Friday night in Guildford on the penultimate weekend before Christmas and the town is definitely buzzing.
At the thick of the action seems to be the Guildford Harbour Hotel (something of a misnomer given that we’re a long way from the seaside), a new build at the top of the High Street with no fewer than 183 bedrooms.
The check-in is chaotic, with my wife complaining that ‘there are children on reception’ and that to wait 30 minutes to receive our piece of plastic is unacceptable.
Sharp look: The bar of the Guildford Harbour Hotel, a new-build at the top of the High Street
She’s right, but it’s simply a case of not having enough trained staff to deal with so many arrivals at a time when the hotel is hosting several Christmas parties.
It’s a relief finally to reach our room and take shelter from the noise. The interior is dark and moody, with a few flashes of red. Modern corporate is one way to describe it. Tinny is another.
We like the bathroom, with its separate shower, but the bath plug comes away in my hand when I turn it in one direction. Then my wife finds the remains of a mince pie on the carpet. Her mood declines further.
I can live with some crusty crumbs, but find it harder to deal with our food arriving in the Harbour Grill before our drinks. I get up and march through the din, looking for the manager. He’s nowhere to be seen.
Eventually, a polite member of staff notices my anxiety and takes immediate action, replete with apologies. My fish and chips are fine, but my wife’s sirloin steak is as tough as the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on a bad day.
There’s time in the morning to take a more circumspect view of the hotel. Furnishings in the atrium and bar area are bright and cheery, with a three-storey ornamental bookcase running up the side of one wall.
There’s a spa and small outside pool, and a second, more expensive, restaurant, called The Jetty — another misnomer but probably a lot quieter than the grill.
As we leave, a wedding party is moving in and a queue is forming at reception. It will be bedlam again come the evening. Pick your night with care if staying here.
Guildford Harbour Hotel
3 Alexandra Terrace
Guildford, GU1 3DA
01483 792 300, guildford-harbour-hotel.co.uk
Doubles from £125, B&B