Tag Archives: hotels

The big breakfast. Or lunch.

I’ve never really got the point of brunch, to be honest. For a start, I’m no fan of breakfast, despite the impassioned pleas of around three quarters of the people I’ve ever met who insist that it’s the most important meal of the day and I might die at the age of 54 if I don’t start eating it immediately. The idea of getting up and stuffing my face full of processed grain products or ill-disguised cake with syrup doesn’t fill me with joy, and it’s generally about 10am before I remember that I should probably at least have a cup of tea or coffee.

Long-term readers will rightly point out that I love a bacon buttysandwich, but given that I would eat bacon every hour of the day if given half a chance (and a spare heart), I think we can simply regard it as the exception that proves the rule.

The corollary to my dislike of breakfast though is that by the middle of the day I’m starving, and duly lunch is probably my favourite meal of the day. Whether it’s sandwiches at my desk, or a lazy weekend meal with friends, I love taking stock of the day so far over some good food. Especially if it involves bacon, obviously.

To me therefore, brunch is a meal that looks like breakfast, contains far too many eggs for its own good, and robs me of the opportunity to have lunch. It is literally the worst of both worlds. Admittedly the bloody mary or the bucks fizzmimosa can occasionally take my mind off my internal anguish, but it’s still a meal I could do without.

The exception is ‘the hotel brunch’ – a weird and extravagantly (some would say obnoxiously) lavish buffet-based meal on a Sunday that can draw people from miles around if it gains a good reputation. The one essential rule about the hotel brunch is that it is legally required to include every single foodstuff ever grown or invented. A guest finding any category of food missing is entitled to eat free of charge in the hotel for the next year, and can take home as many tiny bottles of hotel shampoo and body wash as they can fit into their oversized pockets.

At a Los Angeles brunch yesterday, I could take my choice from the usual breakfast choices of (made to order) eggs and omelettes, breakfast meats, eight different cheeses, sushi, dumplings, roast lamb, roast beef, ham, fruits, chocolate desserts pizza, chicken nuggetstenders, sliced vegetables, pork buns, waffles, ham and cheese sandwiches, peach crumblecrisp, stir fried chicken with cashew nuts, numerous breads, and many other things that I couldn’t quite see because of the dozens of people surrounding the tables as chefs prepped, sliced, cooked and served.

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve never eaten eel sushi and stilton on the same plate, and certainly not at 11 in the morning, but somehow it seemed to work. I was so mesmerised that I walked out without my coat and only remembered about it this morning as I was en route to the airport.

It’s no exaggeration to say that a few thousand people could have eaten from all the food on display, which was being constantly replenished. As it was, there were probably around 400 people in attendance, and hopefully they found some good homeless shelter for the rest of it. I’m not sure whether ‘potstickers with sweet chili sauce’ is necessarily the food of choice for the down-and-out, but then again I’m not sure that the Beverly Hills authorities don’t chase the homeless out of the area with pitchforks each morning, so maybe it’s not an issue…

Putting a price tag on health

After twelve straight hours in the ER last Friday, my friend was finally admitted to the hospital. I manfully stifled my laughter as he was put in a wheelchair and slowly wheeled around the medical corridors like an 85 year old war veteran by a man in maroon overalls. I wouldn’t normally have controlled myself so well, but the look on the face of my friend suggested that he wouldn’t have been averse to getting out of the wheelchair and putting me in my own ER cubicle if I didn’t keep quiet.

Wheeling through the hallways of the ER, and into the main hospital itself, I looked puzzledly at the porter. Had he possibly made a wrong turn, and accidentally taken us through an adjoining door into the Brooklyn Hilton? After all, the floors seemed to be vaguely marbled, and the walls had dark wood panels that wouldn’t have looked out of place at some gentleman’s club in Pall Mall.

To be fair, the presence of a number of wheezing old ladies suggested that we’d either wandered into the host venue for the “Lucky Strike for Seniors” convention, or else the guy knew what he was doing. Before we knew it, he’d put the brakes on the wheelchair and left us infront of the door to one of the rooms.

Now, I’ve stayed in a few hotels. This time last year I was kicking back in a two floorduplex affair in the Greek islands, with an infinity pool just outside the French doors and the sea only a few short yards further away. I know the things that hotels can include just to make you feel like you’re in the greatest place on Earth.

