The Angel Cardiff Room 202 “Quirky, characterful and spacious”.- (6/10)

The Angel hotel Cardiff review ” Quirky, characterful and spacious” (6/10)

The hotel location was ideal with just a 9 minute walk from cardiff central station. From Room 202, to see some of the castle grounds created a rather natural view not dominated by the road below. This was highly favourable.

Good
” Central location with natural views”.
” Tea biscuits provided”.
” Spacious room”.
” Quirky ambience”.

Bad
” Only 5 hangers between 2 guests”.
” Shower was unusable due to intense heat”.
” Wifi struggled epically with Facebook loading”.
” Curtains let light through and roadnoise disrupted morning sleep”.
” Keycard kept wearing out and irregular room service”.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere was one of luxury and slight oddity. The layout was quirky and impressionable, yet the decor, space and facilities seemed ostentatious and good quality. Overall a very intriguing atmosphere in a positively warming way. Why were there mirrors on the doors though ?

Tea provisions

On checkin, 2 generously sized mugs were supplied which was great along with 2 large teaspoons. 3 chocolate cream biscuits were supplied echoing the enjoyment of the border biscuits of the hogs back hotel in Farnham Surrey. It was nice to have this number aswell.

With 4 teabags, 4 semi-skimmed UHT milk sachets and 2 of each type of sweetener tea facilities were adequate for 3 sweetened cups of tea. This did seem a little low although they were neatly presented.

For coffee drinkers it was nice to have the decaf option and good that 4 coffee sachets were supplied to mirror the number of teabags.

Community areas

The entrance looked formal and compact yet beyond the double doors was a grand entrance room with a salubrious staircase shouting luxury. It did feel slightly disorientating with a number of mirrors. Perhaps this gave the illusion of extra space though.

Price

Menu prices did seem rather expensive as is often the case with hotels which was a bit of a shame. At 50 pounds per night in the hotel for 4 star accommodation this seemed very reasonable and good value however.

Washing and cleaning

The bathroom was spacious and it was nice to have a light switch which was operational without the keycard activation system of the Raddison.

At least 4 towels were provided aswell as a bar of soap, conditioning shampoo bottle and one of shower gel. They were both easily squeezable for dispensation and were of appropriate size. The selection could have included body moisturiser or mouthwash although these are luxury items that seem not totally necessary.
Whilst the room was serviced, no replacement body wash or shampoo was supplied which for 2 guests was necessary in this instance. This erratic servicing was a little unprofessional.

Chilling in your room

The keycard enabled quick access without appropriate swipe speed since it utilised a card front presentation system rather than an entry slot. Whilst this system seemed good at a glance, the reality of constantly wearing out my keycard meant necessary replacement every time.

This hadn’t always been caused due to close proximity to my phone either …

The roomspace was quirky with a triangular shape and spacious dimensions. It was also light and airy despite the poor weather outside.
The beds were dressed with a double pillow which wasn’t my personal preference however comfort levels were good.

On checkin, the staff did not advise about WIFI although the menu for login popped up automatically. This was simple to navigate since it only required name and email. It connected immediately revealing it’s speed for more guest information. This seemed slick and efficient. The wifi worked well for programs yet was very hesitant with Facebook and for the first few hours this couldn’t be loaded which was very frustrating. It also did not allow login on the morning of checkout which was a bit disappointing.

There were 2 generously sized litter bins situated in ideal places; One beside the tea making tray and the other in the bathroom. These seemed far more practical than those of the Raddison due to greater size which was wonderful for teabag and other product disposal.

The hairdryer was directly beside the TV on a large desk which was easily noticeable if a slightly unappealing beige colour. The chair to this desk was supportive and confortable for an upright posture.

Ideal then for typing reviews and other important endeavours …

Perched upon this desk was a generously portioned lamp which was nice. The room had randomly placed and copiously numbered light switches which did not seem to have a logical function or location; Some of them appeared to do nothing yet others corresponded to random dim lights or lamps.

2 small drawers below this were only supported by 2 more, slightly larger ones below the TV. Overall then, the room felt a little light on in drawer storage space. That said, the spacious size of the room could easily accommodate a monstrous myriad of guest items. On opening the wardrobe, this issue was well and truly put to bed with half the wardrobe embellished with 4 large storage shelves.

The 5 wooden hangers on the opposite side seemed very sparse between 2 guests so this number ideally required doubling for the optimum. They were wooden at least though, to maintain an impression of good quality.

The “enjoy your stay” note with a smiley face was much appreciated on the bedside table adding a certain charm to the room. It lacked a pen though so couldn’t not be responded to or used as a pad …

There were 2 chairs which were strategically placed for TV viewing. These were a little too firm for comfort however which restricted relaxed TV viewing to your bed.

Perhaps an area for improvement …

The TV was of average, if slightly small size but this problem was exemplified by the impressive scale of the room it was placed in. I am sorry to say, things are all relative and TV size can sometimes matter.

It was however easy to turn on with one press of the button and no confusing menus or logins as seen with some Raddison hotels or the Copthorne of Sheffield.

Picture quality was great, lacking the intermittency of the Bournemouth Roundhouse. The default setting of subtitles on, was a little distracting however and not totally necessary for just one welsh channel. I feel this was not really required unless guests had specified hard of hearing or worse.

With over 7 plug sockets for gadget charging spread out around the room this was a very solid number rivalling the best of places.

Very impressive …

The shower had bath facilities also and dual control knobs which I liked. One of these knobs was clearly labelled with temperature not just an arbitrary scale. On use, the jet had good steady pressure and was certainly sufficient. It was nice to be able to adjust the showerhead height and the silvery colour gave a modern finish which was also positive. After using however, it quickly became apparent that the shower was unusable due to an inability to reduce it’s temperature. Having only the bath option was a little tedious and impractical.

It became clear that the “Bathe” brand of washing sachets was quite relevant.

The solitary bathroom mirror was only half height although a full height mirror directly on the wardrobe was sufficient. It’s location was a little hidden on the inside rather than outside, of the wardrobe door. There should have been more and larger mirrors…

Borrow them from the entrance area doors that don’t need them ??

The kettle capacity at 1 litre was larger than the puny 0.6 litres of holiday inn express, holiday street Birmingham but half of some other places. The modern silver colour was nice and I enjoyed having the scale on the outside rather than inside for ease of viewing for my personal preference.

Points against the Raddison there …

Customer service

On checkin, staff were friendly and polite and very quick to assign me my room keycard. They directed me to a lift which didn’t work but I managed to quickly negotiate my way to my room via the grand looking staircase.

On request of a new keycard I was greeted by a well humoured member of staff who quickly resolved the issue. Staff were quick, efficient and polite on checkout morning also.

Summary

A pleasant comfortable stay with certain significant areas for improvement. The space was extensive and the service model was great yet slightly lacking effective execution. Consistent wifi, a useable shower and a less confusing hall of mirrors would have improved things.

 

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Double tree by Hilton Swindon room 136 – (8/10)

Double tree by Hilton Swindon Room 136 review ” Can’t consume your own products but a free cookie to compensate”. – (8/10)

Good
” Plenty of plug sockets and quality TV”.
” Extra touches such as a cookie, kit Kat and coffee machine”.
” Limited roadnoise and comfortable beds”.

