When we planned to stay in Bristol on our way home from Padstow we initially made a reservation at the Marriott Royal. Then we heard that Fullers Hotels had opened a new hotel, and we decided that we would prefer to give that a try. We have stayed at Fullers Hotels in London and have always been pleasantly surprised - they seem to provide above average rooms at very reasonable prices, especially considering they are often just rooms above an existing pub. So the Brigstow being a 'proper' hotel, we had no hesitation that it would be a fitting end to a holiday that had included Rocco Forte's Hotel in Cardiff and Rick Stein's St Edmund's House in Padstow. From the pictures of the hotel, it appeared that the usual Fuller's touches were evident, offering facilities way above the hotel's 4 star category. As fans of Fullers beers, it is always nice to be able to stay at a hotel which offers a range of their ales too! We decided to check in at the hotel in the afternoon, whilst our car was still parked elsewhere, and first impressions of the hotel's public areas were very positive. The style was fairly minimalistic with just a few chairs in the reception area and light walls. In the lobby was a large screen displaying the local weather, and this added to the feeling that this was a hotel with its finger on the pulse. Unfortunately our first experience of the Brigstow service was when we mentioned we had booked a room with a balcony. The check in Clerk looked blank at us and said 'no your room doesn't have a balcony'. My husband had spoken to the Front Desk Manager and we had a copy of the confirmation, but for a few moments we were a bit disappointed. The check in clerk said she could get us a room with a balcony 'although it won't be on the 6th floor' although we had not requested a room on the 6th floor! We then went to find our room which was on the 4th floor. The corridors in
the Brigstow are very striking, with wooden floors, with green, burgundy and beige runners to tone in with the burgundy and green decorations. This colour scheme was followed through in our room which was an 05 room, which had a large balcony overlooking the River. The room was relatively large and had the bed positioned diagonally in the room. The wooden floor had a semi circular green rug and a blue wooden backdrop to the bed unit. I was a little taken aback at first as the bed seemed to be covered in what I can only describe as a well worn beige bobbly wool blanket, with matching cushions also with the effect of being past their best. I am sure this was intentional but I can't help thinking the style of the room would have been improved with a crisp white/neutral bedcover. The bathroom was a good size, with a separate shower cubicle, and a plasma TV screen above the bath, both items confirming my usual thought about the appreciated touches Fullers offer. Lighting was good, including spotlights with a dimmer switch as well as practical lighting near the desk/dressing table mirror. There was also a full-length mirror on the back of the wardrobe door. Both the wardrobe and the desk were in a honey coloured wood with cream panels, which could be construed as trendy or maybe MFI-like! The room had a large patio door leading to the balcony which offered limited but pleasant views ? it is just a pity it was so dirty. Therefore our initial opinion of the hotel was very positive - it seemed to have a style all of its own, and I could only assume that the rest of our stay would continue on the same lines. When we picked up our car we were pleased to be able to park it outside the hotel. I don?t think this is usually allowed, but for some reason the double yellow lines had been removed and so people were making the most of it. Usually you have to park in the NCP with free parking only between the hours of 5pm and 9am. We had made
a reservation in the Ellipse Restaurant before our stay, and the menu, although not particularly comprehensive offered some fairly interesting items, including quite a few seafood items (although having been spoilt in Padstow I would have been very reluctant to choose one of them). We got ready to go out, appreciating a lot of the facilities in the room. These included a hairdryer, tea and coffee making facilities, minibar (although one of those that automatically charge to your bill, so to store your own products is a tricky business) TV with satellite (although no ceefax) and in particular the plasma screen in the bathroom. Of all the hotels I have stayed at this is the first time I have been able to watch TV in the bath, and it is a great touch. The separate shower is also appreciated, although our seemed to have a slight leak, and if you weren't careful water would spray over the top of the screen! The room also has a trouser press, but no iron or board, and three telephones, with calls very reasonably priced. We decided to go to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail and were surprised to be the only people there. There were a few rather bored looking staff hovering in the restaurant, but my husband still had to go to the bar to order our drinks which was pretty surprising. We ordered a Martini, intrigued by it containing both Vodka AND Gin and a Cosmopolitan. My husband said his rather unorthodox Martini was good, but my Cosmopolitan had no discernible alcohol, maybe because it had been drowned by cranberry juice. As we drank our cocktails we became pretty dubious about dining in the restaurant, as we did not want to be the only ones there. Not only do we hate quiet restaurants but we also wondered if there was a reason for the lack of custom. So we decided to try and find another restaurant, and tried to settle the bill. Unfortunately we had not been given a pen to fill in the bill and all the staff had disappeared. My husband went to b
