Menzies Hotel, Irvine

November 20, 2013 in Accessibility, Days Out, Breaks and Holidays, Dining Out, Gluten Free

Everybody loves a night away don’t they? The thing is you want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth wherever you end up. I know I do. Whether we are going away for a night or a fortnight I am never fully at ease until we’ve parked, checked in and seen the bedroom. At that point you can get a pretty good idea of where you are staying and if it’s been worth parting with your hard earned cash.

For us staying in a hotel is a bit more complicated than it used to be. We need to make sure that the room is accessible and that my gluten free diet can be catered for when it comes to meals. The thing is that some hotels claim to have accessible rooms but when it comes down to it it’s not a wetroom and that’s what I really need. So you see we look at hotels a bit differently now. We need to make sure that our stay will be safe as well as fun!

We were lucky enough to be asked to review the Menzies Hotel in Irvine recently. So last weekend we trundled down the coast to check out this hotel. I must admit my first priority (correctly or otherwise) was to get connected to the hotel wifi so I could watch the Man U vs Arsenal game on Sky Go. I hoped the hotel’s wifi would stand up to the test and so it was this that filled my mind as we drove down the motorway rather than what our room might be like.

We arrived safely and found a Blue Badge Holders’ parking spot close to the main door. We immediately noticed though that there was no lowered kerb by the parking bay, not ideal. In fact there is a small, fashioned ramp nearer the door of the hotel but that does mean you have to go along the road in the car park to get to it. It’s not far but it’s not ideal either.

Anyway we arrived at reception to a very friendly welcome. We were given our room key as well as the chance to book for dinner. I was delighted to see that the free wifi code was attached to our documentation – Sky Go here we come!

Our room was situated a fair distance down the hallway. This was great for us as I had my wheelchair but if I’d been trying to walk in, I’d never have made it. Perhaps this is something that hotels need to consider, that an accessible room should be accessible by all. Anyway, I digress. Our room was big and roomy and very clean. There was plenty space for me to use my wheelchair and the en-suite bathroom was a brilliant size too.

Bedroom

The bedroom was very comfortable although we couldn’t figure out how to get the heating on…nothing we tried resolved this. We could have phoned and asked for help but there was a wee stand alone heater in the room so we just plugged that in, logged on to the wifi and watched the football. The internet connection was good, only buffering a few times, and best of all it was free AND we didn’t have to ask for it!

The bathroom was a wet room and looked well kitted out, with plenty of space, a movable seat and handrails available to assist in the shower.

bathroom

It wasn’t until I actually tried the shower that I noticed the problem. The rail which holds the chair to the wall was loose. In fact it was coming away from the wall. I’m not the biggest person in the world and yet I really didn’t feel secure. In fact I was terrified I would fall. It was such a shame as this room could have been ideal for me. I sent hubby to have a look and he said he “wouldn’t sit on that chair”. Disappointing to be honest.

Despite the issue in the bathroom this was a really great room. I particularly liked the inclusion of a fan and a heater for our use. Yes, I would have liked to be able to figure out the heating itself, but at least we had some control over the room temperature.

What about the dinner then? How was the gluten free diet catered for? Well, they were quite simply brilliant! I was given my own gluten free version of the daily menu, as well as a gluten free version of the A La Carte. That, in itself, is brilliant as you know exactly where you stand and you don’t have to have numerous conversations with the waiting staff running to and from the kitchen to check up on ingredients. What made it particularly good was the fact that the gluten free menu was very much like the “normal” menu. It was designed so that each dish was whole, not “well you can have the chicken without the sauce”, and well rounded.

The next great step was gluten free bread. Hubby was given hot, fresh rolls and to be honest I didn’t really expect anything, I am quite used to not having bread. However the waitress brought out two hot, gluten free rolls for me! BRILLIANT! It was such a nice touch and really appreciated.

There was so much choice for me that it took me a while to decide but in the end I had…

Flaked Smoked Salmon & Blush Tomato Tian

Grilled Rump Steak with Salad

Toffee Sponge

It was absolutely gorgeous! Couldn’t fault any of it. The waiter did admit that the toffee sponge wasn’t home made but really, who cares, it was a gluten free dessert! It wasn’t the only one either, there was a choice!

As for hubby, well he can eat whatever he likes and so he went for..

Salad of Crispy Pork Belly & Black Pudding

Chicken Breast, wrapped in Pancetta, with Dijon Mustard Sauce

Pear & Almond Sundae with Chocolate Ice Cream

It’s fair to say he loved his meal too! We had great plans of taking photos of every course but, erm, we kind of forgot! So here’s a selection of the photos we DID manage to take.

dinner

Dinner was followed by coffee in the lounge. Hubby had a Gaelic Coffee with homemade shortbread, and I had a cafetiere with GLUTEN FREE Millionaire’s Shortbread! I was stunned; they’d thought of everything! I didn’t miss out on any part of the meal and it was brilliant; it felt really special. We chilled in the lounge with our coffee and nibbles and watched the Barcelona game on the TV…yeah they had Sky Sports! For us it was the perfect end to the perfect meal.

