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Gordo has the worst meal since our distant ancestors climbed out of the primordial soup

Written by . Published on February 28th 2008.


There is something of a black art to writing restaurant reviews. Lots of people think they could do it, but few can. What you don’t need, which is clear when reading Gordo’s missives, are qualifications. Gordo is the proud owner of one ‘O’ level, perversely, English Language. Everyone wants the reviewing job because they think it’s one long lunch. Admittedly, there are some fabulous treats, but also much banal rubbish. This last week came with an example of the latter (finishing up on a high note in Leeds city centre getting reviews ready for the imminent LeedsConfidential.com).

The bread turns out to be inedible, and not simply because each of the three different types is uncooked in the middle. It smells revolting. That’s a first for Gordo.

On his way back from a long day in Liverpool, Gordo decides to try out the restaurant in the Novotel. It’s a shocker. The first shock is the restaurant itself. Met by a lady who speaks little English, Gordo’s led into a room that looks like a stand at a catering exhibition in Birmingham. It’s showing off as many different styles of seating and colour schemes as possible. The first seat is a table designed for one person, pointing on the right diagonal from the wall which would make anyone feel stupid and self conscious.

The next section has a table for two right by the till. Err, no thanks. Gordo sees one large booth, in a deep crimson material with a lamp above which is the size of a real Tonka truck’s spare wheel. It would seat eight people, but God help you if you were the first in and wanted a wee half way through.

Finally, the high chairs. Yes, tables that are nine inches higher than normal, with chairs to boot, so the only place to rest your weary feet is on the cross bar of the stool. A wall light glowers at you. It looks angry. It is angry. Gordo is just in time to see a lone, smartly dressed diner walk in. He is French. He is shown to the naughty boy’s chair at the front and starts laughing. He moves on. The carpets match nothing in the room and the lights have dipped into gloomy. Gordo feels that he knows what hell is.

The young lady comes over to Gordo with a menu. It’s confused and leads to menu blindness. He chooses gravlax of salmon (didn’t that used to be spelt gravadlax?) at £6.50, and mixed grill (a whopping £16.50). “Whoold like you the slowman and greeel at ghy sme time?” says the young lady. “Eh?” says a bemused Gordo. After a second attempt, it seems she’s asking if Gordo wants the starter and the main brought together. Gordo is wishing he’d gone to the Koh Samui. Ahh, she thinks Gordo has ordered the main course of hot smoked salmon. Gordo goes to great pains to explain, no, he wants the gravlax of salmon as a starter and the mixed grill, which is hopefully going to be historic, following that. “Agh, I sat”, says the young lady, “I am very hbnjiey”, and off she trundles. She comes back with a bread basket and explains (presumably) what they are all about. The chef seems to be very proud of them. The bread turns out to be inedible, and not simply because each of the three different types is uncooked in the middle. It smells revolting. That’s a first for Gordo.

Thirty long, boring minutes later, the hot smoked salmon main course arrives, and the manager, who brings this out, asks Gordo if he want his mixed grill at the same time. He goes back smarting, and brings the gravlax out. Three very thin slices, with a salad on the side which has been very carefully dressed with water. The gravlax is so horrible that Gordo has to eat all three slices trying to figure out why it’s so bad. He still can’t describe it for you. Dry, too much dill but still little flavour. Horrid.

The mixed grill looks great. But the venison sausage, when cut open, smells like Gordo’s underpants after a long hike on a wet day up in Edale. The chips are wet and mushy. The young lady had asked Gordo how he wants his meat. Medium Rare. It comes well done and tastes of dishwater. But the oddest of things: Gordo could swear that the stripes on the rump steak (the ones that look like they’ve been applied by a barbecue) look fake. This is the worst piece of meat that has ever passed Gordo’s lips. The chicken and bacon skewers consist of one inch cubes of bacon, tasting of nothing but salt with lots of gristle, showing that shoulder bacon, the cheapest cut of the animal, has been used. The chicken is in cubes as well, it must have been grown in a Petrie dish it was so bland.

