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Review: Hotel Amigo, Brussels – a sad decline

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This is my review of the Hotel Amigo in Brussels, run by Rocco Forte Hotels, where we spent an eventful couple of days last weekend.

It has been impressive to watch how Rocco Forte has built up his chain of luxury boutique hotels over the last 18 years.  Hotel Amigo was one of the first to join the group.  I had only stayed with them once, in St Petersburg, but I also have the occasional drink in Browns in London.

They have good-looking hotels, without a doubt, and I include Hotel Amigo when I say that.  The company overstretched itself financially in the run up to the financial crisis, however, and it has lost a couple of properties.  At one point it was thought that the entire business may collapse but a recent equity injection seems to have stabilised the ship for now.

Hotel Amigo Brussels review exterior

Unfortunately, the lack of money in the business appears to have had an impact on the hotels themselves.  There is no other explanation for the string of issues which befell us last weekend – when the Hotel Amigo was, note, was charging €339 per night for a standard room.  Let me review what happened.

This will not happen to you

When reviewing a hotel you need to separate out events which are unlikely to happen twice from things which impact every guest.  The following story will hopefully not impact you but it is symptomatic of the management approach.

We arrived at Hotel Amigo off a Brussels-bound Eurostar at 9pm with two interconnecting rooms booked, one for me and my wife and one for the kids (6 and 3).  My online booking confirmation noted interconnecting rooms.  More importantly, I had spoken to the hotel directly after booking and they had blocked out our rooms for us.  In theory they were ‘locked’ and could not be touched.

Not so.  The Hotel Amigo had given away our rooms – in fact, despite written proof, they claimed to have no record of our request for connecting rooms.  The only rooms left were on opposite sides of the building which was obviously impractical.  The only solution was to put two mattresses on the floor in one of the rooms.

This is obviously not what you expect from a five-star hotel.  What I REALLY did not expect, though, was to be told that I still had to pay for the 2nd room at €339 per night even though it would be left empty.

In 20 years of staying at 100+ luxury hotels, I have never come across such an astonishing position.  It beggared belief.  After one hour – yes, one hour – of standing at the desk and disputing this, with my little kids having to sit in the lobby, they reduced it to effectively 50%.  I would have to pay for 3 room nights (across 2 days).  Take it or leave it – except I was with two small children and if I left they would charge me anyway.  I had no choice but to agree to pay 3 x €339.

As it turned out, an unexpected reallocation of rooms meant that, on Saturday, we were given a second room which connected to the one we were in.  (The hotel did not, of course, bother to remove the mattresses from the floor of our original room.  They sat there for the remainder of our stay.)

This was not on the cards the night before when I was forced to agree to pay for an empty room.   Rather like my stay at the St Regis in Doha, this ‘unexpected reallocation’ of rooms only happened after the hotel found out what I do for a living.

This will happen to you

None of the above should happen to you if you visit the Hotel Amigo, to be fair.

The following will happen to you:

Very poor in-room wi-fi – room 233 had an exceptionally bad connection, even in the dead of night when nobody else would have been on the system.  In other parts of the hotel it was better

A faulty TV remote control

Lots of street noise from drunken youths in the early hours (the hotel is one road back from the Grand Place)

No newspaper delivered to my room in the morning, despite ordering one (at the suggestion of reception, ironically)

A long queue for breakfast in the ‘too tiny’ breakfast room

More importantly, the Hotel Amigo had the WORST breakfast buffet I have ever seen in a five star hotel.  The selection is laughably poor, even if you can find some food left.

On Saturday there was no egg at 10am:

Hotel Amigo Brussels review breakfast

…. and no pastries (although as the pain au chocolat were rock hard, I was possibly not missing much):

Hotel Amigo Brussels review pastries

…. and no glasses if I wanted juice:

Hotel Amigo Brussels review glasses

Breakfast cereal consisted of four different types of muesli because, of course, everyone loves muesli.  In particular, small children.

There was egg on Sunday morning but this was probably because the hotel had not put out a serving spoon so no-one could eat it.