Bad
” Hard to cross the road to safely”.
” Wifi would not connect at first and required login everytime”.
“No padded backrests on the beds”.
” Toilet seat would not stay upright”.
” Hidden hairdryer and the kettle capacity was located inside the vessel”.
” Being told incorrect information regarding bar ordering”.

Atmosphere

On reception the atmosphere was great due to the epic size of the reception area. To not overwhelm however a very relaxed and sophisticated decoration repertoire was used which had excellent appeal.

The view from the room window was of a green, yet plain courtyard area. Better than the carpark of the Copthorne Sheffield though. There was also no noticeable roadnoise rather than the incessant rumble of the Hogs back hotel which was also situated on a busy road.

This perhaps helped compensate for it’s out of town location which was quite a walk from the train station.

It was a shame the keycard had to be left in to activate the power in the room since this is not my favourite system in case it gets forgotten. That said it did work effectively for room entry on first attempt. These are notoriously temperamental.

The location of the room buried down a couple of corridor passages made things tricky to locate including the gym and my room.

Tea provisions

A kitkat was left beside 4 small tubs of coffee which was directly beside the coffee making machine. This was a very nice addition which is seldom found in many other hotels. The chocolate cookie on checkin made this experience great from the word go.

Trust my sweet tooth to bias my reviews…

The mugs looked good quality and modern and were slender yet average in height. To be honest these were a little small in capacity much like the kettle which was only 1 litre. I did not like having the dial inside the vessel either as this meant I had to open it to view it’s fullness. A minor detail but many kettles do have this on the outside which I prefer personally.

With 6 large sachets of semi-skimmed milk this was a good number for tea making although it would be nice to also have a full fat option. With 6 sachets of breakfast tea and 2 of cranberry and raspberry this seems like a copious total number. There was enough breakfast tea incase people did not like fruity tea. It was good to have the option to try this flavour for the first time aswell though.

With 2 decaffeinated coffee sachets and 4 normal this also seemed like a generous count which is great for coffee liking guests.

With 11 total sweeteners for this tea selection this seemed slightly low since for 8 cups of tea at 2 sugars 16 would seem the ideal number. Overall though this count was far superior to most places so I could not complain.

In terms of proportions, 2 white, 4 brown and 5 sweeteners was great. This was perhaps adjusted assuming you eat the sugary kitkat and cookie first and then do not need the extra calories of lots of sugar. Therefore the bias towards sweetener was justified and valid. Again a good touch.

The tea supplies were replaced religiously but mugs kept being removed which made me unable to make myself a cup of tea for Sunday morning. This was not ideal and something I have not encountered an issue with before.

Community areas

The area beside reception was spacious and light which was great. There was a nice sized gym with many items of modern equipment.

It was not ideal to not be allowed to consume your own food or drink products in the area near reception however. This has been better in many places I have previously stayed.

Price

At £82 for the room, this felt reasonably expensive although due to the luxurious setting inside and the extra touches this made the stay still appear good value.

The products at £3.60 for a cider in happy hour seemed reasonable relative to the hotel price. This was thoroughly enjoyable and worth the money. I also like the concept of happy hour in hotels. Menu prices were a bit high though.

Washing and cleaning

4 towels were provided inside the shower bath which was a great number between 2 guests. The wardrobe featured 10 hangers which in my mind is the perfect number between 2 guests. To make this even more appealing these were constructed of wood unlike the more tacky plastics apparent elsewhere.

The shower was very powerful with an easily accessible jet of water. This was a highly modern silvery colour and not dated like in Hemel Hempstead or Farnham. It had dual control with one knob for temperature and the other for pressure which is my preferred system. Instead of arbitrary numbers the temperature was labelled with degrees which was good.

2 small litter bins were provided; One in the bathroom and one in the main room compartment which was good. There was a generously sized bar of soap and a good range of cleaning products including the ubiquitous body wash and shampoo but also body lotion, mouthwash and conditioner. This was certainly a strong selection compared to elsewhere.

The toilet seat unfortunately would not stay up so had to be left down which was a bit of a shame. The location of the flushing button behind the seat was also a little bit of an inconvenience.

The hairdryer was a little cryptic since it was located in a black kitbag in the wardrobe which was missed at first glance. It did work well however and pressure and temperature was simple to adjust which was good.

Whilst temperature was slightly fiddly to adjust on the shower, it was pleasant and towels worked effectively. No annoying shower noises were apparent either as was the case with the screech of holiday street Holiday inn express of Birmingham.

The door lock was easy to operate and working with a twist to lock activation system.

Chilling in your room

In addition to the cookie provided on reception there was a small kitkat biscuit supplied in your room in a special case for coffee making. This has never been provided previously and was certainly preferable to a border tea biscuit as provided in the hogs back of Surrey or days inn of Bristol.

The presence of a fridge below the tea provisions in the cabinet was very positive and began to rival the dizzy heights of the kitchenette of stokes Lymedale suites. Very nice touch. It didn’t have cup holders like holiday inn of Hemel Hempstead though …

There was a TV which was certainly large enough for the box shape of the room and easily visible from the beds. It was centrally located so not obscured by any chair backs as can be the case. One activation press on the remote provided a relaxing melody of tune which presented an okay instruction to continue. After this, the program came on without fault and instantaneously.

Picture quality was good and no intermittency in signal was suffered throughout the duration of program viewing. This was better than the Roundhouse of Bournemouth therefore.

Whilst there were no backrests on the beds, the pillows and mattresses looked thick and luxurious. They provided a great night sleep every night and covers were not too thick for the time of year. It was good to be able to open the window aswell to keep things cool.

There was a safe present in the wardrobe which was also good. Luxury hotels should always have this I feel.

In terms of charging, there were at least 5 easily spotable sockets in practical locations showing up the limited charging facilities of the hogs back. The wifi was difficult to connect to since it rejected my surname and Room number. This was a little frustrating to begin my stay. On approach to reception I discovered I was trying to connect to the wrong service and that you were meant to login with a code instead. Whilst this was simple it did seem like an overly confusing system.

Customer service

On entry, the staff member on reception was very welcoming and professional. I only had to sign one form and didn’t have to fill out any details. She gave the option to hold onto my room mates key or take it. I liked this element of choice. I was also supplied with a rich and very gooey chocolate and walnut cookie which tasted and felt very luxurious throughout consumption. She showed me the direction of my room and asked about meal bookings whilst confirming if breakfast was included. This was definitely one of the better receptions I had experienced previously. Up there then with actually being taken to my room in the Lymedale suites of Stoke on Trent which was just a bonus.

Staff were also quick and very helpful when resolving my wifi query. Bar staff were quite unhelpful when answering questions regarding consuming your own products however. I was told I could if I purchased a drink first at the bar. After going to the bar and being told I could not purchase anything, I felt tricked which did not improve my relaxing experience after a long day at work. This was a great shame.

On checkout the one lady manning reception was very happy and polite but kept me waiting due to a conversation with another guest. When in a rush for a taxi this was not ideal.

Summary

A modern, luxurious stay with only minor issues. Clearer systems for wifi connection and clearer labels to find the gym and reception would help Improve things. Bar staff could be more polite and clued up. I would definitely stay again if the hotel was in my price range.

 

Hogs back hotel -Room 221 (6/10)” Focused on expense and not customer service”.

Hogs back hotel review Room 221 (6/10) ” Focused on expense and not customer service”.

Good

” Free tea biscuits”.
” Wide range of tea sweeteners including brown and white sugar and sweetener”.
” Customer service – tea replaced quickly on request”.