The mushrooms are fine, as are the tomatoes. The rest is a master class in piss poor catering college cooking from the 1970s.

Gordo doesn’t fancy any of the puddings, but asks for the blueberry sponge, which is out of stock, so he gets the chocolate pannacotta, or some such, with vanilla ice cream, and is more like a hot chocolate sponge with melted chocolate in the middle. Once again, this dish is a mess. The ice cream is ok, but the chocolate sauce is tacky and synthetic, leaving a cloying aftertaste in the mouth.

Elements at Novotel is a disgrace, scandalous. The kitchen brigade should sit down and have a word with themselves. Given that this is a hotel it must serve this rubbish to visitors to our city, who no doubt go away thinking we are in a time warp. A time warp where chefs don’t give a shit about their customers.

Rating: 3/20
Breakdown: 1/10 Food (the butter was good)
1/5 Service (they did manage to get the food to the table in the end)
1/5 Ambience (the chair worked)
Address: Elements at Novotel
21 Dickinson Street
M1 4LX

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46 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

Have stayed in novotels in Seville and Budapest, we ate out in Seville but the restaurant in Budapest was excellent, I find Novotel exceptional value for family city breaks (not many hotel chains let you have 2 children in your room ,let alone free of charge).

GordoFebruary 28th 2008.

Paul and Jim; we pay for all our reviews these days, we went all grown up a couple of years ago. Even though quite a few people know me on sight, I am amazed that the crap people still perform in a crap manner. Mind you, this lot at the Novotel probably didn'y have a clue quite frankly.

NorthernGeezerFebruary 28th 2008.

Do they do pork pies though??.............cos i'm STILL on a mission!!!!.

GordoFebruary 28th 2008.

Good idea Cas, we will. Scoteee, we just do a list and write as they are. There are, however, a couple of shockers on the way...

scoteeeFebruary 28th 2008.

Gordo, I do think mancon should have a worst restaurant of the week/month award. With some of the shite that is in the city who clearly belive they will never be the best at what they do nor care.To be informed of the great places to eat is a bonus, but to be informed of chheky rip off low punching merchants like the Novatel is equally as useful.You said it "Given that this is a hotel it must serve this rubbish to visitors to our city, who no doubt go away thinking we are in a time warp"!

squirrelitoFebruary 28th 2008.

all accor hotel chains are dire. Had the misfortune to be booked into their Fomule1 "hotel" in Birmingham. It was like a young offenders institution complete with **** smear on the bunk bed that was handily placed above the double, and communal washroom and bog. Needless to say, this squirrel kicked off, got his money back and ende up elsewhere

PaulFebruary 28th 2008.

Just out of intrest did you pay for your crap gordo ?. I bet they thought you were dead impresed with it you photographing your din dins and all

GordoFebruary 28th 2008.

Great minds, Rosie, great minds....

andyFebruary 28th 2008.

MC should launch the 'worst food aka slightly mouldy raspberry' awards in celebration of those venues with the cheek and gall to charge top dollar for rubbish. my nominations are (in no particular order): the railway pub west didders, cafe rouge anywhere, yang sing (blasphemy), swan with 2 nicks, sandwich companies that deliver to lonely souls on business parks.

KymFebruary 28th 2008.

Surely it can't be as bad as Bella Roma?

kevwFebruary 28th 2008.

at least the strawberries look ok

MaggieCFebruary 28th 2008.

my company once held a large meeting at the Newcastle Novotel - it was appalling from start to finish. Only good thing about the food was it was so bad we refused to pay for it and they meekly agreed to this - well they couldn't argue with the evidence of their own eyes. One of our guests who ate with us at dinner the night before the meeting and was due to speak at the meeting was so ill after eating a small amount of the disgusting meal, we had to go out and get him some Diocalm to get him fit enough to drive home without an 'accident'!!

secret squirrelFebruary 28th 2008.

