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Review : Holiday Inn, Kensington, London October 19, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in Hotel & Restaurant reviews.
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I have spent 4 nights in this hotel in west London over the past year and as far as London hotels go, it’s just fine. It is a massive hotel (27 floors), located on Cromwell Road – one of the main arteries into London, and is 1 minute from Gloucester Road tube station on the very useful Picadilly line.

The rooms themselves are small by normal standards – the bathrooms particularly so – but when you are only looking for a place to lay your head then they are fine.  Clean, not too hot or noisy … but nothing spectacular.

The price however is another thing … London is astro-fucking-nomically high priced for everything.  Even if I was getting paid in £ ‘s I don’t know how I would be able to survive.  Dublin prices pale in comparison.  And they are blatant about it.  For instance, my room rate was £89 B&B for the first night and then it changed to £189 room only for the second – milk the hell out of you if they can.  2 pints and 2 cokes in the bar cost £25 and lo abd behold when I arrived at the desk to check out, everything was exclusive of VAT – EVERYTHING !  So it hurt the pocket.  Badly !

All in all if you have a few bob to spare and want a great location and an easy stay then go here – it is very expensive but still only a moderately expensive hotel by London standards.  But when in Rome …

Rambling Man rating : 6.5/10

Review : Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin June 28, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in Hotel & Restaurant reviews.
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We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry during our recent trip to Dublin.  This was our first time staying in an Intercontinental hotel and I must say that the experience was a most pleasant one.

The hotel is located in the grounds of Santry Demense which is a lovely park complete with lake and walks etc. and only 5 minutes from the M50.

The hotel had arranged for our room to be at the back of the hotel in a quieter area because of the little one and the room was great.  Until the air conditioning conked out at about 8pm and the room got very warm.  And so the child woke up because she was too warm.  When we rang reception, the sent a engineer up within a few minutes but he couldn’t solve the issue.  Unfortunately, he never returned with an update so after half an hour we rang reception looking for a fan (which they didn’t have) but then the kind duty manager moved us to another room at the other side of the hotel, which was bigger and cooler.  Not a lot of hotels in Ireland would move you to a better room so we were quite happy.

Everything was fine after that but we didn’t even mind the inconvenience because it was properly dealt with.

The food at this hotel is fine – room service was actually the best part of it – breakfast is the usual fare (hard sausages !) with a chef on hand to make waffles or pancakes and stuff.  They served what looked like tasty bar snacks in the über-trendy bar and lounge and the prices weren’t as expensive at one might have expected for Dublin.

So all in all, a good stay – I’ve even signed up for their members club so the next time we stay we can get access to the member’s lounge, which looked quite luxurious.  All that’s missing is a pool !

Thank you Crowne Plaza for taking real care of your customers – sometimes that concept in Ireland ceases once they make sure you have a bed !

Review : La Boheme, Waterford January 4, 2007

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Myself and the good wife (TGW) were treated to a mini-night out by our visiting sister-in-law a couple of weeks back and we decided to have a meal out in one of Waterford’s newest restaurants – La Boheme, on O’Connell Street.

Well what can I say about this restaurant ? Its fantastic ! Everything from the atmosphere, the staff who know what they are doing, the decor, the setting and of course the food …

The restaurant has been opened by Eric Theze who was once the head chef in nearby Faithlegg House Hotel and hats off to him – he has certainly done a good job with his newest venture. The setting for this restaurant is in the cellar of the recently refurbished Port of Waterford building at the beginning of O’Connell Street. It’s a huge, characterful old building and the cellar, complete with vaulted ceilings and whitewashed walls makes for the perfect setting. Guests are welcomed by a smiling attendant and can choose to sit in the small but cosy bar awhile or head to their table in one of several tastefully decorated and ambiently lit dining rooms.

The Table d’Hote menu (which we went for because there was no hope of us getting in later on …) was quite a reasonable €30 odd per person with 4 choices per course. We were also given the choice of the Á la Carte menu or the Tasting Menu so they do provide a range of choices in different price brackets. None the less, no matter what we chose we were treated brilliantly.

Now on to the most important thing – the food ! I am notoriously fussy when it comes to food (as my girth will tell you !) and I can honestly say that the quality and taste of the food at La Boheme is top notch. I would highly recommend it. It is classic French cuisine and contains some dishes that the sleeping Irish palette might not fully appreciate but is wonderful all the same. Each course contains a choice of meat, fish and vegetables – all very well prepared and presented with some unique combinations that really will excite the food lover.

We sampled 4 dishes and really got a good taste of what French cuisine is all about – flavour, rich textures and high quality food. The duck was to die for and the baked cod with Spanish chorizo was also delightful. Treat yourself to a little something special and book a table before the place becomes too widely known – then you might have to wait months to get in !!

