A Holiday Inn restaurant wouldn’t normally be my first-choice dining option if I wasn’t staying in the hotel itself, I must admit. However, when their shiny new Bristol hotel offered a Groupon deal for their restaurant, The Spot, we decided to give it a go…
A smart, stylish venue, The Spot is situated on the third floor of the hotel. We were shown to a table overlooking the James Barton roundabout – not the most exciting of views, I must admit – but we also had a view of those working out in the hotel gym, which was slightly more exciting. To our other side, the large, open plan kitchen, which seemed fairly quiet and stress-free considering the number of diners.
Until we reminded them of our Groupon voucher, we were left to look at two menus: the standard a la carte, plus the lunch and early dining menu, offering two courses for £10.95 or three plus coffee for £14.95. Both options include a complimentary glass of wine or a soft drink, and so seemed like reasonably good value for money.
Our choices, however, were to be made from the a la carte menu. With starters from £4.50 to £6.95 and mains from £10 to £18, my dining companion pointed out that it was strange that they were trying to get non-hotel guests in on a Groupon deal: if you wanted to spend £30 or so on a meal, would you really choose a Holiday Inn?
Ignoring our location, we scrutinised the menu, and waited (for quite a while) for a member of staff to come over and take our order. The levels of customer service didn’t impress me too much when I asked for more information about what was in (as described on the menu) ‘the SPOT prawn salad’, and received the response ‘The normal things you have in salads everywhere – what, did you want me to check exactly what’s in it?’ Not the greatest of starts, and rather than wait to find out, we both opted for the deep fried goats’ cheese bonbons, beetroot purée and pea shoots (normally £5.95).
The bonbons themselves had plenty of flavour, but sadly the beetroot purée was quite bland and there wasn’t a huge amount of it. That, combined with the slightly bitter balsamic glaze, just wasn’t enough to cut through the richness of the goats’ cheese.
For her main course, Sarah had ordered the roasted rump of West Country lamb, served with ratatouille and a rosemary and red wine sauce (normally £15.95) – which, bizarrely, appeared twice on the menu. She was full of compliments about her main – the lamb was cooked perfectly as per her request, and the ratatouille garnering many a compliment.
I was similarly impressed with my pan roasted chicken supreme, served with peas and a tarragon and cream sauce (normally £12.95). The chicken itself was moist and tender, and the sauce a delicious accompaniment. If I had one niggle, it would be that the dish could have done with a little more of the sauce.
All main courses are served with ‘a choice of the day’s potatoes’, and we both plumped for a huge portion of Dauphinoise potatoes, rather than the mash or chips that were also on offer. These were delicious, but we both agreed that they would have been even better with a little more cream.
Sadly, our positive experience ended there. We were left waiting for a long time before being shown the dessert menu (all in all, we spent about three and a half hours in the venue that evening!), and waited for a similarly long time before our apple crumbles (normally £4.95) arrived.
When they did arrive, they were a bit of a disappointment. While the apples were beautifully cooked and laced with a healthy dose of cinnamon, the custard tasted more like warmed, thick milk, and the crumble topping varied in consistency from a gritty paste to pure flour. After a few bites, we sent these back to the kitchen, who apologised and offered us another dessert, which we politely declined.
A mixed experience, all in all. The main courses were pretty much faultless, but were marred by the dessert. Maybe we were there on a bad night, but if a hotel restaurant wants to appeal to non-guests, it seems that a little more work is needed…