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29 April 2013

Lime Wood

To be clear, this isn't a review of Lime Wood’s rooms or the food in its restaurant. This is a review of its service.  

First some context: A kind offer from the in-laws meant that Silverbrowess and I were going to get a break. As any parent of young kids will empathise, a break means the opportunity to catch-up on sleep. I'd tried The Beckford Arms but they were fully booked.  I tried a few other places and in the end the only one with availability was Lime Wood. It does look beautiful and I was intrigued by the restaurant.

When I inquired about the room, I was told they only had a Forest Suite available at an eye wateringly expensive £495 per night.  I noticed that in the booking confirmation there was no mention that the rate included breakfast. Shurely an error?  When I called to check, they confirmed that breakfast wasn't included and never is on weekends.

That is unjustifiable.  As Nicholas Lander and Danny Meyer both emphasise in their respective books The Art of the Restaurateur and Setting the Table, the hospitality industry is about just that, being hospitable and giving an impression of generosity. Charging breakfast in addition to that sort of room rate is mercenary.

Anyway, desperate to get away and not let the opportunity of fobbing off the Silverbrowlettes to willing grandparents, I acquiesced. Foolishly I convinced myself that it would be worth it in the end.

The hotel asked me if I'd be eating with them on the Friday and Saturday nights. As this was going to be a weekend of sloth, yes I would be. And when would sir like a table. Well, it's a month away so sir doesn't know exactly what time he wants to eat, but don't worry we can sort that out nearer the time. Ah, no we can't sir as the restaurant gets busy.  I'm sure it does, but we're staying with you so surely you can accommodate us. Oh no we can't. *Battered and wearied* Ok fine, we'll have a table for 8pm. Perfect, we'll organise one for as close as possible to 8pm.

I should have paid more attention to that closing line.  I received an email informing me that my tables were booked for 8.15pm and 9.15pm.  Yes, an hour and a quarter after the time I requested. Now thoroughly exasperated I pointed out the small difference in time and through the goodness of their hearts, they were able to change the 9.15pm reservation to one at 7.30pm. Only 45 minutes earlier than requested.  The generosity, the munificence.

I despair of this kind of service. The sheer arrogance to charge such iniquitous prices and make clear you couldn't care less about the customer is staggering.  I know Meyer and Lander were writing about restaurants and restaurateurs rather than hotels, but I think the premise is the same: the quality of the product matters greatly, but the quality of service and hospitality matter much more.  On the basis of my experience, Lime Wood doesn't do hospitality.

Which is why I was delighted to cancel my reservation.  A room became available at The Beckford Arms, where I had a wonderful weekend at a fraction of the price, with fantastic service and good food.  I took particular pleasure whilst at the Beckford to read Marina O'Loughlin's review of her meal at Lime Wood's restaurant. As the review and a subsequent twitter exchange made clear, she also experienced the hotel's own brand of service and hospitality. The idiots even chose to retweet her review. As I said, arrogance.

Lime Wood, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7FZ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8028 7177

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