Encore: (French) (interjection): used by an audience to demand a short, extra performance. Collins New English Dictionary.
Or, to use the Ramada tagline 'simply better'.
The Encore series of hotels are the concept of Ramada. They offer contemporary hotels, mainly targeted at the business community, but also open to casual visitors.
The version I visited at Haydock, almost equidistant from Manchester and Liverpool, sits very close to the side of the A580 East Lancs Road, a very busy and thunderous dual carriageway artery.
During my visit, some guests on this side of the hotel complained of a sleepless night due to traffic noise throughout the night.
The building itself is modern in style and benefits from a large, free car park which is covered by CCTV. The quieter rooms are on this side of the hotel so you would need to ask in advance for a peaceful night.
The interior is in complete contrast to the grey, anonymous exterior. Splashes of vivid red compliment the white walls and blonde wood flooring.
The comfortable lounge to the left of reception has a relaxed feel with leather sofas and easy tables. A business work station is in one corner. There are six meeting rooms for business guests, catering for up to 65 people.
It is well situated for people with business or leisure intentions in either Manchester or Liverpool and is only five minutes from Haydock Park racecourse.
There is a small bar, serving a range of keg beers, lagers and other drinks.
Our room, one of 102, was a designers' dream. Blonde wood flooring and fitments dominated, with a personal business station at the desk. Lighting was LED and stylish whilst the bed was comfortable. The much vaunted free Wi-Fi would not work in the room however
The en-suite bathroom was visually stunning, having green glass fittings, including the shower screen and basin. The grey slate floor completed the overall look.
The image was somewhat spoiled when it was discovered that the sink took five minutes to drain even a minimal amount of water and the power shower, whilst wonderfully invigorating, flooded the bathroom floor around the toilet and doorway.
The inclusive three course evening meal had a choice of three items per course. It is advertised as Bistro-style.
The bean counters must have had an input on the starters as my thin slice of pate was barely two inches square, with PART of a lettuce leaf and three tiny slices of rock-hard French style bread. The teaspoonful of red onion marmalade was tasty.
The main course of cottage pie with fresh vegetables was perfectly acceptable, though the broccoli had seen better days.
Some desserts drew further comment. My chocolate fudge cake with cream was fine as it goes, but some guests were served the tiniest sliver portion of frozen cheesecake I have ever seen, to the extent that laughter ensued all round the table. Not the intended effect I am sure. The waitress seemed embarrassed to serve it.
Breakfast was buffet style, and whilst not a huge fan, I appreciate that there have to be compromises in dealing with numbers. It was in the event, pretty good. All you can eat (and some did) with decent quality cooked items, cereals, juices, fresh fruit etc. If this quality and quantity could be applied to the evening meal things would be much better.
Staff were friendly and polite throughout our stay.
Adjacent to the hotel is Lymewood Farm, a pub which is part of the Farmhouse Inns chain. We visited it in the after dinner search for real ale (sorted), but looking at the hearty portions of good pub food coming out of the kitchens, we couldn't help but be envious. The display of mouth-watering desserts in a glass case made us drool, though the huge portions served may have defeated even a trencherman like myself.
But back to the Ramada. It is an excellent concept and one that looks good.
Great looks have to be allied to functionality though and however cool it looks, if it doesn't work, what is the point?
It may be that we got a dud of a room, but the evening meal needs to be reassessed along with the finer details.
I would recommend B&B at the hotel with an evening meal at the pub at this time.
This hotel needs to be 'simply better'.
As for an Encore, it does need that extra performance in my view.
Ramada Encore hotels are situated throughout the country. For further information, go to www.encorehaydock.co.uk