I was very impressed with the attention to detail when it came to my meal. It has made me realise how lacking other places are when it comes to dealing with special dietary requirements. So, stuffed with food, we went to bed and, aside from a short fire alarm at 11pm, we had a perfectly peaceful night.

I actually wasn’t convinced I even needed breakfast but it would have been rude not to! There was quite a spread with porridge (with optional whisky) , cereals, fruits, cooked breakfast items and, finally, pastries. As a buffet style breakfast I wasn’t sure what was suitable for me but a very helpful waitress came over to help. She even went away and got fresh bacon with fresh tongs and did me a fresh egg so as to reduce any risk of contamination. Again, I was really impressed! Not many people think to bring you fresh food, let alone fresh tongs to serve them with! Brilliant. What’s more some freshly toasted slices of gluten free bread appeared. I felt completely spoiled, it was fantastic!

We really enjoyed our stay in Irvine and would go back. In fairness to the hotel we didn’t mention the issue with the wet room seat. It wasn’t intentional, we had meant to but totally forgot as we checked out. The service we received was fantastic and the food was great. I’d go back for the gluten free menu alone! One small thing I’d have liked to see more of is local produce. They serve Isle of Arran ice cream, but perhaps some Isle of Arran ales would also be a nice touch? Or local biscuits in the bedrooms instead of “generic” coffee biscuits? Like I say, it’s a small thing but it would add to the individuality of the hotel.

Thank you to Menzies Hotels who asked us to review this hotel and gave us complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast. We have been completely honest in our review of the hotel. Any opinions expressed are entirely our own.

An Accessible Day Out with Durham County Cricket Club

August 12, 2011 in Accessibility, Days Out, Sport

Last month my Mum visited the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground to see Durham Dynamos. Here is her review of the ground and its accessibility for mobility impaired cricket fans.

 
“My husband Iain is an avid watcher of cricket on TV but, since we live on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland, he has never been able to go to a first class cricket match – well, not until last month!  I have always wanted to arrange for him to go to a match but, as I am disabled and need to use a mobility scooter or a wheelchair to move any distance, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to join him.
I decided that we would go to the Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground to see Durham Dynamos play Warwickshire Bears and combine it with a long weekend break in the area.  The website for the ground is very informative and made it seem as though I would be able to access all areas, so when we were given the opportunity by the Club to test its accessibility it was too good a chance to miss.
On arrival at the ground with my mobility scooter in a totally accessible taxi from Aura Taxis of Washington, we were allowed access to the first parking area so that I could get out of the taxi right in front of the ticket office, shop and restaurant.  We were able to do a reconnoitre with plenty of time before the match.
 
arriving at the ground
Iain went to find Block 18 where we were to sit and asked about a lift to the spectator seating area of the ground.  There are two lifts which can easily take a wheelchair or mobility scooter; unfortunately one of these was not working and word of mouth suggested that this had been the case for some considerable time but two stewards came to Iain’s assistance at the other. One seemed unsure how to work the lift but the supervisor knew exactly what to do and said just to let them know when we wanted to go to our seats and a steward would help.  So, once we knew that was organised, we went off to scout around more.


the working lift

It was clear there were very accessible disabled toilets, one near the lift, and that if anyone was going upstairs for extras such as hospitality there were lifts at every access point and stewards on duty at each one.

We had booked lunch at Austin’s Bar and Bistro for 12.30 but decided to have a look inside before 12 to see how accessible it was going to be.  There was no problem going in with my scooter. As described in the website, the bar and dining area is indeed spacious, modern and comfortable with friendly staff.  We were offered the chance to change our booking and eat straight away, which we decided to do.  A table was offered which was perfect for us to park the scooter beside it and a disabled toilet was available in the restaurant.  The food was delicious by the way – and very good value!


Austin’s Bar and Bistro
Then it was time to see what we had come for – our first cricket match and in a ground in a very picturesque setting too.  Great excitement!  As soon as we went to use the lift someone was on hand to help.  There were numerous bays available were I could sit on my scooter and observe the match and Iain was able to sit beside me on an ordinary chair.  What a great vantage point we had – looking straight at the wicket and able to see everything going on as well as the huge electronic scoreboard. 

view of the ground



I required to leave the ground a couple of times to make use of the disabled toilet and there was a steward on hand immediately I was seen to be making a move.  There did seem to be a slight problem with the lift on one occasion but it was soon sorted and I was accompanied to the toilet door by the steward which made it easier to keep the door open for access.  When it was time to leave, there was once again someone available immediately to assist us.  I had noticed earlier that when another spectator using a wheelchair decided to leave with his carer, a First Aider radioed immediately to tell a steward they were on their way to the lift, thus ensuring there was no delay for them.

using the lift

 

We had both been a bit anxious about how the day would go but all in all, we found no problems accessing whichever part of the ground we wanted to and we would have no hesitation in returning on another occasion.
The cricket was excellent too!”
 
For more information about Durham County Cricket Club visit their website
Thank you to Durham County Cricket Club for providing complementary tickets. No other reward, financial or otherwise, was received in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.