Last time I was in the UK (back end of August 2010), I had booked a room at the City Inn Hotel Manchester (now rebranded as Mint Hotel) bang in the centre of town, halfway between Piccadilly Gardens and Piccadilly Train Station. Although it was convenient in certain ways (mainly on the retail and catering front), it proved rather tricky in relation to my South Manchester-based appointments. So this time around I was determined to give the city centre a miss.
|Mum's ready for action and The Village Hotel has it!|
Last time I took my brother with me and now I was taking my mum. I was hiring a car, which would give us that much-needed freedom of movement, as you end up wasting a lot of time and money juggling taxis, trains, buses and the likes... We could therefore afford to be off the main parkways and out of town centres.
The temptation for anyone looking for a hassle-free booking would have been to resort to one of those budget hotels within the immediate airport area. The Travel Inn was priced at an attractive £29.00 a night, but in terms of attraction I was looking for something else. I wanted our hotel stay to have a bit more oomph and drama. Previously I had stayed at the Village Hotel Cheadle, even had dinner there a couple of times, I even had insider knowledge of the place (my partner had worked there), so this was going to be my natural choice. I wasn't taking a risk, neither was I prepared to take one.
The 117-bedroom Village Hotel is located in the leafy suburbs of Stockport, a Cheshire town touching the South East Manchester boundaries. The hotel is a good 15 minutes drive away from the airport (on a quiet day) and within easy reach of the motorway, a half-hour drive from Manchester city centre off peak hours. It enjoys a good reputation and attracts a wide array of demographics, from business people to families, wedding parties, week-enders or friends/ couples on a city break.
|That statement dark entrance! (picture source)|
The hotel is set in a landscaped environment of mature trees, with ample parking space, and refers to itself as a hub, for it is not only a hotel, but also a restaurant & grill (Verve), a pub (Victory), a Starbucks café, a conference destination, a function venue, and a very popular leisure club complete with swimming pool. There is a buzz about that whole place, no doubt about it! The Cheadle hotel is part of the 25-strong Village Hotel group. The group has been under the umbrella of the prominent De Vere portfolio (Malmaison Hotel, Hotel du Vin, Liberty (dept. store), Searcys etc.) for a couple of years and each of the 25 Village hotels are being repackaged up by the De Vere guys into 'an affordable, design-led hotel with an individual vibe of its own', aiming for trendy boutique hotel status at a reasonable price.
I booked the hotel only a few days ahead of the trip, via Booking.com and got a 50% deal straightaway: £250.00 for a twin room for 4 nights (buffet breakfast included). Not bad when you consider that rooms are typically 3 to 4 times the value of a Travel Inn room!
Last time I had stayed at The Village Hotel was in a suite, and my current expectations were a tad warped by the experience. The twin room seemed cramped, certainly not as roomy as an average De Vere twin room. It was also quite dark (some hotel reviewers have gone as far as describing their room as dark and dingy), which wasn't helped by the dark accent wall.
|Lightening up the sombre mood of the room!|
One of the perks of hotel guests once they step inside their room is either to raid the mini-bar or the complimentary breakfast bar. In our case, there was no mini-bar. As for the breakfast bar, the choice of beverages was limited to coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and that strong builders brew (tea) that even the milk pod and sugar sachet wouldn't soften the strength of. No biscuits, tid-bits, fancy/ herbal teas that you would otherwise expect from a boutique hotel on a par with 'The Mal'. And I have to say I was a bit bothered by this.
Same in the bathroom department. Hotel guests love those sample-size shower gels, shampoos, creams and cutesy soaps. Here you had to content with the basic Cussons dispenser in the bath, and a (faulty) liquid soap dispenser by the sink. The toilet paper was cheap and nasty. These are little things but hotel guests pick on them. I saw no hairdryer in the room, although I am sure I could have requested one from the reception desk. The door knob looked like it had been replaced but you could see the markings and holes from the previous one from a different design. There was a fine sprinkling of dust over the desk lamp and the standalone lamp (easily noticeable as soon as those lamps were on). The window glass needed a clean and so did the flat roof that we overlooked.
Besides the hotel was noisy on two levels. It is on the flight path and those of you used to the peace and quiet of the countryside or the sleepy towns might pick on this straight away. However the flight noise is bearable and no aircraft activity could be heard roughly between 12:00am and 5:00am. The second type of noise came from the function rooms which happened to be underneath our room. Noise subsided after 12:00am (possibly around 1:00am to 2:00am, I couldn't say for definite). One night we had a 1980s disco to content with. Duran Duran and FGTH didn't exactly lull us to sleep, although for the music's sake I would have preferred something edgier from back in the day although then I might have joined the party!
|Rise and shine!|
I don't mean to sound like a grating episode of The Hotel Inspector. Maybe I should indicate in passing that I worked a short stint in the hotel industry, which has made me more naturally attuned to some of the details I have mentioned here. Having said that, you get the clear message that the company is on a cost-cutting mission and the first casualties are the little touches, which is most unfortunate when you aim to position your brand as a boutique hotel. (After writing this review I had a look at the Village Hotel website which funnily enough mentioned 'little touches' at the hotel... At least we are on the same wavelength, except poles apart!).
At least the food didn't let us down. You could taste that it had been freshly prepared. My mum and I dined at the Verve restaurant on the evening of our arrival, and enjoyed the Salmon Fishcakes which we had ordered as a main course. We were each presented with one haggis-sized fishcake, but once we got over the odd presentation, we loved the melting combination of salmon and potato purée, served with a light vinaigrette and Tartare sauce. For dessert, we had a heavenly (and filling!) Bread and Butter Pudding served with Chocolate Sauce and Orange Marmelade. I was a bit taken aback by the waiter bringing us a pitcher of tap water when I asked for water (I meant a bottle of still water, like Evian or equivalent)...
Breakfast was a moment we looked forward to: a buffet-style eat-as-much-as-you-like feast that encompasses all tastes, from the continental breakfast (fresh fruit, juices, yogurt, milk, cereals, muesli, Danish pastries, croissants, toasts etc.) to the typical Full English Breakfast, all presented within the Nantucket design style of the Verve restaurant. The temptation to linger over breakfast was strong as it was really cosy there!
|A few supplies from Sainsbury's to get us going!|
The staff were friendly, although the reception manager did look a bit harassed one time, and on our very early departure on Sunday it would have been nice for the night porter/ hotel manager or whoever that middle-aged guy was, to thank us for our stay and wish us a pleasant journey, rather than blurting out in a huff from a distance: 'Have you paid everything?'. Not exactly a parting good-bye, but then again this hotel sadly lacks in places what it should be all about: the little touches!
The Village Hotel Cheadle, Cheadle Road, Cheadle, Stockport, Cheshire SK8 1HW, U.K.
Tel: (+ 44) (0)844 980 8033
The + sides: conveniently situated, young and vibrant atmosphere, comfy bed, Verve restaurant fayre fresh and tasty
The - sides: room décor a bit cheerless; noisy room; not as spotless as should be; lack of little extras and lack of attention to detail; toilettries/ hot beverages in the room to the absolute minimum; a hairdressing/ beauty salon would have been handy for those guests short on time. That night porter guy/ concierge, not a happy bunny!
Read my review published on Booking.com.