What we had …
Crab cakes
Parsnip soup
Roast duck with wilted pak choi, berry jus and roast vegetables
Baked cod with Spanish chorizo sausage and a liqueur sauce

2 minerals and several helpings of home made bread. Cost : €68

Rambling Man rating : 10/10

Review : Hilton Hotel, Dublin 2 October 12, 2006

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We recently stayed in the Hilton Hotel located on Charlemont Place, Dublin 2. Having never stayed in a Hilton hotel before (this is part of the Hilton chain), I think we were expecting something a little more than we got. Overall our stay was fine but I’m a stickler when it comes to f*ckology in hotels. We are paying good money to stay there and some of the things that happen to us as customers are just madness. However, this hotel was fine.

Having given them a call en route to get directions to the hotel, we were surprised that our request threw the receptionist off a bit. She didn’t have very good English and instead of asking us to hang on a minute while she got someone who did know, she plain right out said that she didn’t know how to get to the hotel. Eventually we were passed on to the concierge who told us that we were approaching from the wrong side (sorry like !) and would have to drive right up to the hotel and then turn down the next street and do a U-turn, so as to approach it from an angle that we could actually turn. Imagine the impression that would make on an American !

Anyway we found the hotel and the car park (which is €10 a night for guests !) and checked in to our room. The room was your bog standard 3 star hotel room and you got the impression that the Hilton chain has just taken over another chain’s hotel instead of putting their grandiose imprint on this one. The room has all your standard features, has a decent enough room service menu, pay per view films and tea/coffee. No mini-bar however. It was clean and the windows actually open ! You wouldn’t believe the amount of hotels where the rooms are stuffy and musty and the windows only open a fraction.

The walls in the hallways are bare, finished brickwork which gives a nice impression – the hallways are a little narrow however so maybe the effect of this feature is diminished by that. The odd huge vending machine sitting in the middle of corridor is a trend that seems to be catching on in hotels these days but one that I personally don’t like. Location wise the hotel is great – far enough outside the city centre to be nice and quiet and on the LUAS line, 5 minutes and 3 stops away from Grafton Street (€1.40 pp).

Breakfast was included in our rate and the restaurant serves until 11am on weekends which is good if you’ve had a few too many the night before. The breakfast was very good with a large selection of freshly made food – it hadn’t been sitting there for ages. Not just your usual fried Irish stuff either – there were also waffles, pancakes etc.

Overall we were just about satisfied with this hotel and apart from a few things like being over charged for the car parking and the odd staff member who just hadn’t a word of English (including a waitress who brought somebody toast when they asked for coffee) it was fine. I would love to stay in a proper Hilton in a higher star rating category, just too see. An interesting fact was that on the hotel review website Trip Advisor , all the Europeans are satisfied with it and all the Americans are not !

Rambling Man rating : 6.5 /10

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Review : Radisson Hotel & Spa, Cork September 12, 2006

Posted by Rambling Man in Hotel & Restaurant reviews.
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Having recently brought the heavily pregnant wife for a relaxing weekend away, I thought the hotel where we stayed – the Radisson SAS Hotel and Spa, Little Island Cork – well worth a mention here.

Little Island is just to the east of Cork city and is about 10 minutes by car from the centre of town. The hotel and spa, although situated close to the main road and in the middle of an industrial estate business park, could not be more pleasant. I had previously stayed here on business earlier in the year and having loved the spa and pool facilities, decided to bring the missus back for an well earned few days of R&R.

The hotel itself is an older town house type building attached onto quite a modern but not so aesthetically pleasing structure. The Georgian building which looks lovely both outside and in, is used for the hotel’s conference facilities and having been there before, I can assert that these are great too. Last time I was a guest, there was a strong smell of chlorine in the lobby that hit you as soon as you walked in the door. This time however, they appear to have sorted that problem out.

Having checked-in, in under 5 minutes we took the elevator to our room – there are only two floors so the corridors are quite long. They are however very modern and tastefully decorated with canvas prints of beautiful non-plastic Paddy Irish scenes adorning the walls with bright red and blue carpets and colours – honestly, it looks much better than in sounds.

The room itself was great – slightly larger than your average double hotel room with a good en suite bathroom with bath.  The room also had a table and chairs, coffee making facilities and fridge and so on. The plasma screen TV complete with working remote control and properly tuned-in channels was a real plus. Our room was directly over the pool and spa and this in turn is right outside/over the front door of the hotel. Having noticed that there seemed to be the startings of a wedding reception being planned for the next day, we were a little worried about the noise levels we might have to endure. These fears, I am glad to say, were unfounded. The hotel staff were excellent too and promptly sent a chap from housekeeping to change our bed into a double from 2 singles. Room service was ordered, was prompt and tasty as well as being very good value for money.