My experience of Novotel was turning up to be told that the five rooms I had booked had been cancelled by fax!! Err, don't think so luv, can I see the cancellation fax? It has a name similar to the travel agents that I was using and is for twenty rooms...so that adds up then...Anyway cue sarcasm and a bit of shouting + my faxed confirmation and suddenly our five rooms are available again. Novotel= Muppets.

GordoFebruary 28th 2008.

Anon, why were you eating in a Novotel when you were in Paris for Gods sake? Novotels are for one thing only, sleeping through the night or cheeky afternoon naps.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

I have just had a very enjoyable stay at Novotel (Congress) in Budapest. Excellent rooms and hotel and very helpful staff (multilingual). Other than breakfast, which was fine, I didn't eat there.I'm afraid it is more a problem in the UK where the 'chain' hotels are overpriced with generally poor staff (usually not English speaking). We don't do 'service' or 'value for money' in the UK.

Dan the ManFebruary 28th 2008.

I once stayed in a Novotel whilst actually in France! As it was in the middle of nowhere, we ate in the restaurant that night. The food was so bad i wrote an extensive letter of complaint and sent it to their head office in France. As you might expect, nothing happened, they're French, they don't give a crap what anyone else thinks. As with the comment above, i wouldn't have minded (low end hotel food is often rubbish) but it's not even cheap!!Never again, i'll opt for walking around the carpark with a nail in my shoe instead of crossing the Novotel threshold to part with my cash.

rosieFebruary 28th 2008.

@ anon. If you're in Paris and eat in a Novotel, you deserve everything you get.

jomovFebruary 28th 2008.

Thanks for the review, I don't care whether it is a hotel chain or not (some of them are quite good, Mal Maison for example), if charging such prices then you have to expect a certain level...and I for one like to be fore warned!

smickersFebruary 28th 2008.

Yikes - I just recommended Novotel to stay in in Manchester after I stayed in one a while back in Birmingham that was great!My name will be muck. Well, muckier...

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

08/12/09Just stayed at a Novotel in Paris for 3 nights. Room was excellent and very clean. But that was where the goodness ended. Food was disgusting. We were to have 2 evening meals, the first was just about edible, consisting of oven cooked, breadcrumbed chicken, unseasoned rice and unseasoned slimey courgettes. The second consisted of a dry piece of pork, 3 halves of hash browns (the frozen type you stock your freezer with), unseasoned slimy chopped peppers which looked like they had been microwaved and a tiny dribble of gravy ( the portions would not even have filled a 5 year old). When the vegetarian member of our party pointed out on the first night he was vegetarian the reply was 'yes but you eat chicken?' then when he said no they said 'but you eat fish?' lol. No he didn't, so they bought him out just rice and slimey courgettes. The second night he got one hash brown that had slimey chopped peppers piled up on top! And the service!!!!! What service? It was awful!! Only half of us got desserts and we had to ask for the others. We were shown to dirty tables on the first morning for breakfast! The staff were rude. Ignored people at the bar. Ignored drink orders at the table. Also the cleaners took some drinking glasses out of some of our parties rooms that they had aquired somewhere else (not sure where but they certainly weren't the hotels). I should also point out that we were in an area where there were hardly any outside places to drink, so we had to use the novotel bar where a round of drinks consisting of a single whiskey and coke and 2 pints of Leffe came to approx £24. I would never, ever stay at one of these hotels again! The rudeness and service was in a league of it's own!

ancoats girlFebruary 28th 2008.

Sounds foul. That ice cream looks suspiciously like the pre-scooped balls you get at places like Pizza Express. How hard is it to scoop ice cream on demand?

TommoFebruary 28th 2008.

someone works at Pizza Express...

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

why anyone would even consider being booked into somewhere as common as a Novotel is simply beyond me!!

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

To Ancoats.... the balls of icecream in Pizza Express are painfully scooped to order. Try preparing an order of 30 chocolate glories.... that's 120 scoops of rock solid ice cream. I do it all the time.... they are definately not pre-scooped.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

My experience of Novotels in France is usually quite good - also their restaurants have been up to standard and generally value for money. They do vary according to location - some business area hotels are less inviting. Others in Marseille, Beaune (and one in Seville, Spain) all struck me as being excellent for value/location/ambiance.