There IS a decent ‘cooked to order’ breakfast menu at the Hotel Amigo.  The problem is that, as the buffet is so bad, everyone is forced to order from the menu or risk going hungry.  This puts a huge strain on the kitchen which it cannot handle.  My wife waited over 30 minutes for a pancake on Sunday, by which point my kids had eaten and I was forced to take them back to the bedroom before they caused chaos.  The only time the staff ever showed any sign of speed was when we tried to leave on Saturday after forgetting to sign for our additional items.

My wife was also disappointed that their Christmas tree was fake although I did not check this fact personally and cannot verify it!

Conclusion – avoid

It is sad to review a grand hotel like Hotel Amigo in Brussels and find it so wanting.  It is clear that the financial problems at the group have led to scrimping and saving which has brought down the service level considerably.

None of the issues I highlighted are life-threatening, of course.  The fact is, though, that when you are paying €339 per room (x 2 in our case) per night none of these things should happen at all.  My newspaper still did not appear even after I complained about not receiving it, which is unforgivable.

There is a new Novotel just north of the Grand Place, in an equally convenient location (for a tourist) to the Hotel Amigo.  That would be my first point of call next time.  It is unlikely that it could be any worse.

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Comments (61)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Britbronco22 says:

    Why were you even staying there? Isn’t there a suitable option for redeeming points?

    • erico1875 says:

      To me, families are better suited to serviced apartments
      To spend that kind of money on a room for children who really wont appreciate so called 5 star luxury is crazy.

    • Rob says:

      Not really. Most of the chain hotels in Brussels are in the EU area or behind Gare du Midi, neither of which is handy for a tourist.

  • Volker says:

    “Rather like my stay at the St Regis in Doha, this ‘unexpected reallocation’ of rooms only happened after the hotel found out what I do for a living.”

    It amazes me that this did not have any further impact on your treatment. We have all watched movies where a famous restaurant critic is being recognised by a member of staff and everybody is “somersaulting” to deliver the perfect dining experience. Your story could (and should) have turned into another episode of Loyalty Lobby’s “Compensation Clinic”! To me as an “ordinary” guest the message is clear: Avoid at all costs.

  • tony says:

    As someone with kids a little older than Raffles’, I can unfortunately advise that the vast majority of properties don’t give two hoots about requests for interconnecting rooms, to the extent that I am very wary of those that claim to offer this service.

    The folk who do the room allocations are presumably running a thankless task. We’ve ended up with one parent in each room before on a good few occasions but it really is an unwanted PITA when travelling with kids.

    Needless to say, those hotels I know I can trust with getting this right are certainly doing themselves well with additional business I make sure I push their way.

    • Rob says:

      I agree, having had issues with LeM in Dubai in October (see comment below). This is why I rang the hotel when I booked, explicity confirmed that they had connecting rooms available that weekend and had them blocked out. Even that does seem enough, though!

      As it happens I don’t have any hotel bookings at the moment where this is likely to come up again. Everything up to Easter is in suites which I know can fit the kids as we’ve used them before. Singapore in May is likely to be the next risk of trouble.

      • Alan says:

        I’ve had excellent CS from the Conrad Singapore on a number of occasions now and can definitely recommend them – there’s no way they’d have this sort of attitude if you ran into a similar problem with a booking!

        Although they eventually corrected the issue mid-stay I’d still say the whole episode was so badly handled it deserves at least a partial chargeback, although I’d give the Chief Exec’s office a chance to make good initially (I normally find complaints sent to that office in most companies are dealt with by their PAs, who tend to be excellent!)

      • Daz says:

        Singapore, Risk? Probably the least riskiest place for hotel malfunctions IMHO. Just stay at your namesake Raffles, I had two great stays this year at 1 Beach road.

    • Thywillbedone says:

      I seem to end up getting interconnecting rooms which I definitely don’t want as a couple travelling (notwithstanding I always request that I don’t get one!) – the noise always seems to carry through the closed door which annoys.

