I wont mention the names of the hotels but just recently I have had two terrible experiences. In Birmingham for the MSDN Roadshow I ordered room service on arrival (about 8pm) so I could do some work in my room. I was told it would take about 45mins (this must be some burger - yes, I opted for burger on both occassions because, as a responsible Microsoft employee, I don't want to burden the company with the price of a fillet steak. I also quite like a nice burger). So 45mins comes and goes and after an hour I call back down to room service to be told they "didn't put the order in the system". To be fair they rushed it through and I got my burger a mere 90mins after ordering but it was a sad, rubbery, depressing thing and certainly not worth the wait (or the price tag).
Then last night I was up in Newcastle at the Visual Basic User Group. Andrew, the local VBUG coordinator, very kindly dropped me at my hotel after the meeting (and I should mention that both these hotels are major international chains - maybe that's the problem?). As I hadn't had any dinner I rushed to my room to peruse the menu. £12.50 for a burger + £3.50 "tray charge" surely that must add up to a great burger user experience. 30mins this time and they were true to their word. But in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined a more over-cooked, dried out embarrasing excuse for a burger. It was astonishing. But of course, as before, I was so tired and hungry that I just couldn't be bothered to complain and resigned myself to eating it. It was truly awful. Truly awful as in possibly the worst thing I've eaten through choice in my adult life.
Now I don't hold this against Newcastle or Birmingham, it was simply chance that it happened in these cities. There is something wrong with the vast majority of hotels in this country (apart from the outlandish prices) in that their food is quite simply terrible. And you can take it down a notch or two if you opt to dine in your room.
Why is it then that when I visit the US (eg my last trip to Redmond for the Office Developer Conference) and stay in a very non-descript hotel (it was a Marriott Courtyard I think) I am served up the most amazing feast by what seems to be a one man chef / waiter / maitre d' with the culinary skills of Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal merged together. There's something wrong with hotel food in this country and I'm on a one man mission to put it right. Someday. When I get around to it. Maybe.