I, very excitedly, booked myself in for a three night break at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire recently.
I’d heard continuous highly positive reviews of the place for the past year, and after scouring through the internet and finding further confirmation of how wonderful this hotel was supposed to be, I decided to spend four days and for me what was a lot of money to experience London’s self-proclaimed ‘country estate’.
When you arrive at check-in at a hotel to the sound of two people checking out, bitterly complaining to the manager about the quality of their stay, alarm bells should start to ring in your head.
However, when exactly this occurred on our arrival at The Grove, I swept it aside, determined that our stay was going to be successful. Instead of starting to panic, I merrily turned to the receptionist in front of us and cheerfully announced our arrival.
After a short bout of confusion from the receptionist over our booking, which was quickly resolved, we were then lead up to a room that distinctly resembled a room at a travel inn stuck in a 1950s time warp. For the price we were paying it was cramped and very brown and I could barely concentrate on all the instructions the receptionist was wittering at me about the hotel due to the confusion mounting in my head over the distinct lack of correlation between the amount of money I’d paid for this experience and the room I was now standing in.
This was the beginning of an overall unenjoyable stay at The Grove. But, despite my bad experience I’m going to try and remain fair and I will mention here that the bathrooms at The Grove are indeed quite luxurious, it’s just a shame that the bedrooms do not in any way match up to their standard.
And whilst I’m on the positives, because I shan’t be on them for very long, I must also recommend their spa. If you can go there just for the day for a spa treatment then this I would highly recommend. There’s a pool, saunas, steam room, relaxation room, vitality pool, gym, and plenty of treatment rooms. I cannot fault the facilities The Grove’s spa.
However, it might be relaxing in the spa, but no relaxation will be found in the bedrooms. The beds are another huge disappointment at The Grove. My neck ached and I was exhausted from the lack of sleep I was able to get due to how uncomfortable our bed was. The beds are soft but have absolutely no support, meaning that five minutes after climbing in, you have sunk down and are left feeling as though you no longer actually have a pillow under your head and the mattress just feels a little lumpy.
And the service, particularly in their main restaurant, The Glasshouse, is never with a smile and is infuriatingly unsatisfactory. The reason you choose to pay the comparatively extortionate rates for a hotel like The Grove rather than an alternative hotel for a more reasonable amount of money is because you expect the best from them. Not once though during our entire stay were our drinks refilled, I actually had to ask after our bottle of wine during one meal as it seemed to have disappeared all together. Further to this, orders took an age to arrive, with the finished plates hanging around for a further unreasonable length of time.
And it’s very clear at The Grove that the hotel puts it’s larger parties of conferences and weddings way ahead of the needs and happiness of its other guests. On one evening the main restaurant was shut to all guests for what looked like a corporate function. This is particularly aggravating when you’ve booked a package which includes dinner, you were hoping to eat at this particular restaurant and no one bothers to tell you about the situation until you try to book a table at the restaurant the night before.
Adding further insult to injury, on our final morning at The Grove we arrived for our buffet breakfast and were told we should go to the other restaurant (which has probably less than quarter of the choice of food) because there was a party coming in for lunch at 11am so they would need to close the breakfast buffet early.
Breakfast at 10am when you are supposed to be on a relaxing spa break in hardly unheard of, but lunch at 11am seems rather early and unusual whatever the circumstance. Unless of course you are doing shift work. We therefore felt a bit peeved that we would be the ones inconvenienced when we felt to be the reasonable party.
Indignantly though, I insisted that we had the buffet, due to the choice of food, and voices about the price we’d paid for our breakfast-inclusive stay ringing in my head. So we rushed to gather all the food we could before the buffet shut and then sat eating it to the sound of cluttering and banging as they cleared the rest of the food away all around us.
All in all, The Grove came across as a glamorous conference centre pretending to be a hotel for unsuspecting victims who have heard all of these historical and now in my mind inaccurately positive reviews. I’m guessing it was once a wonderful, indulgent experience, but in recent times has started to slip. No less than three times during our stay did I hear people complaining to each other how it just wasn’t as good as it had been on there previous stays.
So my final word on The Grove is to tell you than on our final day there we checked out of the hotel an hour and a half before we even had to. It’s not that we had anywhere to be particularly urgently, it was just that I honestly couldn’t wait to get home.