Bad

” Only tea facilities for 2 teas”.
” Small kettle”.
” Noisy out of town location”.
” Snacks and wine not free but in room ?? !”.
“Keycard required appropriate swipe speed”.
” WIFI speed was poor”.
” Tea biscuits not replaced quickly”.
” £25 mandatory deposit”.

Atmosphere

On entry the staff were polite and welcoming. It was a little frustrating however to have to fill out a form of information. Hotel location was also a nightmare to get to with no tranquil surroundings … Located around 8 miles from Guildford train station entailed quite a trek. The room had a view of a plain carpark and a lot of roadnoise could be heard from the busy road nearby. Soundproofing of treble glazing could potentially ameliorate this.

There was a gym and pool to compensate for roadnoise noise with clearly labelled opening times on a form situated upon the room desk. This was clear and simple to locate and understand which was good.

It also included breakfast times which was good, although prices for all products were extortionately high. For one bottle of local cider produced within walking distance of the hotel a premium of £5.65 was charged after I asked for the best value cider.
The atmosphere at reception was a little awkward after multiple requests for extra sweeteners and tea biscuits. This could have been easily avoided by more generous room servicing. It was exacerbated by staff on reception not having access to the tea biscuits. Staff who did were those on housekeeping who’s English understanding did not seem perfect which just made matters worse. Extra was eventually provided after a wait though which was better than nothing.

Subsequent services only provided one pack of 2 small tea biscuits between 2 guests which were clearly inadequate in number. The room was also serviced very irregularly. When this was carried out, staff were not responsive to the demands for extra tea by providing more. They continued to service the room identically in defiance for customer preferences.

The contents of the room seemed highly impressive however with a provided bottle of Shiraz, one of sparkling water and another of still water. There were certainly a few luxury touches. This was only supplied at a cost however removing all of this appeal. This was only detailed in a small note nearby, clearly aiming to deceive guests.

There was no bar area located which was viewable from reception as it was quite tucked away around a corner. It was not only tricky to locate, but also was not manned without a bell ring suggesting greater wait times due to it’s impractical location.

I was accused on checkout of consuming the entire tray of consumables. Assuming I had consumed the entire tray of consumables this would be fair enough. However I had simply moved them into a drawer to remove temptation. After long shifts and feeling very hungry I believe it was fair enough to do so especially considering high costs.

 

 

Tea provisions

1 border tea biscuit was provided like in the Days inn of Bristol which was a highly welcome addition. It was a shame replacements could not be quickly provided. Why not store these at reception ??

On service, 6 coffee sachets and 4 teas including 2 green twinings and 2 everyday twinings were supplied. This was preferable over PG tips but I was not keen on the green tea. It was a little disappointing to have all tea and sweetening condiments buried underneath all the coffees since I do not like coffee. Whilst I understood this was subjective, room servicing should have factored this in based on what had been used … It didn’t and the tea supplies were not routinely replaced on a daily basis.

A small kettle was supplied but not plugged in and lacked capacity and fullness markers. Fortunately this was larger than the puny vessel supplied at the Holiday Inn Express of holiday street Birmingham but was still a little disappointing. There were 2 average sized mugs which were okay.
4 generously sized semi skimmed UHT tubs were supplied along with 4 brown sugar sachets, 4 white sugar sachets, 2 sweetener sachets. This provided good quality and variety for sweetening which was positive although did highlight a lack of this for full fat milk choices.

It was a bit of a letdown with such a glorious sweetening count to only have access to 2 tea bags which I actually liked. A.k.a breakfast tea Twinings. The tea biscuit was pleasant however.

Snacks

With 2 mini pots of Pringles including salt and vinegar and original this seemed great. 3 Laila shot packets were provided along with the Shiraz and water glass bottles which contained Bombay mix, chilli lemon corn and Balti mix. These would all be pleasant extras if included but none of them were. Beside these tasty treats was a menu specifying the price for all of these items. This again seemed setup to trick and deceive guests into losing their mandatory deposits which I did not like.

 

Community areas

Access to the room from the corridor was quite temperamental. It often required multiple attempts and the appropriate speed whilst swiping. This was not ideal. Fortunately the keycard continued to work and did not wear out as is often the case.

The downstairs conservatory area looked luxurious with a pleasantly landscaped outdoors area which kept things looking nice. It was a little unclear however who was allowed to use this. The bar area was tucked away yet at least it was comfortable in feel and decoration.
Service could have been faster despite the bell and products were all vastly overpriced.

Price

The menu prices were expensive and the in room menu for provided goods that you were expected to pay for indicated a rather expensive stay. The mandatory deposit of £25 was a shame since this put pressure on instantly to spend money which I did not like. The fact that this cannot be returned till 3-5 days after checkout also seems a little unfair considering it is actually your money which hasn’t been used for anything.

£5.65 for a cider is the most I have ever laid and despite being highly enjoyable after a long work day it was still not worth quite that much. The wait at the bar for this for that price was not acceptable.

Washing and cleaning

A small vile of body moisturiser, body wash, conditioner and shampoo were provided. These were a little small and hard to squeeze like at St. Albans. The Copthorne sneezy tubes in Sheffield were far better. That said it was nice to have moisturiser and conditioner since these aren’t ubiquitously supplied.
2 full height body mirrors were provided on a pine wardrobe straight ahead from the bathroom exit. There was a clean and wide top half mirror by the bathroom sink.

Great for self reflection …

2 toilet rolls were supplied with some hand wipe tissues which was sufficient.
Whilst the shower looked as dated as the Hemel Hempstead holiday inn, it had far easier activation with the same outer ring for pressure and inner ring for temperature. Due to this ease of activation it was far more practical. It could do with modernising still though since the shower head height could not be adjusted. Temperature was easy to adjust however and the ability to change shower angle was nice.

The head height was too low for me though which made the shower experience a little less enjoyable. The bath which was present under the shower was good for practicality and 3 neatly laid out towels seemed sufficient for 2 guests. Additionally 2 spare towels were supplied in the wardrobe which was good.

There was a towel rail but this wasn’t heated unlike in some placed i had stayed previously which was a shame.

6 hangers for clothes felt slightly minimal after the 9 of holiday inn Hemel Hempstead although appeared just about sufficient. I liked how these were equally split 3 to each side of the wardrobe.

Spare pillows were also provided in the wardrobe which as good and the beds were made to my personal preference of just one pillow which again seemed great. A hairdryer was supplied which was good and the storage draws were spacious below the television. Perfect for storing not free Shiraz.

There was a bathroom lock which worked well with a nifty button activation system which seemed preferable to the twist lock activation typically apparent. Dust was apparent behind the bedside cabinet which indicated cleaning whilst good may not have been perfect or thorough.
This should have been meticulous considering the infrequent servicing provided.

Chilling in your room

A TV was provided along with 3 chairs and a small table. The roadnoise distracted a little from the viewing experience however which was a bit of a shame. With 4 easy to spot plug sockets, this number felt sufficient, yet a little low.

The TV had great picture quality and was of sufficient size. The signal was not intermittent unlike at the Roundhouse Bournemouth and it was easy to switch on and operate which was good after the issues encountered previously at the Copthorne Sheffield.