orrow a pen from Reception and while I was waiting a Waitress appeared and I managed to settle the bill. She said there were no staff around because they were so quiet, and when I asked ?yes, where is everyone!? she said ?no-one wants to be here?. I didn?t know whether to take this comment with a pinch of salt. After realising all the decent restaurants were fully booked that night, and deciding against the easy option of a trip to Wetherspoons, which was not what we wanted from a last night in a ?proper? restaurant, we decided to go back to Ellipse which by this time had the grand total of two guests dining there. We ordered a couple of London Prides and were also brought some water. For starters my husband order Tomato Tart with Baby Mozzarella and I ordered Tiger Prawn Risotto with Chilli and Coriander, both of which sounded really nice. My husband hesitated when his starter arrived as it did not look like a Tart, more like a Bruschetta. On closer investigation it was a piece of puff pastry with two slices of tomato on top with a garnish of three baby mozzarella ? he said it was fairly nice if a little disappointing. My risotto looked pretty dry, and I wondered at first whether it even was risotto rice. I think it was, but the rice was not as moist as it should have been. I played ?hunt the prawn? for a while which were in little chunks. The flavours were quite pleasant with a slight chilli heat, but would have been improved with whole prawns, moister rice and some kind of cheese, which surely should be present in any risotto. The dish could have been better executed but half the size. We were then asked if we would want wine, and I said I thought not as my husband would be drinking London Pride all night. The Waitress did not seem to understand this at all, and I was left wondering whether she even realised she was working for Fullers, or what that meant! The main courses we ordered were Fish and Chips for my husban
d and Coq au Vin for myself. When my dish arrived, my heart sank even further, as it consisted of two drumstick and thigh portions that looked most unappetising. I had imagined there would have been a breast portion. I picked around at the thigh for a while, but even the cheap portion I had was not the highest quality. The red wine sauce was runny and tasteless and the mustard mash was the best part of the dish, although even this left a bit to be desired. My husband said his Fish and Chips were OK, but no better than he could have got at Wetherspoons (at half the price). When the Waitress came to take away the plates, she asked if everything had been OK. I pulled a face and she said ?Just OK then?? and I told her what I thought. She did not seem surprised and said she would feed back my comments. A little later the Waiter came to ask if we wanted anything else and we said we wanted the bill. He realised there was something wrong, and he also seemed unsurprised. We waited ages, and the bill was not brought. Again we asked and when it did arrive there was again no pen, and the staff had all disappeared again. We decided to hunt down a pen, and were getting more and more frustrated about the poor service. At this time there were 8 people in the restaurant including us, so there was no excuse. Eventually we were able to settle the bill, and for the first time this holiday with no tip. A bad experience. At breakfast the next morning, the service was no better. When we sat down we were not told what food there was on offer, and it was some time before we noticed there was a hot food table tucked away in the corner. There was also a table with cereal, and pretty limited continental fare. When we decided to go and get some cooked breakfast all that was available was some egg (I think), mushrooms and tomatoes. After a while a Waiter came with some bacon and what seemed like all the guests converged on the hot table. I felt like I was queuing fo
r school dinners! While I was waiting another Waiter came with a plastic bucket full of sausages and unceremoniously poured them in with the bacon ? I was glad I don?t like sausages! The quality of the food was no more than average. Because of our disappointing experiences in the restaurant my overall opinion of the Brigstow changed. Before I had thought of it as a modern stylish hotel, with lots of nice touches and I assumed this would be demonstrated throughout. Now though I think it has style over substance, and I think perhaps Fullers have just been over-ambitious. I can?t help thinking they would have been better to have had a restaurant offering less ambitious food, perhaps a slightly upgraded version of their pub menu, and to offer a full range of their beers. It seems ludicrous as well as a bad business decision to only offer the most common of its range, London Pride, especially when the pub just round the corner has a variety of Fullers beer, including seasonal ales and the more trendy bottled beers. Either Fullers need to employ a more proficient Chef or someone who can oversee the whole hotel operation with knowledge of the 4 star hotel industry. When we checked out we were not asked if everything had been alright during our stay. It appears all of the staff at the Brigstow realise there is something very wrong here.