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28 July 2009

Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Blackrod nr.Bolton, Lancashire

£7 for a glass of wine? Do me a favour!

We've just returned from a 3-day break at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel at Blackrod (near Bolton) - a pleasant setting in the county of Lancashire at the foot of the west Pennines, within easy reach of the Rivington Country Park adjacent to a large water supply reservoir.

We couldn't fault the hotel accommodation and it was kept spotlessly clean, but the hotel lets itself down in the matter of food and drink. Everything we had from the menu and the wine list were second or third choices because whatever we really wanted was not available, even when the menu said it was available 24 hours a day, e.g., Kashmiri Lamb Curry. When I chose that it wasn't even available for 24 seconds.

On our first night, dinner in the "Arts Brasserie" was severely disrupted by a wedding reception, in that although we had been told we could order a meal from 6 pm onwards, this was not actually possibly until 8.30 pm.

On the second night we sat down in the brasserie, (in which there were only about a dozen other diners), but no one seemed to be getting any meaningful service. Waiters and waitresses were walking around at high speed between various parts of the hotel and the bar in the brasserie achieving God knows what, and we were totally ignored for 20 minutes, until I made a point of asking for some service. We placed our order (still no "24-hour" Kashmiri Lamb!) and had to wait another 20 minutes before being told that my choice of Starter was not available. By the time we had any food on the table we had been sitting there for 55 minutes.

I have never seen so much high-speed walking around achieving so little.

Breakfast was served in a different dining room, and the fried eggs, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans made an excellent breakfast, but only if you were lucky enough to be in the room when all these items were simultaneously available on the self-service breakfast bar - which wasn't very often! Most of the time, people were standing around waiting for food to appear from the kitchen, or asking the dining room staff for this or that missing item. In three days we never saw the Chef or any member of the kitchen staff check out the current state of the breakfast bar, or stock it up with anything. It was all down to dining room staff having to go into the kitchen to get more supplies as and when they could.

Stress levels were increased by the existence of a persistent high-pitched whistling sound coming from some unidentified piece of machinery, so we were all suffering from a kind of communal tinnitus.

We shall not be returning to any Ramada Jarvis hotel any time soon.

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