The WIFI was adequate for simple Google and Facebook searches and login was simple by a touch selection and subsequent simple tap to agree the terms and conditions. No email or password was necessary for login which was nice.
WIFI for downloads or program viewing however was very inadequate and rather feeble to be honest. This dampened in room entertainment considerably through restriction to mundane day time television.

No padded backrests on the beds was a little disappointing with no in room refrigerators meant a slightly off par stay with the Raddison Blu of Leeds or Holiday inn Hemel Hempstead.
The covers were not too thick which was nice, but why room servicing involved fully opening the windows and curtains I perhaps will never know.

Customer service

Whilst staff were welcoming I didn’t like having to sign forms on entry and having to put down a £25 pound deposit which dampened the mood significantly. Waiting for 3-5 working days for this to be refunded was not great also.

Staff pointed out the direction of my room and were well mannered but could have mentioned where the pool and gym were at the get go for more useful information. They did not have quick access to replace tea biscuits, accused me of consuming the entire on room tray of snacks and wine without even asking me about it and some members did not seem to speak great English. I had to wait for some time at the bar and main reception in the evenings for service and had to ask multiple times for extra tea provisions. The rooms were not serviced regularly and not thoroughly cleaned. Cleaners did not amend practise based on our customer preferences either.

Summary

A slightly dated stay in a hotel with the basics but let down by overpricing, too eager to squeeze guests for money and a lack of regular or effective room servicing. With renovation to modernise, removing ridiculous extra costs and more effective staff training the good range of facilities and accommodation equipment could be made highly profitable. The stay could be enhanced also by a better location and less noisy surroundings.

Hemel Hempstead holiday inn (Room 209) (6.5/10) ” A practical stay lacking refinement”.

Hemel Hempstead holiday inn review ( Room 209) ” A practical stay lacking some refinement”. (6.5/10)

Good
“Easy wifi login and TV viewing”.
” Plenty of hangers and tea provisions”.
” Mini fridge in room”.
” Accommodating staff”.

Bad
” Not centrally located”.
” Keycard swish required good luck or effective technique”.
” Lack of tea selection just Tetley”.
” Few plug sockets”.
” Creaky shower ??”.

Atmosphere

On entry, hotel location was noticeably noisy and on a busy main road. The building however was setback from the road alleviating some of this inconvenience.
There were limited footpath crossings and it was difficult to get across to the hotel.

Once I entered, the receptionist was busy for a short while on the phone yet happy to help and very polite, informative and professional in his guidance. He informed me of my room number and the location of the free fitness suite on the lower ground floor which sounded like a real bonus.

Tea provisions

Tea provisions were adequate for at least 3 fully sweetened teas were provided. This was a good if slightly low number yet these were very neatly laid out.
For sweetening there were 3 sweeteners, 2 white sugar sachets and 2 brown. There were 4 Tetley teabags provided yet no selection. Some places offer earl grey or camomile tea or other brands which provides a little more variety.

Mugs were of good size which was more generous than at the Copthorne.
4 semi skimmed UHT milk sachets were provided which was sufficient but again some full fat option for variety would be welcome. A fridge which was complete with cup holders was provided. This would be great for your own fresh milk which was a pleasant touch. I hadn’t experienced this for a while since the Lymedale suites in Stoke on Trent.

The Kettle had 1.2 litre capacity which was better than holiday streets’ Holiday inn express in Birmingham. This was plugged in and easy to spot from the room entrance which was convenient. All the tea provisions were neatly laid out in a tray.
No tea biscuits were provided like the days inn in Bristol which would have been a good touch.

Community areas

The community areas upstairs were plain and less characterful than some places yet more relaxed and a little more dated than Holiday inn in Birmingham. Reception was light and airy and modern and had a spacious new bar area which felt the correct balance between comfortable yet extensive. It was nice to be allowed to consume our own food and drink products which is often not the case.

Price

At around £62 pounds per night for the weekend per person for a twin room the hotel is not the cheapest I have come across for a 3 star. That said it seemed good value for what was provided including levels of space and facilities such as a gym and pool.

Washing and cleaning

At least 4 towels were provided which was a good number. They worked well for drying and were comfortable to use. The switch activated heated towel rail kept towels ready for next time and was good for saving on unnecessary washing or damp smells that can begin to develop.

As for bath and shower facilities one reasonable sized tube of conditioning shampoo and another of shower gel were provided which seemed positive although they were hard to dispense since they were not squeezable tubes.
The 2 toilet rolls were not locked in place and were quilted to provide extra comfort and practicality.

A hairdryer was provided but hidden in a drawer … why ??

The Shower with a single control knob with one ring outside for pressure was apparent and another inside for temperature. The activation of the outer was very stiff and creaky which was also difficult to adjust. It looked dated and a bit unclean.
The bathroom door did lock however unlike in the Copthorne Sheffield which didn’t.

Chilling in your room

The mini fridge for a glimpse of the Radisson and Lymedale suites aparthotel was supplied which I made good use of for cider cans.
The bed was made with single pillow which was my preference and one of the only places to do that. 2 spare pillows were provided aswell to cater for all guests well including those with other preferences. Definite thumbs up therefore. The pillow was supportive for sleep yet a little flimsy for a backrest however.

Moreover no padded bed backrests were supplied for comfort or grip which was a bit of a shame.
There were varied storage spaces for belongings including standard and open drawers which was good.
9 wooden hangers were supplied in an open wardrobe which was a very good number. This was pretty much perfect for 2 guests in my opinion.
2 comfy seats with ample desk space situated well for TV viewing was great. Both beds were also well placed for this.

The room was box shaped with adequate TV size. The TV worked on first press of the button. It was not huge but had mediocre picture quality. It was large enough for the room size but one of the desk seats did obscure the view slightly from my bed. Wall mounted TV’s can often overcome this issue.

Limited plug sockets were present near the beds. There were only 3 in total which were easily noticeable yet quite spread out. This seemed a bit impractical. Plenty of mirrors were provided with at least 2 near the bathroom. 2 small litter bins were proved one in the bathroom and the other under the desk. This would have been better placed under the tea tray station however to prevent a walk with a hot tea bag.

The power did not need keycard access which was nice and my preferred system. This felt better than the Raddison blu of Leeds or the Copthorne in Sheffield. The lift didn’t either which made a nice change. Keycard access to the room did require multiple attempts though and a quick swipe to gain access. The keycard did not wear out though for the entirety of my stay which was great.

The Wifi connected automatically which was great with no login or password needed
This was a little slow to sign in on subsequent logins however.

Customer service

The staff were polite on checkin and informative about the location of health suite when I asked. They were quick and professional on sign in and checkout and quite tolerant of our late night socialising. The rooms were well cleaned and serviced which I can only offer many thanks for. For this I would stay again.

Summary

A well serviced, if slightly bland room equipped with easy to operate technology and many hangers and tea provisions. Luxury touches were a little lacking but a practical stay nonetheless. Shower needs modernising.

 

Henney’s 2016 vintage exhibition cider (7/10) “Value and nature with a whisper of sensory appeal”.

Henney’s 2016 vintage exhibition cider review (7/10) ” Value, nature with a whisper of sensory appeal”.

The Good

” Subtle acidity and natural fruitiness”.
” Good price and practical alcohol quantity”.
” Nice bottle design and not watery.”
” Moist and smooth aftertaste”.

The Bad

” No dryness as described”.
” Lack of carbonation”.
” Lack of sweetness and limited acidity”.
” Not totally full bodied”.
” Not complex in flavour”.
” Lack of warming aftertaste”.

