For this month’s hotel review, SBT Managing Director, Lee Mansfield enjoyed an overnight stay at the newly refurbished Crowne Plaza Felbridge

The Felbridge Hotel and Spa at East Grinstead, Sussex, recently underwent a stylish top-to-toe upgrade in line with its rebranding as the Crowne Plaza Felbridge. The £3 million plus refurbishment has since transformed all the hotel’s public areas, restaurant, meeting rooms, banqueting suites and 116 bedrooms and suites, while the Chakra Spa with its five treatment rooms, gym, indoor pool and steam room also received a facelift.

For eating and drinking the Bay Tree Restaurant has been redesigned to include a new private dining area surrounded by glass enabling guests to be part of the main restaurant but maintain privacy. New menus for both the Bay Tree and restyled Qube Bar offer full meals or light snacks with dinner served until 10pm for late arrivals. Guests can also take advantage of the 24-hour in-room dining menu.

Sussex Business Times was offered the chance to review the hotel’s new look and facilities, and we jumped at the chance!

Located seven miles from Gatwick airport on the edge of East Grinstead, the Crowne Plaza Felbridge is within easy access of both the M25 and M23 motorways, while East Grinstead train station offers a direct service to London Victoria in under an hour. There is also sufficient and free on-site parking for hotel guests and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout, making it the perfect venue for businessmen and women looking to spend an overnight stay – corporate or pleasure.

Upon arrival, my wife and I were welcomed in with open arms and it was clear to us that the service we would receive for the rest of our stay would live up to the hotel’s awarded four stars. At first glance, the hotel was light and airy, and the overall format and layout works well for a corporate hotel and flows very nicely. We took a quick tour of the spa and gym facilities and while both were fully functioning and offer all that a guest could need, the spa was looking quite outdated and is due a refurb. Of course, this is all in hand, and the upgrade on this area of the hotel will be starting in the near future. Surprisingly, the gym and exercise faculties seemed to be among the most important elements of the hotel – the reception area even boasted selection of running rudiments, stocking fresh water, apples, oranges, towels and a map displaying the 1.4 mile-long circuit, which routes along the border of Crowne Plaza Felbridge.

The hotel’s eight air-conditioned conference and meeting rooms offer flexible space catering for as little as two guests for a discreet lunch or private discussion, up to 500 delegates theatre style for a grand seminar or 300 for a seated dinner.  Delegates staying overnight in the Club Rooms also have complimentary use of the new private Club Lounge.

Finally we were shown to our suite, which was of a great size and an aesthetically pleasing design, boasting lovely décor with geometric shapes and bright colours. The carpet was patterned and for a corporate hotel, we were generally surprised to witness a room design that was so ‘out there’.  We learnt that each room was designed around the same theme, offering consistency throughout, and while there was no mini bar in our particular suite, there was complimentary water, tea and coffee – a nice touch. The room itself was perfect, although the cleanliness and organisation wasn’t as up to scratch as I’d hoped – there were some crumbs on one of the bedside tables and the bathroom was only equipped with one set of towels. Other than this, all was good. The bed was incredibly comfortable and both my wife and I had a sound night’s sleep.

Our dinner reservation was at 7:30, the perfect time to eat, and so we made out way down to the restaurant area. Contrasting majorly with the rest of the premises, the design of the section of the restaurant in which we were seated wasn’t as pleasing on the eye and sent us back to our school days with tiled walls, bench table seating and spot lighting, representing that of a canteen. However, down the opposite end sat round tables and comfortable seating, with background music and general chat and laughter creating a completely different atmosphere – it almost made us feel segregated.

Our waitress on the other hand, was lovely – polite and incredibly sweet, although not as knowledgeable on the wine as we’d have hoped. Whether this was nerves or just lack of experience, we couldn’t tell. Either way, we were provided with our menus and opted for the a la carte menu. Our choice of starters included the Spiced Poached Pear, served with Goats cheese, walnuts and balsamic powder, and the Salt and Pepper Squid, served with Asian salad and Sweet Chilli sauce. Both starting courses were presented to perfection and tasted equally wonderful.

For my main course I opted for the 10oz Sirlion steak, served with chips and tomato, while my wife decided on the shredded crispy duck salad, served with Watercress, Hoisin and Ginger dressing and topped with fried noodles. The steak was delicious, although slightly overdone, and the chips were light and fluffy. The duck itself was divine, although it looked as if not much care had gone into the presentation of this dish. The noodles seemed as though they had just been piled up on top and the salad underneath was exactly the same as that on my starting course – we both expected something a little different to compliment the focus of the dish.

Our chosen desserts were the Queen of Desserts – cranberry, meringue, vanilla ice cream and sponge – and the Crème Brûlée. The presentation of these dishes contrasted majorly to that of our main courses, and almost looked too good to eat! Both tasted even better than they looked and overall, portion sizes were spot on.

Throughout our time at the hotel’s restaurant, we noticed that the staff didn’t boast much individuality, however this was compensated by the incredibly attentive polite service, while the front of house staff reassured us that if there was anything else we required, we just had to say the word.

Breakfast was as pleasant as you could expect from any hotel and the foods available were on offer in the form of a buffet and included sausages, bacon, boiled and scrambled eggs, hash browns, cooked tomatos and so on, along with a breakfast menu boasting your usual Eggs Benedict and Full English. Due to time constraints, some of the foods you would usually see were missing, although this was clearly signed for the hotel’s guests.

Overall, the Crowne Felbridge Plaza deserves its four stars, although it’s clear to see that it does have a little way to come. However, for those staying on business rather than pleasure, you really couldn’t ask for much more – it’s got everything you could possibly need and I can imagine that, with its prime location, it will become the one stop shop for corporates in and around the area.

Crowne Plaza Felbridge 

London Rd 

East Grinstead 

RH19 2BH 

01342 337700