      I agree with Raffles on this hotel, have stayed and expected a great experience but got mediocre (and some of the rooms are very, very small) – as a once a year visitor to Brussels it is better to stay in the EU quarter given the very good hotel options (try the Sofitel) and get the metro into town.

      • Lady London says:

        Re interconnecting rooms I’ve had the opposite problem. Quite a few times as a single female travelling alone I’ve discovered that my room is an interconnecting room. As Thywillbedone says the noise and smoke or draughts always seems to come through from the other via the interconnecting door. The last time this happened was at the Intercontinental in Prague. They didn’t even bother to lock the interconnecting door between the rooms and no key was left so that I could lock it. I called room service and they didn’t come to lock it for hours.

        Funnily enough it’s mostly happened to me at 5 star hotels not any lesser level!

  • Alan says:

    What absolutely dreadful treatment! To have gone to the extent you did beforehand to confirm things, to then have it denied and worse no proper attempt made to correct it must be amongst the worst customer service of any supposedly premium hotel I’ve seen!

    Personally I’d complain to the Chief Exec of the chain and if no suitable resolution I’d look into lodging a partial chargeback via Amex. I’d also leave a factual TripAdvisor review to warn other customers, although here’s hoping this review soon shows as the top result on Google when folk search for this hotel 😀

  • Mr Bridge says:

    the fact you have written confirmation of the connecting rooms, and you did not get them is breach of contract.
    Hopefully you paid by amex!

    If you pay for something, and don’t get exactly what you paid for, and you can prove it, and you have first tried to obtain a refund from the hotel, then amex should chargeback for you.

    • nick says:

      I’m a bag fan of chargeback. Only used it once but Amex were amazing and got me a full refund when the merchant told me that I would absolutely not be getting one under any circumstance.

    • Joe says:

      I’ve had big problems with trying to chargeback faulty furniture on Amex, they wouldn’t help at all because they said (after much back and forth) it was a chargecard and so not covered by consumer credit regulation! Of course I realise that, but I would still expect them to be as helpful as if I’d paid on one of their credit cards. In the end I just cancelled the card.

      • nick says:

        My chargeback was on a gold card, they didn’t even mention the credit card / charge card difference

  • Lloyd says:

    I would have walked out in that situation and dispute with the credit card company when charged to your account. You had the interconnecting rooms in writing and it would have been illegal for you to have left your two children in another room in a different part of the hotel (I suppose the hotel could say 1 parent and 1 child per room but hardly a family break?!).

    • Rob says:

      We had to do this at the Le Meridien at Dubai Airport in October. It was only one night though and we were in the hotel for less than 10 hours. And, to be fair, the head person who took us to our rooms had no idea what the word interconnecting meant! I was standing there going ‘we asked for interconnecting rooms’, she said ‘they are interconnecting’, I say ‘no, they are adjacent’ – at which point she got very confused.

      They had comped us Club access and a car to the terminal before this happened so I thought it best to let it go! And a handful of SPG points, which is what we paid with, was not the same as €339 ….

  • Ralph says:

    Much sympathy for you and your poor children having to hang around a lobby for an hour while you disputed this outrageous handling of a customer. Raffles, if you have it in writing and paid with your credit card, rather than use points in this instance, then the hotel broke its contract and you have grounds for disputing the charge with your credit card company, certainly you should not have to pay a penny for the second room. That said, the hotel should never have charged anything for it in the first place and should even have compensated you for what can only be described as a royal #!+#-up, I presume you will follow this up with head office?
    Re the breakfast, contrast that with my stay at the Mercure Queens in Cheltenham that had an otherwise fabulous breakfast but no egg and the beans were dried out. When asked about my stay upon checkout and mentioning this in passing they absolutely insisted on refunding the breakfast charge, what a difference in attitude and approach indeed.

  • JohnG says:

    I think you’ve actually been overly kind in this review/warning Raffle’s! You put the biggest issue, messing up the rooms, down as “won’t happen to you” but it’s hardly unheard of for something to go wrong in a hotel stay. For them to mess up a confirmed room request, then not only refuse to resolve it but also require you to still pay for a room you can no longer use is well beyond unforgivable.

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