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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.

  • Mikeact says:

    Assuming booked through the UK, then one for the Small Claims Court, easy.

    • Rob says:

      Technically, in the end, I got what I paid for because on the 2nd night the room adjacent to the one we used on Friday became free and the hotel locked a door on the corridor which only led to these 2 rooms.

      The hotel was not expecting this, though, so either someone left early, someone did not turn up or the hotel bunged them something to move. I seriously doubt the latter though.

      • GMK says:

        Rob, I would post this on Flyertalk also. The more people who see that the hotel has behaved this way the better. My blood was boiling just reading your report, so goodness knows how you felt! As others have pointed out, sometimes things go wrong, but it is the service recovery (or in this case, lack thereof), that is the key.

  • Payl says:

    Sounds trully awful and thanks for the warning. However, and I am not doubting your experience, the reviews on trip advisor are stellar. I hope you will post s review there as that is where I would look first when thinking about hotels. I tend ignore one hit wonders or disasters and only pay attention to reviews from people who have posted 30 plus times.
    Doesn’t always work, had similar awful experience at hilton Hawaiian village in August when I forked out almost £800 for a night and two rooms. Ghastly hotel horrible experience.

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    Indeed solid case for a credit card reverse charge. Amex Would do this immediately and then wait for an explanation from the hotel.

  • vindaloo says:

    Astonishing! The mix-up I can understand. In any service industry there will always be things that don’t quite go to plan. It’s how they go about putting it right that counts. Trying to charge you for an empty room just beggars belief.

    We stay a lot in 5 star properties with our kids (5 and 3). Usually they can’t do enough to help, even though we tend to admit to at most one child when we book and then turn up with an extra one. Often they apologise for not having the children on the booking and offer to make up extra beds for them. Not once has anyone asked us for proof of our booking or tried to blame us or make us pay extra.

    We find Sofitels particularly good. They usually give the kids little teddies, put out mini dressing gowns and slippers, and then give them little presents when we check out. They invariably give the kids free breakfast if we’ve booked a rate including breakfast for two. And I’m sure it pays off for them because it keeps us coming back.

  • tim says:

    Contrast this to an inadvertent cock-up with interconnecting rooms in Monument Premier Inn I experienced recently and which involved no more than a move mid-stay and it couldn’t be more different. Apologies offered and within 30 seconds of arriving at reception there was “please may we have your card to give you a full refund”, “can we offer you complementary dinner or a drink this evening”, help with moving, great interaction with the kids, and then 30 minutes later a knock from the manager to apologise and offer us dinner again. Followed up by an apologetic email when I got home. Handled so well I was moved to send a well done letter complimenting specific staff.

    • Rob says:

      Premier Inn offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee though!

      • Richard says:

        And they really, really mean it. Premier Inn Brighton once paid me back over £100 just because the wifi in my room wasn’t working. I complained about it in the hope of a free coffee or something (given that I was having to sit in their bar to use my laptop), and before I knew what was happening they’d refunded my whole room bill.

        Compare and contrast Ibis, who took several letters and calls to make good on their “15 minute guarantee” over a much more significant issue last year. I find Premier Inn a really weird brand – I’d put the offering and service right at the top of the budget range, but they market it as though it’s a cut-price option.

        • Zoe says:

          Premier Inn refunded us on 2 rooms last year as there was a power cut (in the immediate area not just the hotel), as the power went out we were being served drinks that without power for the till we were not charged for either. By the time we came back after dinner the power was back, so minimal inconvenience for us but a decent saving on our night away.

        • Lady London says:

          Chargeback. Merchants hate it. They are really penalised for them by the card companies. And you were on solid ground as you had proof.

          IME service issues with a provider tend to repeat and continue until radical change. They are rarely one-offs regardless of what is claimed at the time.

          The hotel probably thought they’d get away with it because it was night and you had the children with you. Unless Brussels was full for a conference or something, I’d have phoned or got online to book one of the excellent hotels there whilst standing in the Reception. Then I’d have got everyone into a taxi. I’d have called my card company for a chargebacken route from the taxi to the other hotel..

      • Fenny says:

        Yep. I stayed at the Premier Inn at the Stratford Westfield centre a couple of times at the beginning of the year. First time, my room was next to the door to the lifts, which slammed all night as people came and went. Second time, I just didn’t sleep for whatever reason. Both times, I got a full refund.

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          Wait, so because you couldn’t sleep “for whatever reason” you saw fit to fabricate a complaint to secure a full refund? There a name for theft by deception. I wonder if it is applicable in this instance.

          • Fenny says:

            No, I didn’t fabricate an excuse. They asked me if I’d slept well. I said “No, but I often don’t sleep well when I’m not at home”. I didn’t complain, or whinge or even sound miffed, I just answered the question. They gave me a refund anyway. I didn’t ask for it and was surprised when it came through.

            Amazingly, Premier Inn train their staff to ask if you have slept well and if your stay has been a good one. As I felt like shit and probably looked like I’d been awake for a month, even if I’d said everything was fine, they may have had trouble believing it.

          • Richard says:

            It’s almost absurd how keen they are to give you your money back. I felt a little bit bad about the wifi episode, but it would have been equally absurd to say no.

  • TomTom says:

    The Sofitel Brussels Le Louise would have been a good idea and can be redeemed on points.

  • Chris says:

    I’ve never been to this property, however I have stayed at The Balmoral in Edinburgh around six times over the last two years and whilst it is nowhere near as bad as what Raffles has experienced there are small things that you notice have been done to save cash or have not been fixed quickly enough. Such a shame, especially when operating at the top end of the market.

    • vindaloo says:

      We were at the Balmoral a few weeks ago. Enjoyed our stay but I can confirm that it also has a plastic Christmas tree!

  • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    The Marriott next to the Bourse is only a couple of blocks from the Grand Place.
    It’s probably the best hotel I’ve stayed in in Brussels.
    Excellent food at the Midtown Grill.
    And they have a reasonable car park (once you find it).

    • Rob says:

      I passed the Marriott. I have a bit of an aversion to them but, whilst not having been inside, I can confirm that the location is also very good for a tourist.

      • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

        It’s not a bad place. Obviously it is in a prime location compared with the Renaissance which on the edge of euro land.

        Of course the best Marriott (and I don’t stay in Marriotts anywhere apart from Belgium (and the RC in Dubai)) is the one in Ghent.

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