Breakfast, wasn’t much better…

I recently wrote about my dinner at the Holiday Inn Expressx and I wasn’t that impressed. You can imagine that my expectations about breakfast weren’t that high, but how badly can you cook a hotel breakfast. As it happens quite badly!

Even though I certainly don’t travel that much, I think you can tell a lot about the way a hotel cares about it’s guests by how it prepares and serves breakfast. When attending events and conferences I like to have a good breakfast so that I am set up for the day and it won’t matter so much if I miss lunch or dinner. To be honest it is also really quite nice when someone else cooks you breakfast.

Most hotels I have stayed at have the breakfast buffet model, you come down, queue, hand over your room number and help yourself. There are variations, in some places you get toast served to you at the table, at other hotels you can burn your own toast!

Once I was staying at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff and having breakfast in your room didn’t cost anything extra! There was (at the time) no tray charge, usually hotels charge another £5 to bring you your breakfast. So I took advantage and it was a really nice breakfast, still warm too!

Attending meetings in London, I stayed at the Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury London a few times I was always impressed with their service and food. The first time I had breakfast, though there was an element of help yourself, if you wanted hot food, you placed your order with the waiting staff and they served you at your table. The breakfast was also very different to your typical full English breakfast.

Breakfast at Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury

Not so sure about the lettuce, but the rest of the breakfast was cooked to perfection and tasted delicious. They used “proper” sausages that had been grilled and not deep fried. Too often when eating breakfast the sausages have been cooked in a deep fat fryer! The breakfast I had at Bloomsbury was so very different and was delicious. This was so much more civilised than trying to fight with others around the buffet table.

One piece of advice I would give is don’t leave it too late in going to breakfast, there are two key reasons. Firstly the food is not only fresher and hasn’t spent ages under the heat lamp or in an oven. Secondly, there are usually a lot less people. The other piece of advice I would give about what time to go to breakfast is that people usually go on the hour or half-hour. Most people will say let’s have breakfast at 8:00 or 7:30, no one every says 7:48. Of course what this means is that there are large crowds, and so long queues, just after 8:00. Arriving twelve minutes before means that the 7:30 rush is over and you get not only much better service from the staff, but the experience doesn’t feel rushed and hectic.

One disappointment about the breakfast buffet are the eggs, they have usually been under a heat lamp or on a hot plate. As a result they can be dry and overcooked. I personally prefer my eggs to be freshly cooked, so nine times out of ten I ask for poached eggs, these are cooked to order, so though I have to wait, I get freshly cooked eggs.

As you might expect I am virtually always disappointed with the coffee at breakfast, so much so, that more often than not I will have tea instead!

So what about the breakfast at Holiday Inn Express in Burnley? When I arrived for breakfast, I could just walk in, no checking by staff. Probably because they were dealing with the smoke from the burning toast… I wasn’t that enamoured with the breakfast, the hot buffet was very limited, sausages, scrambled egg and baked beans; that was it, no other choices and certainly no possibility of a freshly cooked poached egg! You could also have fruit and yoghurt, as well as cereal. There were croissants and you could make your own toast. The coffee was from a machine (using instant) so I had tea.

However this isn’t the worse cooked breakfast I have had (it came close though), the worst was at a Travel Lodge in central London. So bad that on the second morning, I went out to get breakfast.

So a rather disappointing breakfast all in all.

Dinner, wasn’t that good…

Despite a reputation, I don’t spend that much time travelling and staying away from home. However the other day I found myself in the Holiday Inn Express in Burnley. I hadn’t done my homework so I wasn’t sure what was available in the local area and it was quite late (due to big problems on the M6) as a result I decided that the “easy” solution would be to eat in the hotel. When I saw the menu my initial thought was to go and find somewhere else… however it was late so I took the plunge.

It was very apparent that most of the menu items would be prepared in the microwave, so I went with the special, which was a double BBQ burger with salad and chips.

a double BBQ burger with salad and chips

Please note that the menu said BBQ and not barbecue or barbeque. What it consisted of was two meat patties in a burger roll with onion rings and a BBQ sauce. It was served with some lettuce (no way could this be described as a salad) and chips. It was priced at £9.99 which was cheaper than many of the main menu options. When I looked at the menu, it was a combination of the choice and the price which made me think about going somewhere else.

The chips were typical mass catering chips, pre-cooked slightly and cooked to order. They were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. There is a huge difference between the freshly cooked chips you get in a fish and chip shop and those that are cooked in places like pubs and hotels. The main difference is that with the chips I got that they are partly pre-cooked before been frozen. So when they cook them they fry much quicker than if they cooked them from freshly cut potatoes. I am aware that some places use these chips, cook them, and then reheat them in the fryer when the order comes in. As a result they are fried three times, which increases the fat content as well as making them more crunchy and less fluffy. It may be just me, but when I have a burger I prefer having smaller fries over chunky chips.

The less said about the lettuce, probably the better.

The burger was a real disappointment, I wasn’t convinced the burgers had even been grilled, they looked and tasted like they had been microwaved. The BBQ sauce was sticky and over sweetened.

Overall the meal was a real disappointment, but I wasn’t expecting anything special. The one thing it will make me do is do more research and find places in advance, so I don’t have to rely on this kind of place in the future.