004 22:38
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      Once upon a time there was a small town in the Midlands. It had a past; a long past; a past that stretched back to the Celts. Then came the Romans. The Romans built roads; that's what Romans did. One of them went right through the small town. It was a big road. It was called Watling Street. As road go, this one was a Mother of a road. Suddenly the small town wasn't quite so small. With traffic passing through night and day the small town started to develop. It started new businesses. Making hats was one of its specialities. Someone had to do it! It developed places to eat and places to stay. Stagecoaches stopped here. The road needed a new name befitting its new status. It became known as the A5. The traffic grew to the point where the little streets of the town could hardly bear the load. So they built a bypass. Then they built a motorway; they called it the M6. Suddenly no one wanted to know the small town any more. No one passed through. No one stopped. No one ate there. The small town felt lonely and unloved. Fast forward to today. For reasons I won't go into I needed to visit the small town for a few days. So, I needed somewhere to stay. I needed somewhere to eat. But where? A search of the Internet seemed to suggest that there was nowhere to stay within miles of the small town. However, I persevered. Eventually I discovered just one hotel; one that had links with the past; one that had once been the stagecoach stop; The Old Red Lion. It seemed to be sufficient. The prices seemed reasonable as well. I booked. Big mistake! The small town is Atherstone, in between Birmingham and Coventry, close to Tamworth and Nunea
      ton. As you will have guessed the town has seen better times. The Old Red Lion is evidence. Outside it looks OK. Inside is another thing. The entrance from the main street harks back to the days when stagecoaches stopped here. The courtyard behind would have housed the stables. These days the entrance has been enclosed, as has the courtyard, which is now the bar. Beyond, at the rear of the hotel is the car park, which can only be entered via a lap of the town's one-way system. Inside, the décor looks ?period? but is undoubtedly the result of extensive past alterations. The website say they are new. I remain to be convinced. On the ground floor, other than the bar, is the restaurant and function rooms. The bedrooms are upstairs and once the stairs are climbed it is evident that the money for the renovations started to run short. The hotel offers 22 rooms. Mine was 110. All are on the second floor, reached only by a flight of stairs from Reception. The room was a twin. It had an on-suite bathroom. The room had definitely seen better days. The carpet didn't fit the floor properly. Right where the doorway to bathroom was was the imprint in the carpet of an iron that appeared to have been put down and melted the pile. The bathroom was somewhat cramped. The toilet seat was loose. The towel rail was missing; a bracket broken. Neither the light over the basin nor the fan heater worked. The bath was equipped with an electric shower. A shower curtain enclosed half the bath; not enough room to avoid getting wrapped in it when taking a shower! The bed linen was at least clean but cannot have been renewed in years. The only heating was an electric wall convector heater which was either on or off. There was a kettle and tea and coffee making facilities. Ther
      e was also a hair-dryer. Immediately evident was that there was no phone. I couldn't even locate a phone socket so plugging in my laptop was going to be difficult! Being away from the office for four days I would have to be able to dial in to our network to get my email, but how? I did eventually find the phone socket behind the bed but it was evident that it wasn't connected. Finally managing to speak to the manager, he told me to my amazement that the entire phone system, room phones and all, had been stolen! How many times have we heard that one! However, he agreed to let me and my colleagues plug into their fax line at the rear reception desk but, of course, we could only do so one at a time. At least we could do it! By now it was time for a beer so down to the bar. The bar occupies what would have been in the past an open courtyard and has a pent glass roof. Above the entrance to the bar is suspended a giant back-projector TV, which mostly seemed to be showing MTV etc. However, on one evening they did have a football match on. The bar serves the usual fizzy beer rubbish found in most such establishments but also on the bar were two Real Ale handpumps, serving John Smith Cask and an Elgoods ale. The John Smiths was unavailable after the first night and the Elgoods remained cloudy though drinkable every night until we left! Well, how about the food then? Ah, no food; the Chef's ill. He remained so until we left. We had to eat elsewhere although breakfast was available each morning, served by the manager himself! The manager would only recommend two restaurants, one Chinese and one Indian. The others, he claimed were overpriced and substandard. Well, he should know! The Dragon Palace ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Located about 100 metres along the road from the hotel, on the other side, in the Coventry direction, this restaurant is clean and with a modern internal conversion. It has a good atmosphere even when mostly empty, as it was when we visited (twice so you can assume a recommendation). They offer an extraordinary value ?Eat as much as you like? evening buffet for £10.95 a head. The serve yourself buffet contains all the usual suspects including chicken and sweetcorn soup and crispy fried duck pancakes. I pigged out with four trips to the buffet before remembering that a choice of main courses was also included in the price; indeed, as many main courses as you wanted as well! The food was excellent. The service superb. The value outstanding. Even the wine menu was reasonable; £13.99 for a bottle of Fleurie. I wish we had a restaurant near us like this! The Atherstone Cottage ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Located about 50 metres the other way on the same side as the hotel, this restaurant has the most un-Indian-like name I have ever come across! What happened to the Taj Mahal, Mumtaz, Ancient Raj...? Atherstone Cottage! Come on!!!!! This small establishment has a typical Indian restaurant feel. Now, living in Camberley as I do, I like to think I know a thing or two about Indian restaurants. We have more than enough of them! I will say nothing more than it equalled the Dragon Palace as an experience. Once again, food excellent, service superb, wine to match. The three of us dined out for £60 including two bottles of wine. What more can I say? Also highly recommended. Conclusions ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have to say that my stay at the Old Red Lion will live long in my memo
      ry, for all the wrong reasons. This place will have to improve substantially before it sees me once again as a customer. Phone system stolen! Yeh, right! Old Red Lion Hotel, Long Street Atherstone Warwickshire CV9 1BB 01827 713156 www.oldredlionhotel.co.uk

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