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Four Seasons Hampshire in meltdown

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We were down at Four Seasons Hampshire over the weekend, which I know is a weekend break spot for many of our readers.  It was a complete disaster.  I have never, ever, seen more people in a hotel making complaints.  You couldn’t turn around without finding another guest creating a scene.

The cause of the problems is that the restaurant and bar are closed until August due to a major programme of refurbishment and renovation.  The website promises “a series of pop-up dining experiences” instead.  This a lie.

There is no replacement bar at all – you are directed to the tiny bar in the Library.  The ballroom, which has about as much atmosphere as a Debenhams in-store cafe and has no natural light, is being used for breakfast and dinner.  It is like eating at a particularly bad wedding.

(It also isn’t clear what they have done to the Library.  The refurbishment here is finished but all they have done is installed uglier wallpaper and replaced the furnishings.  In the lobby, the floor has been replaced by a new marble version which is so shiny that it looks totally out of place in a historic building.)

Four Seasons Hampshire

In theory, refurbishment shouldn’t mean that a hotel should cease functioning.  In reality, it seems that the kitchens are now nowhere near where the food is consumed and the cooking capacity has been sharply reduced.  We waited an hour for a lunch in the Library to arrive, just to find that my wife’s Reuben deli sandwich had been burnt to a crisp – and the staff had tried to disguise this by placing it upside down on the plate.  Luckily, because we were sat by the counter area, we could entertain ourselves during the wait by the constant stream of diners complaining about the non-appearance or incorrect appearance of their meals.

The next day, an eggs royale I ordered for breakfast arrived cold and looked dreadful anyway.  The best bit was when my wife ordered pancakes (£12 supplement).  Instead of a large US-style plate of pancakes, three tiny mini-pancakes appeared.  There were exactly the same pancakes which were available, for free, on the kids breakfast buffet!

Midweek, the hotel serves a cut-down breakfast because it is quieter.  Monday, of course, was a Bank Holiday this week so the hotel was fairly full.  This didn’t stop them removing at least 50% of the food that was on the buffet on Sunday morning.  My wife thought that the buffet on Monday was worse than the Holiday Inn Sheffield version where we were recently.

Even the kids events were screwed up.  The kids parties they normally hold during school holidays were arranged for 5pm to 7pm – far too early.  The best bit was that the evening buffets (no a la carte available in the ballroom) didn’t start until 6.30pm.  If we’d sent our kids to the parties, we couldn’t have gone to the evening buffet afterwards because the kids would have eaten already.  We also couldn’t go to the evening buffet as a couple because there was only a 30 minute cross-over with the party.

When we checked out I was met with total indifference when I listed my complaints, probably because I was complaining less than the person in front of me who insisted that the manager come down and see him.  The fact that we have probably done 75 nights at this hotel since it opened meant nothing.  Our bill was also wrong although I didn’t spot it until I got home.  There was an email address on it to contact with any queries but, 24 hours later, I have still to receive a response.

The wi-fi – which didn’t work at Christmas in the run of rooms overlooking the walled garden – still didn’t work consistently.  I resorted, yet again, to working off a 3G signal tethered from my phone.

Overall standards of maintenance have also dropped.  This was the best maintained hotel I knew – most people have would guessed it opened a week before they arrived.  That has now gone out of the window. It seems that they have given up on routine maintenance whilst the major works take place.  A collapsing toilet roll holder in our room was the least of our issues and the general condition of the public areas was poorer than usual.

If you’ve got a booking here between now and the end of August, when the Four Seasons Hampshire refurbishment programme is due to end, I strongly recommend you cancel it.  Chewton Glen or Coworth Park are decent alternatives.  I feel sorry for people who go now and who haven’t been before, because they won’t realise that it isn’t meant to be a total shambles.

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Comments (92)

  • Michele says:

    I would recommend Limewood in the New Forest as an alternative. It is less formal than Chewton Glen and has a wonderful spa with a rooftop terrace. The restaurant is Harnett, Holder and Co by Angela Harnett and serves modern Italian food. There is no outdoor like Chewton but they have some great cottages in the ground that are perfect for families with a basic kitchen and supplies.

    • Rob says:

      True, forgot about that although it is more for those without kids I think. Mine get grumpy without a pool.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Agree, Limewood is decent, although Lyndhurst traffic can be horrific.