Packaging

The short portly bottle is not reticulated like the champagne style vessel of Aspall’s. It did possess a prominence though which perhaps made up for lack of colour on the bottle label. What the bottle did well was to showcase the colour of the amber fluid with clear glass and a black label to contrast strikingly with it’s paleness.

Mike Henney’s name is mentioned on the bottle and upon website inspection, it seemed like he started the business from home in 1996. Since then it had purportedly grown considerably… The apples are now provided from Wyre croft farm at Bishops Frome; A village of around 800 inhabitants near Suckley. This surprised me since despite it’s rural origin and traditional branding, the business is a year younger than me . Quite unlike the super longevity possessed by Bulmer’s or Weston’s of the late 1800’s, and almost put to shame by the establishment of Aspalls in the late 1720’s.

Over a hundred years earlier !!

The gold writing was formal yet traditional in font and specified the words Herefordshire, exhibition and fine. Also being made from 100% freshly pressed juice. This created a little intrigue as I hadn’t previously encountered the word exhibition in relation to cider at all. Maybe in the context of tennis to specify shots aimed at showing off, so perhaps it had the similar meaning of fancy or premium.

On turning the bottle this was clarified. It specified that the drink was the dry cider class entry of Henney’s for 2016. This was supported by stating how the highest standard juice from Herefordshire cider apples had been used and that a complex aroma and taste experience should be expected.

It defined exhibition, as cider resulting from the previous years autumn harvest apples being showcased with competition entries during the following spring. Seeing as the year of vintage is 2016 this cider supposedly was entered for spring of this year.

It went on to mention how people from Herefordshire respect subtlety but do occasionally like to show off suggesting that Mike Henney’s himself endorses this drink as a confident performer. The blurb moral appeared a little contradictory in this respect however, seeing as though it could describe itself as a dry cider with attributes in tentative language rather than boasting about them. This could maintain this notion of subtlety, even in a high quality product.

The price was £1.29 from Aldi per bottle which was cheaper than most others I could find, nevertheless slightly dearer than the great value Capel road No. 5 from b and m. The bottle did provide 3.25 units for 500ml at 6.5%. This was practical and considerably strong, albeit not quite at the dizzy heights, or should I say heads, of Aspalls’ organic or Westons’ old Rosie at 7.3%. It did however overpower Bulmers’ and Merry down at 6% ABV.

The strength, price and quantity in combination appeared judicial which complemented it’s uniform labelling and bottle design.

In terms of my expectations then, the rich and complex taste announced with dryness as a descriptor left carbonation, sweetness and acidity levels to the imagination. On bottle inspection, the noticeable white froth did indicate some fizz; Perhaps unusual for a full dry but we shall see.

Based on my knowledge of Herefordshire ciders and my only other review of a Henney’s cider… More specifically the vintage still cider of 2015, I was not expecting much sweetness, acidity, flavour or full bodiedness for that matter since this was a bit of a let down. This did however do medium dryness well with a smooth and warming aftertaste. It didn’t seem to have much to boast about however so I was hoping this 2016 drink would have a better outlook.

Smell
On opening, a reasonable fizz was apparent which was accompanied by a generous head for a cider which provided a sea of white. The scent was fresh and smooth with a hint of acidity. It was not overpowering or strong and actually rather subtle and pleasant.

The smell was described on the bottle as rich and complex. Perhaps the lack of strength and simplicity of it’s freshness noted, went against this description.

Taste

On the first sip the flavour was not noticeably fizzy as expected. It did possess a rather pleasant appley flavour though, which was not artificial. As for body, the cider was certainly not full bodied but a good medium without wateriness. It was a little bitter on the aftertaste yet not quite sweet enough to balance. The fruitiness did make up for this a little though. Where was the expected warmth ?? No real dryness was apparent either which a bit of a let down. The main positives were a natural fruity flavour with a subtle yet noticeable acidity which provided a glorious tang.

The taste was described as rich and complex like the aroma. It certainly wasn’t complex and not hugely rich, so this was a slight letdown like the aroma.

Summary
Not a medium dry as described, going against Herefordshire cider tradition. Not especially fizzy, tasty, full bodied or warming. Subtle yet pleasant acidity but lacking in sweetness.

Copthorne hotel sheffield (Room 501) 6.5/10

Copthorne hotel review (6.5/10) ” Good facilities but some hidden or hard to operate”.

Room 501

Good
” Quick and easy checkin with central location”.
” Comfortable beds placed well for TV viewing”.
” Quirky homely decor with plenty of glass and mirrors”.
” Good view from window”.

Bad
” Tea in the wardrobe ? ?”.
” Keycard was deactivated once, despite no mobile phone contact”.
” Lock on bathroom was not working”.
” WIFI only lasted for 24 hours”.

Before arriving at the room the corridors felt warm, homely and characterful. Potted plants were present giving things a more organic feel which I approved of. The lift had a floor which was clearly designated to a gym and other facilities. This had clarity and felt practical.

The WIFI password was provided along with my room keycard which was better than the Mountford hotel of Liverpool which made things less clear.

The room had quirky decoration which made the stay pleasant along with it’s spaciousness. It had the up to date key card activation system which was highly modern if admittedly not my favourite. This is featured in many hotels such as Raddison blu in central Leeds. The chairs in the room were comfortable and placed sensibly and practically; One for TV viewing and the other for desk seating. The lamp had a spiral stem and multiple cupboards were hidden behind mirrors much like the magic beans in Harry Potter.

 

Atmosphere

The atmosphere was relaxed, clean and professional which gave out a very pleasant vibe. The gym facilities, decoration and practicality of the stay without really missing anything, kept the positive and rather charming atmosphere sustained. Staff were friendly, polite and helpful and quick for which I had nothing but praise.

Tea provisions

Harder to locate than a stick insect in autumn… There were no tea provisions I could notice for the first night of my stay. Fortunately I managed to locate them in my room by the second evening in the wardrobe ???

This was a shame since what was provided appeared rather good…

There was a larger kettle than many of the places I had stayed at previously. It certainly put the Holiday Inn Express of Holiday street Birmingham to shame in that respect. There were reasonably sized mugs, 4 semi skimmed UHT containers, 4 teabags including Breakfast and Earl grey, 3 sachets of brown and white sugar and 2 sweetener tablets.
This was sufficient for 4 cups of tea with 2 sugars and milk which is great

These were replaced well on room servicing…

There was also a trio of chocolate cream biscuits which kept things on par with Double tree by Hilton of Lincoln and the Days inn of Bristol.

Overall then, not bad tea making facilities. With plugs next to a desk and seats provided it did beg the question though, why hide everything in a wardrobe ? …

Community areas

Corridors were clean and cozy. Lifts worked well with a key card activation system for added security. The separate floor for the gym was good with respect to layout. No loud noise could be heard throughout the stay which made the soundproofing appear delightful.

The reception area had adequate seating with large windows at the hotel frontage for a spacious and modern feel.

There was a wait for the lifts on occasion but nothing excessive. Parking facilities were highly impressive with a rather extensive car park on site.

 

Price

At £53 pounds per night at weekends for a twin room per guest, the value certainly seemed good. This was not much over a Travelodge basic hotel which would not have the character or facilities present here. This was highly promising especially when central location and room size is considered.

