Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Ambassador Hotel - Scarborough, North Yorkshire

This post is a bit different to my previous blog posts... as it's sort of a cross between a restaurant review and a hotel review. It didn't seem fair to only judge the hotel on it's restaurant, and outlining the whole experience I hope will add to the restaurant review.

As mentioned in my previous post on Cafe with a View me and a friend had embarked on a mini break to Scarborough at the beginning of September.

Sometime last June I had bought a voucher from Groupon for a one night break at The Ambassador Hotel Scarborough. We had already decided previously that we wanted to go to on a little trip to Scarborough in the summer, as I just simply LOVE Scarborough.

The offer sounded like a good deal: one night for two people at the Ambassador Hotel Scarborough, which included a bottle of Cava on arrival, a two course a la carte meal in their restaurant , breakfast and full use of the spa facilities. This all came to a nice little total of £70.

Due to work schedules and the hotels availability combined we ended up going in September. It was a lovely sunny weekend and a lot quieter than it would have been mid-August so we were very pleased.

We used google maps to find the hotel once we got to Scarborough and it was pretty easy to find from the train station.

Check in wasn't until 3pm but we had already checked in advance that they had luggage storage. We checked in and was given our 'passport' and told we could collect our keys later. Whilst we were there we also made our reservations for dinner. The girl on the front desk was very polite and welcoming, and we weren't made to feel as if we were a hassle or nuisance for wanting to store our bags away until check in.

After that we sauntered off luggage free. I really don't mind walking I think it's the best way to see things, so it didn't bother me that the hotel was a good 15 minute walk away from the main parade. We took a leisurely stroll down to the clock cafe and walked along the beach.

We came back to the hotel shortly after 5pm to check out the rooms and get changed into our swimming costumes so we could try out the spa facilities.

The girl on reception when we returned was not as pleasant as the first one and her directions to our room weren't great. We found it nevertheless. We were anxious about what room we would receive as we had been reading some reviews on trip advisor prior to the weekend. The general consensus was that the refurbished rooms were delightful but the older rooms were not so great. So when we opened our door we were glad to be met by a modernly decorated room... with a huge bed!

Warning: do not do a run and dive on to these beds... they are not that bouncy. We also discovered later when going to bed that we were deceived into thinking that this was one huge big bed... it was two smaller beds pushed together!

On the night stand as promised there was a bottle of Cava on ice.

Some of the ice had melted by the time we checked in to our room but it was still nicely chilled. 

A look around the room...

The en-suite bathroom was basically a very large wet room. The shower looked amazing ...

It's one of those shower heads that looks like it's going to drench you in a luscious stream of water... it turns out it wasn't that good, although it certainly beats the plastic pitiful ones I've been subject to in hotels previously. When it came to getting ready I noticed that the wet room was starting to flood; water and soap escaping out of the door through to the big fluffy carpet in the bedroom.  Maybe I should have taken a bath instead....

This tap is very impressive. 

What I did like was that they had some really nice shower gel and soaps, they also had the same variety in the public restrooms. It would have been nicer if they were locally sourced however rather than from the lovely Isle of Arran. 

The cushions and pillows in the room were so comfy and absorbing I will strive to find these for my own home and will not feel rested until I do. There were extra duvets and blankets in the cupboard also in case it was chilly, which it thankfully it wasn't.

The room service available was extensive but expensive. We called up to reception and requested an iron and it came in no time with an ironing board and no pressure to return it that night. I've since found out that the premier rooms come with an iron and ironing board as standard. 

We headed down to the 'spa' facilities and pool....

We decided to go in the sauna to warm ourselves up.. there are signs everywhere telling you not turn it on yourself and that it should be on but if it isn't ring a member of staff. We had to ring a member of staff who was gracious in helping us put the sauna on and didn't grumble one bit in being made to leave her post on reception. However, it turns out having never been in a sauna, I don't particularly like saunas. I felt like my eyes were burning in my skull. 

After a few laps we decided to head back to our room which was about 3 cartwheels away down the corridor and got ready for dinner. 


Once I had my war paint and stilts on we made our way upstairs to the dining room. 

We gave the commissionaire our room number... he looked us up on the list, looked up and pronounced quite boldly 'GROUPON'... and the proceeded to look at us with an air of disgust. 

We were however shown to a really nice table by the window which had stunning views across Scarborough. (I did try to take a picture but it didn't come out very well with the bright lights inside and dimming views outside). 

Our 'GROUPON' deal as I mentioned previously entitled us to two courses from the a la carte menu. The waitress was much more pleasant she came and took our drinks order and was really welcoming. I ordered a half bottle of red wine. When we asked what the non-alcoholic options were we were told blackcurrant or lime squash... or water. This is very poor and I felt awful for my friend only being able to have to squash with their dinner! 

My wine wasn't the best... but as with most wines it tends to get better the more of it you drink (i.e the more drunk you get). 

For starters my friend ordered the Cajun marinated chicken skewers which came with a cucumber and mint dressing (I don't know why they didn't refer to it at tzatziki).... 

Nicely presented, moist, full of flavour they gave them an appetite for what was to come next. 

For my starter I chose the roasted vegetable risotto. 