Last time I checked though, that list of perks did not include ‘a bed containing an old bloke with a hacking cough’. Admittedly you could only rarely hear the cough, but that was largely because his television was loud enough to be audible in Georgia.

Given that it was almost midnight by now, I had to make my way back home. But before I pushed off, my friend asked if I could make my way down to the foyer to pick up some bottles of water for him. After all, we’d already watched in horror as the old man had drunk directly from the water jug provided for the room, and neither of us fancied supping on ‘eau de pensioner’.

With a security guard having given me the dubious stares reserved for somebody who seemed to be visiting four hours or so after visiting hours had finished, I wandered the corridors looking for some Poland Spring. It was only then that I truly realised that I was in America.

Firstly, the vending machines contained every manner of crisppotato chip known to man. From TGI Friday’s cheese and bacon flavour potato skins to onion and garlic snacks, it was a veritable high fat, high cholesterol temple. Don’t get me wrong, I grabbed myself a bag of something salty and sickeningly unhealthy for the trip home, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.

But even the snack factory couldn’t prepare me for the sight of the gift shop. Yes, you read it right. The gift shop. Stand aside Disneyland, back off Alton TowersSix Flags. You’ve got nothing on the American medical system and its desire to shift souvenirs on the ill and infirm. And what better for the friends and family of the sick to take their mind off their troubles than a little bit of retail therapy?

Given the late hour, the gift shop was sadly closed and as a result I can’t comment on the range of products available for purchase. I might go back this weekend though, and if they don’t have “Welcome To Brooklyn” colostomy bags and clothing with the slogan “My Grandma Had A Heart Attack And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt”, I’m going to be very disappointed.

Washed up

I’ve always had a fascination with staying in hotel rooms, from the swankiest luxury pad to the seediest travel motel. I’ve stayed in more than my fair share over the last few years, and I’ve inexplicably never really managed to get over a childish fascination with everything from the little packets of coffee to the embroidered dressing gown that can apparently be purchased as long as you’re prepared to hand over an arm, and indeed, a leg.

I’ve had some pretty memorable hotel experiences too. A hotel in Memphis offered rooms that were larger than most of the places I’ve ever lived in my life (as well as ducks that made regular processions from the lobby to the roof, under the supervision of a duck master). A place in Majorca practically came with its own butler, while the memory of an in-room heated pool/jacuzzi in Santorini will stay with me for many years to come. If only because I was forced to get up at three in the morning to ask the hotel staff to get it to stop gurgling, while my new bride slept soundly through the whole experience.

When it comes to service though, top notch American hotels know exactly what they’re doing – and they probably do it better than anyone else, in my experience at least. Staff couldn’t be more attentive to any requests that you might have, and the facilities seem purpose designed to make sure that you have as good a time as it’s possible to have. Admittedly you pay through the nose for the experience. The hotel I’m in at the moment charges a compulsory $9 per day facility fee to charge for the gym and the delivery of a 35 cent newspaper. A facility fee? I assumed that the extortionate room rate was my fee payment for the use of the facilities, but clearly not.

What’s interesting though is that when it comes to ensuring that customers feel that they are being provided with a luxury experience, Americans always turn to the British. Show me a four or five star hotel in the US, and I will show you a place that uses British toiletry products in its bathrooms. It’s as if the British are the only people who know how to keep clean (which, if you’ve ever been to Flint in North Wales, you’ll know is far from the truth). My current hotel home has Gilchrist & Soames shampoos and body washes on offer, while recent stays have featured Molton Brown, Cowshed and Jo Malone. And that’s before you even consider the boutique offerings put together with rose petals and water by an odd bloke in his bathroom in Nottingham.

Seems that American hotels have decided that if you want to get that extra star, there’s no choice but to go English in the bathroom. Dial, Herbal Essences or American Crew just won’t cut it if you’re looking to get into the Luxury Hotels of the World book, it would seem.

Ironically, the ultimate olde Englishe bathroom brand Crabtree & Evelyn was actually launched in Cambridge in Boston. Even Molton Brown is owned by the Japanese. Seems that luxury might be going abroad if we’re not careful.

That said, it’s difficult to be too upset when you’re sitting in 85 degree heat with a cold drink on your mind.

Now, where did I put the key to the minibar?