“ Address: 25 A. Friar Street / Reading Station / RG1 1DP / Reading / England „
The Ibis is rather cheaper than the one next door (see; my review on that) and it shows. Okay, the place is clean and reasonably tidy, and like any city centre hotel it has its strategic attractions for people wanting to go for a drink, visit the multiplex, or do some shopping. The foyer is functional with one berth for wi-fi broadband (that didn't work last time I tried it) and the staff are attentive and polite, and discharge their duties efficiently. Like the other place next door, they seem to be East European by extraction, but their English is excellent and they seem friendly enough.
The rooms are, to put it succinctly, 'compact and bijou.' The bed is okay, and the TV is small but viewable. The bathing facilities are rather small, served by a sliding type door, with a sink and a shower. No frills in terms of bathroom accoutrements; soap, shampoo and gel, and a couple of towels.
The restaurant cum breakfast room is situated above the ground floor in a kind of mezzanine arrangement. It isn't the biggest of its type, but it does the job with a minimum of fuss, and the food is palatable. However, the last time I stayed, it has a rather bizarre automatic coffee machine contraption that you need a Ph.D in advanced engineering to operate. Or, maybe it's just me and my aversion to anything more complicated than a disposable razor.
All told, this hotel is a bit like a pre fabricated post modern edifice that just happens to be found in a prime location. Plus, it also happens to be about 3 minutes from the railway station, so no dragging your Gucci luggage too far!But, I've been there twice now, so it can't be that bad ...
To set things in context before I even start to describe my experience at the Ibis in Reading, I think it's only fair to confess that I hate Ibis hotels. With a passion! I really did wonder what I'd done to offend our secretary and get booked in this one. I'm sure I didn't forget her birthday, raid the stationery cupboard or commit any other serious secretary-annoying offences. If there's one thing guaranteed to put a damper on my day it's that little four-letter word on a hotel booking confirmation. In my hotel-dictionary, the definition next to the word Ibis says 'nasty penny pinching crappy hotel'.
My first challenge was finding the hotel. When I saw it was near the railway station I was suspicious that parking might be a problem so I rang ahead to check whether they had a car park and, as feared, the answer was no. But I was told there was an NCP round the corner which the very-French receptionist on the phone told me was 'very expensive'. Thanks love! Great! But that wasn't the worst of it. What she neglected to mention was the inconvenient fact that Friar's St where the Ibis is situated is currently closed and the 'diversion' takes you on a nice tour of Reading before dumping you back where you started, no wiser about how to get there. Only after flagging down some traffic wardens who assured me that I 'probably wouldn't get a ticket' for going down the 'taxis and buses only' route, I set off for a third attempt to get to the hotel. Then once I'd tracked that down, the next phase was finding the car park. Had there been ANY alternative, I wouldn't have left even the oldest of neglected bangers in the Garrard St NCP. I'm glad I arrived in daylight because this was not a nice multi-storey car park and my walk from the car park to the hotel was not one I'd do happily after dark.
The hotel sits on Friar St amongst plenty of shops and bars and even at 10 pm when I returned to the hotel after dinner, the atmosphere on the streets was a bit hostile. Entering the hotel, the reception area is OK - nice and bright with a good standard of decoration that might lull you into thinking this could be a nice enough hotel. The lady checking in ahead of me was shaking her head in disbelief as the receptionist explained that she wasn't sure where the hotel's hairdryer was but if she could track it down, she'd send it to her room. One hairdryer in a 14 storey hotel. Yes, it's an Ibis and don't you forget it.
I was checked in by the same very French lady I'd spoken to on the phone and she was pleasant but a little inexperienced, having to check with her colleague about the internet availability and other features. I was told that if I wanted to eat, I could phone down, tell them which of the tiny list of dishes I'd like, and then come down and eat it. Having seen a Thai restaurant round the corner, that wasn't a hard offer to resist. With my credit card 'pre-approved' I headed for the lifts where I had a nice little chat in my bad schoolgirl French with a couple from France who were struggling with the lousy English weather. I explained 'it's just an English summer but it's not ALWAYS like this'. I could see they didn't completely believe me.
Off to the room with low expectations. Although Ibis takes a similar approach to accommodation that chicken farmers take to battery egg production, the room wasn't quite as awful as I expected. The hotel was only opened about 18 months ago so it's not had long enough to yet degenerate to the fully neglected sad and shabby standard of many French Ibis hotels. That's a compliment though it might not sound like one. The swirly brown and yellow carpet was OK, the browny blackout curtains were fine but the window was one of the tiniest I've ever seen in a hotel. There's probably a legislation somewhere that says they have to let you have a teensy bit of natural light. In the room I found two single beds pushed together - quite standard, comfortable enough, no complaints. The 'wardrobe thing' was one of the smallest and oddest I've seen with a combination of a hanging rail and some shelves. There was a nice flat screen TV, a coffee and tea tray, a desk space and an odd hard sitting area.
The bathroom must have been designed by the people who do the loos on trains -it was like a strange curved 'pod' but inside it was clean and bright and the shower was surprisingly good. Fortunately since I'd known it was an Ibis, I'd brought my own toiletries because the stuff they provide really isn't worth bothering with. However, at least there was a dispenser of hybrid shampoo-shower gel stuff in the shower which is more effort than many Ibis hotels will go to. I still have very vivid memories of having to wash my hair with a bar of soap in the Ibis Dijon after the receptionist told me 'no! we 'ave no shampoo'.
Breakfast - if I'd bothered - would have been £6.95. Internet access was £9.95 although if I'd been the type, I could have had dodgy 'adult' films thrown in with my 24 hour internet access. I did use the internet but amazingly, when I came to check out it wasn't on my bill. I told the check-out man and asked him to check again because, whilst I love getting something for nothing, I hate getting an extra charge on my credit card several weeks later. And parking - well that set me back a massive £15.20 for the period from 8.30 pm to 11.30 am. So if you see the hotel advertised at £75 per night and think it looks like 'fair' value don't forget to add on breakfast, internet and parking and there's not much change from £100 for the night.
I had a chat with the people on reception whilst they tried to find out whether to charge me for my internet and we all joked about just how awful some of the Ibis hotels are and how the Reading one was a lot less awful that I'd expected. So maybe these new-generation modern Ibis hotels might be worth a second look. However I think I was paying over the top for proximity to a railway station I didn't need and to be in the centre of the town which I also didn't need. Next time I won't leave it to the secretary to choose - better to hunt down something on the outskirts of town with a bit more character and a car park.