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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.

Four Seasons Hampshire

(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  In the lobby, the floor has been replaced by a new marble version which is so shiny that it looks totally out of place in a historic building.)

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)

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

  • Stu N says:

    OT: got my AerClub 250 welcome Avios in the last few days. Took about a week from contacting @aerlingus on Twitter and DMing them my details.

    • Terry says:

      My partner and I were told that we don’t qualify for the 250 welcome Avios, as we have a Household account.

    • Crafty says:

      Same

  • Chris says:

    This is customer service in 2017. Four Seasons, British Airways etc. I presume corporate CS divisions have become profit centres.

    Even the mighty JLP has gone the same way. I complained about a totally rotten £3.91 fish meal from Waitrose recently. I received a voucher for £4. Seriously, 9p for my troubles!!

    • John says:

      You got a refund, what exactly were you expecting?

      • Andrew says:

        Whatever happened to refund *and* replace?

      • Chris says:

        If a product is not fit for purpose and I had to spend my personal time, resources and money to complain about it, why should I only receive a refund?

        Are you Alex Cruz?!!

  • ASEAN Traveller says:

    Rob. We were at the FS this week-end also, our fifth stay in the last 8 years or so, but the first in 3 years. Agree fully that service standards and the up-keep have gone down quite a lot (our corridor on the ground floor had a particularly bad musty smell), although our experience was perhaps not as bad as yours. We had breakfast in the room and all other meals outside (our 3 children are a bit older than yours), so did not experience the hotel “restaurants” you ate at. What did disappoint though was that we had free breakfast as part of our rate, which per the introductory letter from the hotel could be taken either in-restaurant or in-room, and at check out we were billed the £5 tray and 10% service charge on the whole cost of the breakfast for having had the breakfast in-room (rather that the breakfast being completely free). When I raised this, the charge was promptly eliminated, but it did leave a sour taste of penny pinching. We will certainly not be going back until the renovations are completed, and ideally also not before we hear that service standards have been raised back to what they used to be.

  • the real harry1 says:

    O/T keyboard playing up – but only on HFP – anybody else?

    Here’s an odd one, I just wondered if it affect anybody else. So I’m using a fast modern Windows 10 desktop PC with 16GB of RAM, along with a new UK keyboard, both HP. On HFP (and HFP only) it often types ‘funny’, missing out keystrokes seemingly on purpose, almost as if it is trying to anticipate my keying in – I don’t have predictive text or similar AFAIK. Often the truncated word is a real word (eg ‘thin’ instead of ‘thing’) – but often just gibberish.

    Is this anything to do with Wordpress by any chance? The only pointer would be that I can type on any other sites I use & eg type stuff into Google – and it doesn’t do the same thing, just lets me type normally.

    Any techies can offer a clue?

    • John says:

      Does it happen in all browsers? Try a private tab too

      • the real harry1 says:

        I think I got it now, I hope so, anyway

        just typing this to check & see, seems to be better

        there’s a typing setting in W10 that I wasn’t aware of – the autocorrect misspellings one – I turned that to off and so far so good

        doesn’t explain why it was only on HFP that it happened but I’ll take it as a solution

        • the real harry1 says:

          type ‘typing settings’ into your search box bottom left, try switching ‘autocorrect misspelt words’ to off – you can still leave ‘highlight misspelt words’ on, it seems

    • Liz says:

      I’ve had the same issue for probably over a year – keyboard sticky, misses out letters and space bar – if I have a large comment to make I type it in MS Word first and cut and paste it in to the comments box or else I use my iPad. I also used to have HfP as my homepage on my PC but it always freezes up on me so I have to read HfP on my iPad – doesn’t happen on any other page. Strange!

    • Andrew says:

      Does your desktop have a legacy PS/2 port for the keyboard?

      I have a much loved IBM M Series keyboard as well as a few spares I recovered from former offices. No messing about with USB, the legacy port just forces the data through – never a missing character.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_M_keyboard

  • Concerto says:

    Sounds seriously British to me. If, like myself, you’re not born there then it’s really hard to live there and be totally happy. The service industry is just on another planet and public transport belongs to the world of Mr. Bean. As time passes I feel progressively less British and would find it difficult to exchange the efficiency of Switzerland for the UK. Then again, the UK can be a great place to live for those who are loaded…

    • Leo says:

      Speak for yourself.

    • Genghis says:

      I don’t think I could live (long term) anywhere else.

      • Boi says:

        I can live anywhere- as long as it is safe and good living standards. My family of 5 share 5 nationalities between us!

        • Rob says:

          Live but not necessarily work. If we moved to Germany (my wife is German, my kids can have a German passport) then I wouldn’t be allowed to work post Brexit. I am also blocked from a German passport as a) I don’t speak fluent German (and never will) which is a legal requirement and b) I would, post Brexit, have to surrender my British passport to get a German one under German rules. If we got divorced, I wouldn’t – post Brexit – even be allowed to buy a property in Germany to have somewhere near my kids.

          Bizarrely, I’d probably end up buying a Maltese passport. It is tempting to do that anyway, just in case the Maltese stop the deal and I end up needing it later.

          • Genghis says:

            Interesting. EUR650k contribution to the social fund and buying a EUR350k / leasing a EUR16k pa property and holding EUR150k of govvies both of which to be held for five years seems a bit steep though…

          • Rob says:

            Obviously (and if Scotland goes independent it would be easier to buy a flat in Edinburgh) but if my marriage did tank and it was the only way to actually see my kids on a regular basis then it would be the easiest solution.