Washing and cleaning

The shower was responsive and had good pressure. Despite the bathroom having both shower and bath facilities with clear instructions beside for shower use, the bathroom door had a lock which didn’t work and the door was rather heavy.

A hairdryer was apparent but hidden in a cupboard. The shampoo sachet was singular and only a very small travel tube. This was not as practical as the almost giant vessel present at the Birmingham Holiday inn express of Holiday street.

Mirrors were full height except the bathroom 3/4 height mirror and there were at least 3 distributed near the bathroom.

This was great for checking my hair and tie …

Towels were thick and effective for drying and at least 3 were provided which seemed sufficient for 2. These were replaced reliably on room service although 2 shampoos were provided with no body wash replacement which could have proved a minor inconvenience.

2 quilted toilet rolls were provided which was good.

A hairdryer was present which worked fine. Over 4 plug sockets were provided which between 2, seemed sufficient. The hidden wardrobe had only 5 hangers. At least these were made of wood rather than plastic.

Chilling in your room

The beds were comfy, despite no backrest support being provided for comfortable TV viewing, unlike in Birmingham. The TV had no clear instructions and I couldn’t get it to work … I may be slightly inept with technology but hadn’t struggled with any of the TV’s I had viewed at other establishments. This just showed a small window which appeared to just display constant adverts. I quickly got bored and switched it off …

At least I had some programs to watch on my iPad … For the second night … Oh no wait !
WIFI had to be renewed everyday which was tedious although access was simple with the password provided on checkin… This meant that the second night of my stay was without entertainment. A bit disappointing … Some places do connect automatically with just an email address moreover which I personally prefer as you don’t need anyone else to give you information to connect.

It was a shame about the WIFI but especially the TV problems, since the beds were strategically placed for effective viewing along with one of the room seats. The TV signal also seemed good as well as it’s picture quality. This further tormented me when it wouldn’t find channels properly.

The wardrobe cupboard and cupboard opposite contained ironing facilities and a hairdryer.

This ticked all the boxes if you could find them on the form in the first place …

The beds were comfortable and serviced well without excessive duvet thickness for the time of year. The 2 single beds were well placed for TV viewing and not too close together which was great. I did sleep well but admittedly I did remove one of the pillows and cushions which were replaced the same on the second night without consideration for my guest preference.
That said the pillow was highly comfy.

Customer service

Staff were quick and helpful on checkin which didn’t take long at all. This was refreshingly pleasant after Ipswich and Birmingham checkin delays.

The room was clean, comfy and well decorated for a relaxed stay. The setup was a little impractical however with some items hidden or facilities not working well.

Summary

A spacious, quirky and well facilitated stay with technological practicality appearing lacking. Comfortable sleeping, gym facilities, polite staff and quick checkin did considerably make up for hidden tea, temporary wifi and a frustrating TV though.

Room 814 – Holiday inn express review – ” Great mini blueberry muffin”.

Birmingham holiday inn express hotel review ( Room 814) (7/10)

Good

” Central location and polite staff”.
” Grab and go options and breakfast quantity”.
” Good picture quality and signal on in-room TV”.
” Very pleasant mini blueberry muffins”.
” Alcohol not overpriced”.

Bad

” Small kettle capacity and lack of milk or tea choices”.
” Too many thick pillows and cushions on my bed”.
” Duvet a bit too thick for the time of year”.
” Bacon and sausage was a little bland”.
” No drawers”.

Atmosphere

The hotel on entry had a clean and formal atmosphere. You had to take the lifts to reception which was not too much of an issue. The staff on checkin gave out a professional, yet well humoured feel. They were good to talk to and highly welcoming which was nice. They explained how to access wifi and all necessary information for the stay including number of nights and how to activate the lifts.

The breakfast times were announced straight away and the room on arrival was dimly lit with wall lights. Key card activation was present as is the case in many luxury hotels such as the Raddisson Blu of Leeds.

The beds were embellished with red and white creating a modern and striking style which gave the room a more relaxed vibe that that of the reception and entry areas.

Tea provisions

A good variety of sugars were supplied neatly in a tray directly beside the kettle. This was an effective tea making setup since the power access was close by. These sugars included 2 white, 2 brown and 2 sweetener sachets which seemed plenty.

While sweetening selection was pleasant the quantity of tea was certainly a little low. Only 2 sachets of Tetley tea were provided and only full fat milk was supplied. 4 little tubs of milk for just 2 cups of tea seemed a little excessive.

The mugs were of reasonable size however and 2 teaspoons were supplied.
The kettle was probably the smallest I had ever seen with just 0.6 litre maximum capacity. This was a bit of a letdown.

Since we had the inclusive breakfast deal however, limitless tea was available at the breakfast allotted time frame. This was generous and occurred later on at weekends so made up greatly for the room tea facilities. There was cereal selections, yoghurt, fruit with other options such as croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages. The mini blueberry muffin was my favourite. Whilst it was great to have breakfast included the sausages were quite bland with slightly greasy bacon. Brown and tomato ketchup were provided as sauces. I did not try the bread or cereal but the cereal looked the best option out of the 2.

Take out cups and grab and go bags were a nice touch keeping things set up for business stays. Inkeeping with the decoration, this appeared to be the primary target market. With the name holiday inn express however, I would suggest a little more colour and funky items to ensure holiday visitors also feel at home.

There were multiple coffee options and the all-inclusive was equipped with both sweetener and sugar sachets which was nice. I had no problems with the multiple cups of tea I drank there. Hot water was never empty, the sweeteners made it palatable and the milk was ready to use every time. Tetley tea sachets with no other decaf or varietal option was a little disappointing but perhaps my only criticism. Mugs were of standard size but not small which scored brownie points against some other places.

Overall, top marks for presentation but quantity was a little low for room tea provisions yet no such issue was encountered on the all inclusive.

Community areas

The downstairs bar area was of reasonable size with relaxed seating. It did lack a bit of character however and the seating was far from extensive. Prices and menus were clearly displayed on the walls nearby though which was a good feature. Limited cider selection on the bar appeared noticeable.

Price

Price of stay was clearly labelled at £51 and very reasonable for what was provided. A no-frills stay but with the practicality of a higher rated establishment.

Washing and cleaning

3 towels were supplied which seemed plenty and the bathroom whilst compact, was very clean. 2 additional towels were supplied above the open wardrobe.
Plenty of shampoo was provided for 2 guests as well as liquid hand soap. The shower was certainly large enough with dual control. One knob was for temperature and the other for pressure which is my preferred system. This worked well with quick responses to alterations in both temperature and pressure. It did however make a noisy alarm style sound which improved with pressure adjustment or reactivation. This was only a minor inconvenience therefore.

Everything was immaculately clean with a towel rail in the shower space.
There was a hairdryer as well as an iron and ironing board in the room. This was great although their location, behind a full body height mirror, was a little hidden.
That said, this mirror and the 3/4 height mirror in the bathroom were certainly sufficient for literal self reflection.

 

Chilling in your room

An open wardrobe with 6 metal hangers was provided which appeared an average number and just about sufficient between 2 guests; Not quite as many as Double tree by Hilton of Lincoln though. The open wardrobe appeared as a pleasant modern touch.
The bed backrests were padded to avoid the lumbar pain typical of an unembellished slab of wood and the TV was of adequate size. No intermittency was suffered in signal either as was the case in the roundhouse of Bournemouth. Picture quality was good. The location however was not ideal for the bed nearest the end of the room for watching. Viewing could be achieved from the sofa chair however which did make up for this.
6 plug sockets between 2 guests with one each directly beside the beds, seemed like a good arrangement. The number also seemed generous.

