News & Reviews Europe England Update: Whatley Manor change of chef

Whatley Manor, Chippenham
Room type: 
25th > 27th February, 2017
Booked with: 
Direct with hotel

It is with the deepest, saddest, regret that has been experienced since this years Oscars, that I must announce I had a very poor stay at Whatley Manor.  For avid readers who do not know, Whatley Manor, for all its faults, ranks amongst my favourite resorts.

I was aware that Martin Burge, their head chef of 13 years recently left and the result would be a complete overhaul of the menu, but I was not prepared for none of it to be for the better. I was keen for Whatley Manor to change, and I understand the grass is always greener, but it has now never become apparent that the grass we were looking at was in fact just sawdust painted green. I was conned. Come back, Martin, all is forgiven. There is no grass. We are so far away from where we started that we’re now in another universe where grass doesn’t even exist. A Caesar salad, served in a tin pot, with zero taste and a portion size only big enough to feed your bulimic pet rabbit, gave the initial impressions of what was to come. This was followed up by The Dining Room having a £99 tasting menu with no alternatives, that had a bread roll as one of its courses. The financial crisis ended years ago, my friends, we can all start to move on. What next? One dish where they put down a knife, followed by another with a fork? Well, close.

A cheese trolley is totally 2016, so they got rid of that controversial instrument at Whatley Manor and instead have a waiter with the vocabulary of Professor McCheese from Cheesehire University describing what the options were. As my girlfriend left her degree in cheesology at home, she asked for a selection of all the options. Not a problem, he said. He then subsequently disappeared quicker than the staffs pride did on their first day. One slice of cheese was delivered that tasted as bitter as the hatred that must have gone into making it. Revenge is a dish best served cold, so the chef must have reached the nirvana of hatred level in life. It was so outrageous that even PETA were on my side and were disgusted at how badly I was getting treated.

Every dish I ever loved is gone and replaced with some cardboard cut out that pretends it’s my best mate, but secretly is having an affair with my imaginary wife. The only thing I left clinging onto, was their white hot chocolate, that tricked me into thinking hope was just around the corner. It’s always the hope that kills you.

Then the spa pool was freezing and completely unusable. Having a hydrotherapy pool that is cold is like having a new Ferrari that only drives backwards; fun for all of 5 seconds, then deeply depressing. It made the spa completely pointless.

But that was not all. Once again on arrival we had to let ourselves in and wait for anyone to help us with luggage; there was no enthusiasm from any staff and no one asked on check out how good our stay was, as they no doubt knew the answer. I would have thought as a regular guest the new GM would have come say hello, but rumour has it that only way I’ll be able to find her is using my new PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality headset. Their wifi network was frequently impossible to connect to, and without proper phone signal you were left with no option but to start scrawling notes on the walls in hope that someone may one day find you. The problem was, when you found any wall to write in, it already had a weird note saying “SAVE YOURSELF” everywhere. Probably just a coincidence.

So in a single visit they have successfully destroyed the only reason I would ever want to go. Everyone was upset about the number of deaths in 2016, but please light a candle for me tonight, as so far 2017 has killed off one of favourite hotels.

I felt it necessarily to email the GM my thoughts. Not as I wanted anything, but because it bothers me so much that somewhere I love so dearly managed to self-implode. The GM was not around, so the Operations Manager responded the same day and apologised for the spa, stating it should always be 35C yet due to the storm it had caused the drop in temperature. These things happen, but I feel they should have either notified people before arrival or simply shut the pool and/or offered some compensation as a result. Secondly, she mentioned that the feedback had been positive about the new Dining room experience, which it may well have been, but my complaint was more with all of the food throughout the resort. I replied to mention this, but never got a reply.

I was offered a complimentary dinner + room as an apology, so will go back sometime in the next 6 months after I head to the Royal Crescent Bath, as it’s on the way back.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 15th Mar '17

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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