          • Concerto says:

            Is that really so, Rob? Until now I am managing out there as a self employed independent with my British passport. Haven’t thought much about post Brexit.. the German language bit is not a problem for me, but I don’t want to give up my British passport!

          • Rob says:

            For non-EU or Swiss nationals, Germany does not allow dual nationality for adults unless your parents have different nationalities (one to be German) so my kids can retain two passports as adults.

          • Alan says:

            It appears to allow it in quite a few situations…
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nationality_law#Dual_citizenship

            Obviously some of that will change for UK citizens post-Brexit but I certainly know of quite a few folk at present who have dual citizenship.

      • the real harry1 says:

        I can’t wait to leave the UK, I never fitted in, my favourite book is by Albert Camus if you know what I mean

        hoping to retire to our place in the sun in 6 years

  • Paul says:

    Well that review will either get several free nights or you won’t be welcome back. Whatever the outcome it has at least ensured that I never cross it doors. Cowarth park is just down the road and rather nice.

  • Jeff says:

    Have never been to FS Hampshire, but the whole Four Seasons chain has gone markedly downhill at the same time as they have driven prices up. Recent experiences at FS Shanghai and Florence really disappointing, poor service. They have really lost their customer ethos and just focus on squeezing extra money out of you. Doormen can’t get taxis unless large tip proffered. Really sad, as have been a huge fan since they started their big international expansion but 15 years on and having stayed in probably 15 in Asia, US, Europe and South America now generally avoid. Like the breakfast supplement comment at Hampshire, in Florence although you book a B&B rate there is a cash allowance that they don’t tell you about that doesn’t cover the cheapest set breakfast. Again, was removed but only after a fuss. Also, only coffee was from a thermos sitting on the side when great coffee available in any local café. Newer hotels getting totally standardised furnishings, so you could be anywhere…

    • Rob says:

      FS Hampshire breakfast, back in the day, could be taken as room service with no extra charge. They encouraged it as it kept the restaurant quieter.

    • Rob says:

      I have now had a reply to my breakfast (over)charge query. And it is the same as you mention above. My free breakfast for me and my wife was actually a cash allowance which doesn’t actually cover the cost of breakfast, hence the extra £5 per person per day above what I expected to pay.

  • Nick says:

    Rob

    Not to throw two fingers up to you of course I currently report from the Conrad algarve. I can confirm (as per others that I suspect go from HFP) that the hotel is outstanding. The quality of fixtures fittings and the friendless of all staff who engage with our 3 1/2 year old really do reinforce it as one on our return list. The food is also excellent standard breakfast being a veritable feast that includes sparkling wine.

    It’s not a cheap hotel but if you shop wisely it’s a solid 5 star experience all round. I can’t recommend the hotel highly enough and only 20 mins from the farce that is faro airport isn’t enough to put us off coming back. Word of warning though people Avis have got a nice little scam going this summer of pre authorising a full tank of fuel to be brought back full. No issues with that except take note three cars we tried one had less than a quarter one had 3/4 and one none at all! After an hour of farting about I began to lose my rag only to be told it’s a fault of the cars display in the heat! Don’t accept the BS and as I did inisist the fuel level is charged on the reservation as i stood over the rep. I took the car with the 3/4 full tank which ironically was the first car I rejected! If I had known I would have saved myself an hour of messing about.

    If you want any pictures or a review of the hotel rob let me know!

    • Rob says:

      Sounds good, I have been thinking about this one.

      • Nick says:

        Rob

        With your kids see my comment to RM and you will know what I mean. Thoroughly recommend it!!!

    • Meyers says:

      Narrowly missed the Hilton Auction on this one! Drat and Double Drat!

    • Keith says:

      Agreed stayed a couple of times and truly is a great hotel. The tasting menu at Gusto is well worth doing although quite pricey.

    • RM says:

      Thanks to this site, we have managed to book a long weekend here in June with Barclaycard vouchers and Hilton points. Very much looking forward to it having heard so many wonderful things, and extremely grateful for all the advice received on this site (including whoever it was in the comments who mentioned this hotel and inspired me to book). Have a wonderful time, Nick.

      • Nick says:

        Not far off a week in and what we Brits do best at is to find fault and grumble I literally can’t fault the hotel. For example our son who is 3 1/2 loves an apple sliced with skin off so our usual waitress recognised this and how he likes a cup of cold full fat milk (I know…..I blame the Mrs) made the kitchen cut one exactly like at home. Very grateful our son didn’t like the apple (jeez to tart apparently) but I ate it. Today’s breakfast was met as usual interacting with our son pleasing him and taking him only to be given his own knife and fork for kids followed by pancakes and chocolate sauce (she obviously saw it yesterday) and a red juicy sweet Apple freshly cut on a plate.

        This all sounds daft I know but with kids any hotel that is so friendly for little guests gets a massive thumbs up and to be so thoughtful with lots of other diners is a sign of how well run this hotel is in our experience. This only compares to our experience at the fairmont Abu Dhabi in that regard and quality.

        Even without kids the hotel offers a great experience enjoy as much as we are. Make sure you take breakfast though superb offerings and also for reference their is a small shopping precinct over the road from the hotel which offers a good choice for those not wanting to pay hotel prices!

        PS Rob are you running an article on the Accor upto 40% off sale and free breakfast? It’s got some good prices for the Sofitel Heathrow I saw which is great timing if we take our next break.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Completely agree. Had a first-rate experience at Conrad Algarve and would definitely go back.

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