I cannot say enough good things about the spa and pool. It was clean, not over crowded and the bits and bobs in the pool area like jet waterfalls, spouts with high pressure water, bubble beds and Jacuzzi type thingies were all cool – and soothed our aches and pains away really well.

Breakfast was also a pleasure, with a plentiful supply of fresh fruit, breads, cold meats and cereal, tea and coffee, juices, cheese – whatever you’re having yourself basically. Of course, there’s the usual gut buster “Irish” items too …

So all in all, for €218 for the weekend for 2, I couldn’t recommend this hotel highly enough – oh, and that wedding ? never heard a thing – they have specially installed sound proof doors on the great ballroom – you couldn’t hear anything even with the band in full swing, if you walked outside the room !

Rambling Man rating : 8.5 /10

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Review : Beckett’s, Dunmore Rd., Waterford September 6, 2006

Posted by Rambling Man in Hotel & Restaurant reviews.
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We stopped at this restaurant the other evening and I must say, were most pleasantly surprised. Those of you from Waterford or around, will remember this place formerly as Orpen’s on the Dunmore Road. It was the dingy sort of place that the bar flies would turn and look at you when you walked in the door …

Now under new management and completely redecorated inside, it is a rather nice restaurant where you couldn’t go wrong for a bite of decent, hearty, homemade fare of an evening.

There were 4 of us and we took a table in the large garden outside, free from the noise of the busy road and were seated at wooden tables. They have the kind of garden furniture you don’t have to climb over to sit on and where the seats are not connected to the table itself – important for my somewhat elderly mother.

The menu itself is broad and fairly priced with an emphasis on seafood, most of which is sourced locally from Dunmore village. The wine menu is extensive aswell but not being a wine connoisseur , I didn’t indulge. I am assured they were also satisfactory.

We sampled a good variety of the food and found it all to be well cooked and presented with the portion sizes more than adequate. The service was also noticable by it’s unobtrusiveness, which for me is always a plus.

Starters
Soup of the Day : Chicken Liver Paté : Mussels in wine sauce
Mains
Chicken curry
Beer battered cod and homemade chips
Roast Pork
Braised Lamb Shank

All the meat dishes were cooked properly and fell off the bone in the case of the lamb. The curry was made with fruit and proper ground spices rather than horrible bright yellow sauce “out of a jar” which is an all too common occurrence nowadays. The beer battered cod was light and crispy and the fish itself very tasty. Along with a few “minerals”, a few “short ones” and a pint, the bill came to a very decent €84 plus tip.

All in all, an enjoyable experience, good service, good homemade food, nothing fancy about it – somewhere to call in to when you couldn’t be bothered cooking …

Rambling Man rating : 7 / 10

Review : Kinnitty Castle, Co.Offaly August 23, 2006

Posted by Rambling Man in Hotel & Restaurant reviews.
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So we were at “a weddin” in Kinnitty Castle, Co.Offaly this past weekend and I thought it well worth a mention here. The wedding reception was for approximately 160 guests and was held in the castle’s ballroom. We were mightily impressed (not always easy).

The castle itself is an old grand house as opposed to a classical castle but it does have towers and courtyards and so on. It’s set in its own estate, up a long wooded drive lined with dense forest. Upon arriving at the front of the property, you get a great feeling of space and importance as the castle building is set atop a large paddock, higher than all around it.

The buildings themselves consist of the castle, which holds the Dungeon bar, Monk’s Kitchen restaurant and reception/drawing rooms and then across the courtyard, the ballroom. The bedrooms (25 approx.) are finished to a high standard, are clean and try to include some of the older charm of the castle. The hotel bar is in “the Dungeon” and I’ve never seen anything like it – either it’s a very clever design with a multitude of nooks and crannies and snugs or it once really was a dungeon ! that’s how authentic it felt – the perfect place to while away a few hours while the bridal party get their pictures taken in the magnificent gardens.

Being skeptical enough about venues which hold 3 weddings a week, we were more than pleasantly surprised with the high quality of food and service. The function hall is just about as unique as they come – a long central hall with two round tower like spaces at the top. So the “top table” sits in a [ shape with the guests all facing them. It was a very clever setup with guests sitting at long tables along the walls. Very reminiscent of how it might have been way back when. The best thing I can say about the service and the servers is that we didn’t even notice they were there – everything arrived on-time, hot and in plentiful supply. The room is also cool enough at 2am that 100+ merry revelers don’t get too jittery.

So hats off to Kinnitty Castle – couldn’t recommend it highly enough for a nice meal or indeed for your big day.

PS : No idea about the cost but I’d venture that it ain’t cheap …

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