My family and I have just got back from the rip-off experience of our life! It's New Year's Eve (Dec 31, 2012). We've had a nice family Christmas with my Father up from Oxford to help us celebrate the Christmas & New Year. My wife bought a Groupon voucher to attend the Alexandra and Victoria Hotel (Southport) for their "Christmas High Tea Experience", which the Groupon voucher reckoned was worth £100. What an appalling rip-off! The fact that we only paid £35 (because of the voucher discount) is no consolation at all as I would have complained if we'd paid £3.00 per head (there were four of us).
Firstly, our original visit was postponed at very short notice indeed. We had been due to attend the 'High Tea experience' the day before we actually went (Dec 30th at 2:30pm) but at 1:00pm just as we about to leave, we received a phone call from the hotel saying that they had a large buffet group in and that we couldn't be accommodated at the original time (even though it was booked several days before the intended date) due to lack of space. They were apologetic so I didn't mind too much as they said we could go the next day at 2:30, and this is what we did.
So, earlier this afternoon we set off for the hotel. There were some early clues as to what we might expect. Our table had been set up for two, rather than four, so while the waitress changed the table layout we sat in a very drab reception area which looked awful. It was grubby and the carpet hadn't seen a vacuum cleaner for several days. When we moved through to the restaurant (a conservatory area) it was obvious that the cleaning from the 'buffet' the day or night before had not been taken seriously. There were used plastic cutlery under some tables and the crumbs from previous diners and meals were still on the floor. I thought the dining area was shabby and tired looking, nothing like the cosy Christmas experience we might have expected. There was a beige coloured chair at another vacant table which had grubby hand marks on it - it looked as though it hadn't been cleaned for months, perhaps years!
Perhaps most disappointing was the food.... the very thing that we had gone to experience! When we bought the Groupon voucher, the advertising painted a picture of a high-class Christmas experience... was I wrong to imagine an 'Olde-Worlde', comfortable, cosy restaurant , perhaps with crisp white tablecloths and attentive waiters. This was a reasonable assumption, afterall the advertsing stated that this was worth £100.... that's £25 each.... for which I would have expected a high degree of excellence. Sadly, the crisp white table cloths and cosy atmos of my imagination didn't stand a chance to materialise.
What we received was utter trash! The sandwiches were of the standard I might expect from one of those greasy-spoon vans that you sometimes see in laybys on minor link roads.... there was no choice and nobody asked what we might like... we got tuna/mayo, cheese and onion and plain ham (although they had the good grace to cut the crusts off!). We expected scones but none arrived although they did provided the 'cream'. There was no jam (but hey, we didn't get the poxy scones.... why would we need the jam?!) and the 'cakes' which we thought might be home made were all obviously from a catering pack. The chocolate swiss roll looked as if it had been left over from the previous night's buffet... it was soggy and looked as though it had suffered a cardiac arrest... there were two mince pies, in individual, neat, factory produced silver foil trays (classy!) and some very moist christmas cake which was very unappetising. The coffee was served in individual coffee pots which was a nice touch but sadly the coffee didn't taste like coffee... it was weak and luke warm. The advert showed a steaming mug of mulled wine, complete with assorted fruits and a cinamon stick.... what we got was three glasses of microwave heated red liquid. Utterly hopeless ! The hotel is advertised as a "family run business" which adds to the impression of a really cosy, comfortable, value for money, with high levels of customer service... blimey, I'd rather stay at Fawlty Towers... at least there I'd have a laugh!
So, all in all, a dreadful, dreadful, dreadful experience. The family that runs this place should be ashamed of themselves.