“ Address: Ranelagh Rd / Ipswich / Suffolk IP2 0AD / England / Tel: 01473 694 600 „
I spent four nights at the Ramada Encore Hotel in Ipswich recently on a business trip with my company. It's easy to get to, being located about 1 hour from Stansted Airport, and 2 hours from Heathrow. It's sandwiched between a main road and a river, so depending on which room you get the view out of the window will be variable. There are 126 rooms in total, priced from £75 per night for a double. Other options are offered, but the price seems to be about the same.
Non smoking of course. Modern with wooden floor covering, designed very much in the Ikea style. Double bed, made every day - very fresh and clean. Next to the bed one one side is a shelf with telephone. This can be used to call reception, other rooms and outside calls. There is a reading light on each side. A smart sofa will convert into an extra bed if required or you can use it to watch the TV - a 26" LCD affair. The channels are BBC1&2, ITV1, CH4, 5, Sky News, Sky One E4 and Sky Sports News - a reasonable selection. The TV also has the facility to receive 4 radio stations including Radio1&2, Classic FM and a local station. The TV can also be used to wake you up, and the remote will turn it off again or go into "sleep mode". The TV is on a desk which comes with a revolving chair, so you can sit and write or use your laptop. A desk light is also a bonus. To connect to the internet, you can connect the supplied Ethernet cable and login for free for 30 mins each day. If this is not enough, you can upgrade to 2 or 24 hours use for between £5,99 and £9,99. Although it says High speed, you'll get 1Mb rate at most, and the free connection is limited to 128k which is a bit mean. The wireless will also work in the room, although they tell you it doesn't, but you'll need the code to access it. There's plenty of power sockets for standard UK appliances, but no converters for travellers from other parts of the world, so bring your own. Overall the decor is clean, modern and bright suiting a young business traveller.
There's no wardrobe, just 5 hangers next to a mirror as well as a hairdryer, so this may not be enough for those staying for a longer time. There is though a laundry facility although I can't comment on the results or prices as I didn't need to use it. The bathroom and shower is very clean, stainless steel and glass, so again modern. The shower worked well and dispensed plenty of hot water at a decent pressure, and did not flood the bathroom floor although there was no shower door just a glass panel. A very generous bath towel was replaced each day, along with 3 hand towels. If you forget your own shower gel or shampoo and soap, this is provided in a large bottle which is not removable (so no freebies to take home!). The room is fitted with air con which has different settings and also a temperature display which hovered around 21-22 degrees during my stay. A little warm for sleeping even with the fan on. The view from my window was overlooking the river, which isn't actually that pretty, but it's better than the road. I did hear some traffic noise still which started pretty early in the morning, although I am a light sleep so hear everything. The room is energy efficient, lights and power only work if you have the door key slotted into the hole next to the door - so no chance of leaving the TV on when you are out. Good to see there was a kettle with two proper cups and a good selection of Twinings tea and Kenco coffee which was replaced each day.
I had breakfast each morning which was a buffet affair. The choice for this sort of hotel was reasonably good. Hot food including bacon, scrambled or boiled eggs, beans, and sausage. Fresh bread was available and a toaster which was a little tempermental nearby. Plenty of butter, jam and marmalade as well as cheese including those little baby bels, cold meats were all there. A good selection of cereals with extra raisins, pineapple chunks, dried bananas and hazelnuts together with yoghurts and milk for those who like a lighter start to the day. Ample fruit too was there for the pickings. Drinks were a selection of juice, some obviously watered down, tea, coffee and so on all self service. The staff in the morning were a little in need of motivation and energy, and really looked like they didn't want to be there as they cleared the plates away and laid tables, although they did at least mutter a few good mornings during my stay. Breakfast was served between 7-10am, I was always one of the first to arrive as I don't like food hanging around too long.
A buffet lunch was provided by my company one day which I didn't have any say in. It was very tasteless and almost school dinner quality in presentation. The cheesecake desert was more than edible, but I wouldn't go back for it a second time. I didn't actually eat dinner here by choice, as I don't really rate chain hotel food, it's often bland and uninspiring. They do however have a menu of jacket potatoes at around a fiver, sandwiches also a fiver, starters such as a soup and pate - again a fiver, as well as a selection of main courses. If paying a tenner for a hotel cheeseburger is your thing, or £13 for a chicken curry, a tenner for sausage and mash - then go for it. I know however that the town has some good restaurants and pubs where the quality will be so much better. Eat here if you can't be bothered to get out of the hotel. There's also a salad menu as well as a desert selection. Again paying five quid for an apple tart doesn't really float my boat. If you have little ones in tow, a five quid kids menu might interest you. Room service is available for food and drink, although I didn't try it so can't comment on how long you need to wait. Hot drinks such as tea and coffee are around £2.50, but the £5 tray charge for room delivery kind of puts a damper on that. There's no mini bar in the room, but a proper bar down in the Hub of the hotel. Prices are as you'd expect for a hotel bar - not exactly cheap. The bar is open to non-residents too, although I can't imagine given the choice that you'd want to stop by here just for a beer.
Reception & staff
Check in and out was pleasant enough, with young friendly staff. They weren't the most the the know, not able to answer questions about what time the gym opened or whether or not they had power adapters, and once sent us in the wrong direction to town. Generally all staff I met were happy enough and were doing a good job, with the exception of breakfast service mentioned earlier. I called the reception from the room a couple of times, and they were always very prompt and polite with my simpler requests such as how to use the internet connection and where the nearest supermarket is (10 mins walk - Sainsburys superstore). I'd also emailed before arrival and the response was within a few hours which is good.
There's a couple of conference rooms, one of which we used. It was a bit cramped with 18 of us all seated, but for a few hours was perfectly fine. Drinks were available from a machine, but no other luxuries apart from slightly burnt pastries. You'll find the usual presentation facilities here in terms of a projector and screen to hook up your powerpoint and laptop. The gym was pretty close to my room on the first floor, but very small and with a selection of running machines but not a lot else. It's open from around 6am to the late evening.
Overall, a clean modern hotel without much character but perfectly comfortable and reasonably priced for a few nights stay.
You can see a few photos and booking information as well as special offers at the website http://www.encoreipswich.co.uk/