To be honest the aborio rice was a little over cooked, it didn't have much bite. The flavours were really complex however so it was a shame that it wasn't done to perfection. As you can see from the picture there was a lot of Parmesan shavings on the top, a more delicate approach may have been better in this instance it wouldn't have hidden the risotto quite so much in it's bowl either. I did however eat it all, as I had sipped quite a bit of cava in the room whilst getting ready and then started on the red wine whilst waiting for our starters... it was getting to that point where my mouth is running at about 90 mile an hour and anyone is lucky to get a word in edge ways. 

For our mains my friend decided upon the medallions of beef. 

I apologise for the photograph of this meal... I handed the camera to my friend at this point, it did look a lot more appetising than it appears here. We were surprised at how small the beef medallions were and was glad we weren't paying the hefty price they were asking for them. They did however love them, they were cooked to the grade in which they asked for them to be cooked to and the sauce was really full and creamy and it wasn't overloaded with pepper. 

It was a good job that we had some chips to share (we had to pay for these) as both our meals were relatively small. 

The chips were good, not the best I have ever had, some were a little anemic and there definitely wasn't enough crispy ones for my liking. 

For my main I ordered the pan fried chicken supreme. 

I really enjoyed my main, the chicken was tasteful and moist. The sautéed mushroom was filling and the brandy sauce lip licking. Again it was a small portion but the risotto I had to start ensured I wasn't left hungry. It seems to be a cooking fashion to have one single bone sticking obtrusively out of your chicken, there is not real need for this unless you are wanting to eat with your hands and use this as a steadying tool... however I doubt in many places where they choose to do this you would be inclined to eat with your fingers. 

We decided against dessert, I was filling up on the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed and my friend felt they needed something to perk themselves up so ordered a coffee instead. 

Although the food was good, I don't think I would feel justified in paying the prices they were asking. With higher prices I expect higher quality and there were some flaws, juvenile if that isn't too harsh, such as over cooking the aborio rice and lumping tons of cheese on top. There was room for improvement if they are hoping to gain another star on their hotel AA rating. 

One of the things that did spoil our dinner was that shortly after finishing our starters a rather large group of men entered the dining room. There was about 30 of them in total. They were loud and raring after a full day of... golf. 30 (mainly middle aged and over) golfers had just entered the room. They were so noisy the table behind us asked to be moved, the couple in my direct eye line already had faces of steel and their faces turned positively stone like. Not only were they loud (and most likely boozier than I was) they insisted on presenting awards. I felt that this could have been handled a lot better by the hotel and the hotel staff. The hotel has dedicated conference rooms which faced opposite the dining room, by placing them in here they would have caused less of a disturbance to the rest of the diners and prevented the mood of the night being severely altered and quite frankly ruined. 

Once we had finished our meals we headed in to the bar which sits alongside the dining room. Here we were presented with a lovely acoustic night and the man playing Tom Townsend... he was amazing a true joy to listen to. However his set was interrupted as the golfers wanted quiet in the room to make yet even more presentations. I was utterly shocked that they dare request such a thing when they had made our peaceful tranquil night so loud and aggravating, even more so by requesting the nice hum of music coming from Tom Townsend to stop. 

Enough slating the golfers now, we really did feel that Tom Townsend had made our night complete. We revelled in challenging him to requests of which he gratefully obliged... then someone else tried to get involved and asked if he knew any Lady GaGa or Adele... to which his response was... erm no, sorry there will be no Lady GaGa or Adele played in the bar whilst I'm here I'm afraid.  

We ended up chatting to Tom Townsend who agreed to take us down to his usual haunt as we were asking where would be a good place for us to end our night. We helped him pack up his set and jumped in his car and he took us down to what looked like a local pub, but was in fact a small live music venue which that night was holding a blues night. It was great and we left feeling very contented and lucky to have met such a cool guy. 


It is fair to say that the next day I was feeling a bit rough after the free Cava, red wine, Sailor Jerrys and lemonade, and a bottle of beer.... So I was looking forward to a nice big breakfast to cure my hangover and set me off for the day. Breakfast is on until 10am and check out is 10.30am, we headed down about 9.30am and there were still quite a few diners. The commissionaire recognised us from the night before and led us to our table. A waiter promptly appeared and took our drink orders. Tea for me and coffee for my friend (the coffee must have been good for them to order it again). Whilst we were waiting for our drinks we headed over to the breakfast buffet.

It was nice to see that the breakfast buffet wasn't, as you usually find, a load of hot plates with food sat under dim little lights. It was enclosed away in silver servers which opened up like a bread bin. I'm sure these things have a name....

The choice was good, instead of hash browns there were saute potatoes, and there was still plenty of food available. When we returned to our table we found that alongside our drinks was some toast... by this point it had gone cold so it would have been nice to be told that they would be bringing us toast with our drinks. I did have a quick look around the buffet to see if there was any toast/toasters and concluded that toast must not be an option....

I was satisfied after my breakfast and very grateful that I had a pot of tea rather than a cup to help cure my sore head.

We checked out with no fuss and again the hotel were gracious enough to store our bags for us until we returned at 5pm.