Wifi was reliable and easy to connect to with no passwords. Just a simple checkbox.

The beds were serviced reliably and well but the mattress was a little firm for me and the duvet was too thick for the time of year. Servicing by replacing both pillows when I removed one due to personal sleeping preference, seemed slightly inconvenient. Pillows were supportive and comfy though.

Customer service

Staff were friendly and polite and quick to respond to my queries. Whilst they encountered some software issues on checkin they were apologetic and polite when resolving the issue. Room servicing was effective and timely.
On checkout, staff were quick and polite.

Summary

A comfortable stay with professional cleanliness and service. Practical systems for breakfast and information provided. Good TV/Wifi and polite staff. Location was great and central. I would stay again for price, practicality and location.

Maeloc Sidra Seca “dry”-“Costly, fruity non-dry with tang but no balance” – (8/10)

Maeloc Sidra seca dry review ( 8/10) ” Costly, fruity with tangy sharpness lacking balance or dryness”.

The Good

” Lovely, natural and fruity flavour”.
” Subtle, yet effective branding”.
” Great natural tang with sharpness”.
” Full-bodied and complex”.
” Exciting and different”.

The Bad
” Tang overpowering for fruity flavour”.
” Lacking carbonation”.
” Not a dry cider as claimed”.
” Expensive, expensive, expensive”.

Packaging

The small bottle was coloured with white, blue and brown with the exception of one green and red apple within a sunshine depiction. The bottle appeared subtle, yet of good quality.

Whilst I do not speak Spanish, the “do it your way” slogan in slender brown font was written in English. I was not that familiar with Spanish alcohol, but from my recent trip to Fuerteventura I would suggest the Spanish culture is not primarily aimed at cider drinking; Perhaps moreso spirit and cocktail based.

The slogan therefore appeared to be saying it is okay to be different which I like since the logo is of an old man with glasses and a basket of apples; Perhaps not the stereotypical alcohol consumer suggesting the idea of distinctiveness is carried through to bottle decoration.

The Spanish words which sprung out were “Galicia and Maeloc”. Galicia on reading refers to a small region in northwest Spain which is green and lush. It therefore follows that this will feature apple varieties which enjoy a little more moisture than would be expected from such a dry country.

Galicia is seen as an autonomous community; One that is unique from Spain in terms of heritage and climate. It is not as commercialised as tourist destinations in Spain such as the costas. It’s greater rainfall and mountains keep it from appearing similar to the rest of Spain.

For all intents and purposes then, this cider review was not of a typical Spanish cider which I am yet to find, but it was my first cider from Spain and the only bottled cider I have managed to find. This is after having searched many popular retail stores in the UK.

It set me back £1.80 from Waitrose for this little 330ml bottle. At 4.5% ABV this gives you 1.5 units. This means at least 2 would be needed, making this a costly option. That said for practicality 2 is a good number to achieve spot on the recommended limit. Due to novelty value from it’s foreign origin however, I was willing to overlook the cost for good quality flavour.

The website announced the drink as part of a trio including “Organic”, “Flavours” and this bottle which was termed “Dry”.
It announced in English ” Refreshing, light and flavoursome” which was reassuring considering the entire bottle label was in Spanish. I did not have the patience to translate this, although the website seemed to shed enough light on the beverage.

This suggested it had been brewed using a traditional Celtic process. It suggests manufacture using 100% Galician apples providing it with a smooth and bitter description. The word beer is included in this which made me shudder slightly due to my dislike of any beer I had previously sampled.
Some examples of apples stated included Raxo, Pero, and Verden. These were difficult to locate online on other sites but I was expecting them to come together to provide a fresh appley flavour for the drink; Instead of an artificial product from juice rather than genuine apples.

Maeloc as specified on the bottle and perhaps depicted, was purportedly a bishop who did things in his own way and respected tradition which also appeared to complement the brand ethos for individuality well.

With my sweet tooth and taste for anything but beer, I was certainly hoping this likeness was limited. I was expecting a dry drink therefore; perhaps lacking in carbonation and sweetness. I wasn’t sure what to expect but hoped for tang and acidity also. Full-bodiedness was not mentioned but with local, flavoursome apples I hoped this was apparent.

Smell

On opening, a smoothly acidic, yet natural aroma emerged. The smell felt almost vinegary perhaps like merry-down cider. Throughout smelling though, no variation was apparent and the aroma was surprisingly consistent and fairly strong. This suggested the potential for a smooth, strong and tangy flavour which hinted of great apple appeal.

 

Taste

The flavour, on first sip, certainly had a pleasant fruity tang. On initial taste, the flavour was surprisingly similar to Sxollie which tasted of fresh golden delicious apples. It’s aftertaste possessed a highly pleasant tangy fizz as if it had been made using Granny Smith apples. Transition between taste and aftertaste was as smooth as the flavour.

The natural acidity was perhaps one of the nicest I had tasted. On swirling in your mouth the cider does not provide any sound or feel of carbonation, but due to this tang it really didn’t appear to need it. The sweetness was catered for through the flavour of natural fruit and didn’t really need anymore; It’s key selling point was that of tang and acidity.

What perhaps was disappointing was the dryness level. Whilst for my palette, a cider which had a ” moist” level of dryness was very appealing, this drink claimed to be a dry cider which it really wasn’t. It was however full-bodied which kept the flavour fulfilling deep into the aftertaste.

In addition to limited carbonation with natural fruity sharpness and a moist level of dryness, the sweetness seemed absent but this appeared a ramification natural flavours enhancing it, rather than the attribute being lacking.

Summary

A smooth, fruity and refreshing drink with the uniqueness and tradition that it claimed. Tradition could be seen through a great taste experience showing good process selection and ingredient modification. The carbonation was a little lacking, acidity a little too overpowering for optimal balance and dryness could have been enhanced. Overall a lovely, full-bodied and natural drink which was certainly worth a try.

Sources
http://www.galiciaguide.com/Galicia-index.html
http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/our-producers/maeloc-cider/
http://www.maelocway.com/en/galicia

Hestons’ Waitrose spiced mulled cider (7.5/10) ” Unique, punchy and spicy alcohol”.

Heston from Waitrose spiced mulled cider review (8.5/10) as alcohol (7.5/10) as cider “Unique, punchy, spicy alcohol. maybe a cider”.

The Good

“Pleasant warming tang and punchy spicy smell”.
” Great value and branding”.
” Full-bodied as necessary with strong flavour”.
” Pleasantly warming and spicy taste”.

The Bad

” Lack of carbonation or sweetness”.
” Would be nice to have tang from acidity”.
” Apple is not the star of the show”.
” Is this actually a cider ?”.

 

Packaging

Described by Waitrose as being based on a Herefordshire Oak-aged cider, a touch from Heston Blumenthal is evident with spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger. My usual style is not to review ciders which have been messed about with. Those Old mout and Koppabergesque ciders which have supposedly been enhanced by other fruit. These appear to me to not be real ciders since they are not based on apples as I feel cider always used to be.

I was therefore debating not including this cider in my review compilation, however, since it is not based on any fruit other than apple and is called mulled cider this feels acceptable.
It was also reduced from £4.99 for the 750ml bottle to just £1 so I simply could not resist the purchase. At 5.5% volume this equated to 4.1 units, making things highly practical for consumption level and only a touch over recommended limits at this price.