  • Dan says:

    Recently overnighted (as crew) at Farnborough airport and got put up in the Four Seasons Hampshire. Our company always books 4-5* properties (and I stay in hotels 15+ nights per month) but I will be controversial here and say that I rather enjoyed my stay! My room was perfect, towards the back of the property, and the Wifi was fast. The hotel grounds were stunning for a walk/run. We had breakfast in a small room next to the spa, and the cooked-to-order elements were bought out quickly and piping hot. The ongoing renovations are a shame, and the library bar looked far too simple to be serving such highly priced food. Hence why we took a pleasant 30 minute walk to The Queens Head in Dogmersfield for a decent meal at half the price. Didn’t have time to use the Spa/Gym and so can’t comment on those elements.

    • Rob says:

      The Exchequer pub, which you can also reach via the canal towpath, serves decent food too.

      • Dan says:

        P.S. Our travel agent rate was £149 which is presumably MUCH less than their full rate! I doubt they would charge so low when not undergoing renovations.

  • Andy says:

    In fairness, the HI Sheffield has a surprisingly nice breakfast in quite a nice room!

  • Waribai says:

    Sorry to hear the weekend didn’t work out well. I’ve always had the FS in Hampshire on my to do list as a UK break.
    On a more positive note, thanks to an indirect helping hand from HFP, we mustered up enough points to get a CAT 9 Marriott Air and Hotel Package with 35% extra avios. So we are at Domes of Elounda for half term where the resort and service is mightly impressive and I doubt many people have much to complain about.
    Just a quick question, when it comes to paying the bill for incidentals, is it worth sticking it on the Marriott Rewards mastercard. Even if we get stung with a fx fee I thoughtful might be worth doing if Autograph properties count as Marriott spend and we get some extra points. Any thoughts welcome.

    • Rob says:

      Seem to be quite a few HFP readers heading to Domes! Wouldn’t use the Marriott card if you can help it, 2 points per £1 isn’t worth the 3% fee (I value it at 1p) even if they treat Autograph properties as Marriott and give double points.

      • Waribai says:

        Yes, funnily enough I was thinking that at breakfast this morning, I wonder how many HFP readers are here. Simply because to be here during school holidays you need to be points savvy or be prepared to part with a lot of cash even for the entry level suites.

        Also I wouldn’t consider using the Marriott at 2 points per £ but I thought when abroad it was 4 points at Marriott properties?

        • Waribai says:

          Ok, re-read your reply. Got it now! Thanks

          • RussellH says:

            I have re-read Rob’s reply and not got it.

            Does Autograph not count as a Marriott and so no 4 points per pound??

            The only time I have stayed in a Marriott abroad was in Miami 18 months ago. The room was a freebie, so no points there, but I did buy a couple of beers and got 4 points per GBP on that.

            It actaully worked out well – when checking in the duty manager said that he did not need a card swipe to charge to the room, but, surprise surprise, when it came to charge the beers it did not work. Same duty manager sorted it out, then turned out to be a real beer fan and brought me a couple of free beers ‘to taste’.

            🙂

          • Waribai says:

            I think he’s saying he’s not sure about Autograph properties qualifying do worse case scenario 2 points per £1 due to it being an fx spend. Best case scenario is 4 points per £1 but neither is worth it as a point is only usually worth 1p.

          • Genghis says:

            Not 0.5p?

    • Troy says:

      @Waribai

      How much is the breakfast when staying on points?

      And for the points rooms, could a third child be fitted in?

      • Waribai says:

        Thanks to Amex plat, I have SPG Gold and I matched that to Marriott Gold. So breakfast is free. I also asked for lounge access as it’s our anniversary soon. So, we have free drinks and snacks throughout the day.
        The hotel is full so they couldn’t upgrade us to a pool villa or maybe I contacted the wrong person 🙂 Still the family seaview suites sleep two adults in the bedroom and two kids on separate sofa beds in the living room. Lovely jacuzzi on the balcony too.
        Overall, excellent value in school holidays!

  • LondonFoodie says:

    Oh my, we used to stay at that FS three times a year at my previous employer and it was quite a nice hotel. Was planning on visiting soon for a long weekend with the family but will now look into the Coworth hotel.
    Did FS reach out to apologise? provided any compensation?

  • Genghis says:

    Yes you can do that too though 6 avios/£ finished on Tue IIRC so now back to 2