Driving into the West Sussex countryside on a beautiful Bank Holiday weekend put us in good spirits for our stay at the Avisford Hotel. Situated just outside Arundel, the hotel claims to be `one of the UK’s finest unsung leisure destinations`. This sounded promising.
Set in a manor house and former boy`s prep school, we had visions of Pimms on the lawn as our children swum in the outside pool. Our arrival boded well- very helpful reception staff dealt with our booking as we heard children’s laughter from the outside terrace. The sun shone down on us and we considered ourselves very lucky indeed.
Unfortunately the visit didn’t live up to its promising start. The room, whilst clean, was small and somewhat dated in décor and furnishings. The desk looked as if it had been purchased from DFS in the 1980s. As the room was rather cramped we decided to make the most of the undeniably beautiful grounds and headed outdoors. Admittedly, the hotel is very family friendly and plenty of guests were enjoying the location- children were playing croquet and pitch and putt, and nobody batted an eyelid at our two tearing about with a football. However, we began to suspect this was due to staff lack of attention rather than relaxed attitude. Alas, the outside pool was forlornly unfilled and the gate locked- disappointing for the children and with no explanation or prior warning from the staff when we booked as a family. The hotel seemed enormously understaffed and this became painfully apparent later on at dinner.
We had booked a table for 6.30 hoping to avoid the busy dining period, but were thwarted by extremely poor service. Our starters took far too long to arrive, and my partner’s – a lacklustre duck salad disappointed- the `salad` alluded to on the menu turning out to be some limp cress. We then endured a 30 minute wait for our empty plates to be cleared, and another 40 minutes for our main course to arrive. We received our main course a full hour and a half after we had sat down. By this time the children, hungry and bored had returned to the outside space to boot a ball about. This is unacceptable for a Hilton hotel whose brand implies a level of service that was at no time apparent.
A good night`s sleep made things look brighter ,and a satisfying selection of hot and cold choices at breakfast did improve things; however, again the service was slow – we waited 25 minutes for our pot of tea and this was only delivered when requested again.
In summary, the Avisford Park needs to update its décor and vastly improve its service to live up to the Hilton name. Otherwise it is complacently basking in former glory. Its claim to be on of the UK`s finest unsung leisure destinations is an idle boast- there certainly wasn’t much to sing about on our visit.
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