Putting this in perspective it was just as cheap as Capel road number 5 and the cheapest bottled cider I have ever tried.

Additionally the drink did not have any taste expectations for dryness, carbonation, acidity or sweetness which suggested a certain element of mystery or creativity. I would expect similar traits to Westons’ cider due to it’s Herefordshire origin and their usual abundance of oak-aged drinks. This meant I was expecting medium dryness, subtle or no carbonation and reasonable acidity levels.

There was not a dedicated website or announcement of it’s history which suggested a pretty new trial product. Due to mixed positive and negative reviews online this created an interesting proposition. The image on the front of the wine- shaped bottle depicting a goat in a blue suit whilst intriguing, was quite odd. With a practical screw cap and silver/white label this was not in-keeping with any kind of theme and didn’t open easily.

Smell

An intriguing warming smell typical of cinnamon or clove was present with a certain acidic presence. The smell was punchy, yet rather pleasant and set things off on good footing. This was comforting and remained noticeable for multiple whiffs.

Taste

On opening, a lack of head was apparent as well as fizz which hinted of a still cider. After a few glugs and tasting, the cider was remarkably like it smelt and was branded … highly different and distinctive. The aftertaste and impression wasn’t overpowering or remotely dry. It possessed my preferred level of dryness as a ” moist” cider and was good that no false dryness claims were made; Many ciders have such as the recently reviewed organic Aspalls which claimed dryness but didn’t possess it.

The cider was perfectly still like a Henney’s of Herefordshire which actually never seems to be a great thing.
As for body, the cider didn’t suffer from a watery feel despite not seeming thick or syrupy. This was the right consistency for a strongly spiced drink however. The acidity level seemed a little low for my taste, yet the warmth (from the spices including cloves), appeared to compensate for this, removing any disappointment of it’s absence. The drink whilst spicy, did lack sweetness and the balance of warmth from spice should perhaps be enhanced by this and carbonation.

 

Summary

A rather pleasant drink with a unique warming flavour providing a tang. Carbonation and acidity are lacking yet dryness is as expected and enjoyable. The sweetness is a little lacking which is a shame. The product is great value, practical and as unique as the branding suggests. Whilst not to everyone’s taste I found it quite enjoyable. It is debatable whether it should be classed a cider. I have given it 2 scores to keep things fair.

Aspall Suffolk organic cyder review (8/10)

Aspall Suffolk organic cyder review (8/10) ” Practical with tang, yet unbalanced and simple”.

The Good

” Great backstory from the website”.
” Clear expectations for taste and sampling”.
” Practical with good value”.
” Smooth and natural smell”.
” Quite full-bodied with subtle carbonation”.
” Pleasant and punchy tang”.

The Bad

” Not enough fruit or sweetness in the taste”.
” Not a dry cider as claimed”.
” A little one dimensional with a lack of uniqueness which was expected”.

Packaging

The bottle was instantly distinctive with a very different shape from the standard. According to the website this was not an accident. It was apparently produced in this way at great expense but was intended to emulate the quality of champagne bottles from the days of when cider was seen in the same league as this upmarket beverage. It was held in this stretched and reticulated vessel which perhaps was holding some mystical fluid. The history was lengthy and so my expectations for a backstory were high. This bottle therefore appeared to symbolise true quality and tradition.

On website inspection, the cider proclaimed 300 years of history with the establishment year noted as 1728. This made it far older than Weston’s of Herefordshire established 1880 and of Bulmers established in 1887. In fact I do not recall sampling an older cider makers potion.

To stop the consumer worrying that Aspalls’ cider is not innovative or changing with the times it claims global recognition and combining it’s tradition with development. Not words to be taken lightly when concerning quality and uniqueness of a product.

Their cyders use pressed apples from Aspall hall which is located in the Aspall hamlet just north of a market town named Debenham in central Suffolk.

The hall was passed to a man named Clement in 1722 by his uncle Temple. Temple was travelling from Jersey with his Suffolk born mother and then decided to invest in the hall for their nephew Clement.

Clement apparently made some brick modifications to his newly acquired building and during the 19th century a subsequent generation of his family further modified one of the floors for medical purposes.

6 years after acquiring possession, Clement began cider producing. Hence the 1728 date labelled.

The website is quite extensive… moreso than most others about the site and history of production. This made the brand seem a passionate one which was definitely a plus. For sanity purposes I left my background study and reading there.

Whilst the rural impression seems innocent, so does it’s rather standard cost at £1.80 from Waitrose. This was discounted from just over 2 pounds however but still wasn’t especially pricey considering it’s unique bottle or heritage. When you factor in the 500ml bottle capacity and prominent ABV of 7% , the 3.5 units contained is pretty ideal for just one bottle. This meets precisely the “do not regularly exceed” suggestion from the government.

This kept the cider practical with a cheapness unrivalled by some others such as Savannah. With an alcohol percentage which dwarfs many such as merry-down, Aspalls’ organic cider is not hiding away. It doesn’t burst out with insanity though thankfully, such as the 2016 Henry Weston’s vintage soon to be reviewed at 8.2%.

So far so good, but how about taste expectations. Perhaps the traditional spelling of cider as Cyder on the bottle front with a classic portrait, you’d expect some maturity and complexity in the flavour. This means traits such as tang and variable taste throughout sampling. The year of establishment suggests with brand innovation that it should have created a flavoursome drink by this time.

The blurb announced a cyder maker named Perronelle Chevallier. He was described as a pioneer who established a soil association in 1946 and also assisted in the organic movement. It goes on to detail descriptors as earthy, rustic and astringent. Astringency generally means bitter although this is mentioned as a result of the tannins which are dryness chemicals suggesting this was the meaning intended in this case.

The words rustic and chewy suggested to me a natural and full-bodied flavour which potentially has pieces of apple submerged. The word earthy is not one I had encountered but again appeared to hint of a natural taste.

A dry, full-bodied cider which tastes fruity and naturally sweet then would be expected. Announcements for carbonation and acidity levels are not suggested leaving some things to the imagination.

We shall see …

Smell

On opening a prompt, confident and abrupt fizz revealed a crisp, natural and appley scent which was highly smooth and suggested a fruity tang. On subsequent sniffs this slowly got weaker and soon faded into slight fruity sweetness.

Taste

After a few glugs from the cool vessel chassis, the taste emerged. It was not heavily carbonated yet sufficiently so and had a certain tangy character. It was not the most syrupy I had tasted but was far from watery. The flavour was highly smooth and transition to the aftertaste wasn’t highly noticeable.

The acidic tang stayed apparent on sampling. Following tasting, limited dryness was left on my palette since this was left rather moist. As a dry (astringent in this case) cider, I would not have expected this which indicated that the proclaimed tannins were perhaps in need of enhancement.

The main element of the flavour was natural and not artificial as you’d expect, but the tang overwhelmed most of the taste element. This tang was a good trait however and definitely added quality to the drinking experience. The drink was certainly rather refreshing, although wasn’t quite as balanced as I’d have hoped.

 

Summary

Subtle carbonation, great tangy acidity which steals the show away from the natural, organic fruit. Not enough apple taste or sweetness is present to balance the drink. Not unpleasant and some character, yet not enough to make this stand out from the crowd.

 

Sources

http://www.aspall.co.uk/products