Helen, M7February 28th 2008.

Oh no I'm staying in the Novotel Wolverhampton this weekend so I'm now dreading it! I wasn't going to eat in the hotel but now I'm dreading staying after reading Ben's comments above. Hope I'm lucky as too late to find somewhere else now!!

ste/manchesterFebruary 28th 2008.

Just had a two night stay at the novotel on dickinson street manchester.Had a pleasant room it was clean and comfortable, only downside was the shower diverter valve did not work so had to have a bath so not to bad really.As for the breakfast £12.50 very dear so we didn't have that,when you can get a full english from the many wetherspoons pubs around Manchester,we used the one on oxford street very nice it was to & it was less than £3.00 bargain.But back to the novotel I am going back in November and will do so it is a very nice hotel.

GailPFebruary 28th 2008.

That is one of the funniest reviews I have read in a while Gordo - I can just picture the scene with the waitress - classic! Novotel, though - what do you expect?

smartiemcrFebruary 28th 2008.

Novotel are an okay mid-market hotel chain aimed at business travellers, but as with most chains (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn etc...) they are notorious for overcharging you for mediocre food.They get away with this because most companies will give their staff a decent dinner allowance and stressed execs will often graze in their bedrooms over the laptop (I speak from experience here!)I'm not trying to excuse them, but really you must be lacking in any imagination to want to eat in a Novotel hotel in the middle of a city full of great restaurants, unless you are pushed for time or extremely lazy.And I would dispute the comments about Accor hotels - I've always found Ibis hotels to be extremely good value, and just had a weekend in one in Dublin where the staff couldn't have been more helpful.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

FYI Ancoats Girl, the ice cream at pizza express is not "pre-scooped".

jimFebruary 28th 2008.

Paul, I reckon they gave him a free meal, don't you, on their marketing budget?

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

look at the address... Dickinson St, 'City'... ha ha ha ha. Sad.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

Honestly I stayed recently and the food pretty good. No complaints and would use again - after all I stay because the rooms and rates are good.

smithcvsFebruary 28th 2008.

The Novotel at Birmingham Airport isn't fancy but does the job. I too had a complaint about a Novotel in France and emailed the Manager and Novotel Head Office. I even had it translated into French as well so they had no excuse. No reply, tried again.....guess what no reply. They don't deserve our custom.

RobertFebruary 28th 2008.

Try the restaurant in the Novotel on the Euston Road in London. It is a world apart from what Gordo found.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

i feel sick you put me of my lunch now

Ellie May RayFebruary 28th 2008.

i recently stayed in a superior room at the Novotel Waterloo in London and it was really very good. I also ate in the restaurant for lunch and again it was excellent. Obviously not all Novotels are the same. The one Gordo reviewed sounds shocking! What a let down for the city. Someone should get their ass kicked bigtime

PaulFebruary 28th 2008.

i never like the idea of paying someone who is playing at cooking for turning perfectly good ingredients into crap

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

I have stop at novotel in edinburgh two times last year/this year please do not stop at any novotel hotels before reading Gordo report. His story just sound like novotel in edinbourgh

C 2 The GFebruary 28th 2008.

Had my lunch in Kro2 on Oxford Road yesterday and it was awful! food? more like dog food. Gordo/Jonathan/Scoteee can you add this to a contender of worse places to eat your lunch.

CasFebruary 28th 2008.

On Scoteee's point, can we have a special end of year thing where you (Gordo or Jonathan) do an article on Manchester's year in food and then the ranters can give their views on what's been their favourite and worst restaurants? Always end up hearing about somewhere people rave about that I've not been. Useful, informative and no doubt a right good squabble ;)

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2008.

ummm... i'm sorry but what do you expect with a novotel? they're hardly known for either comfort or fine dining. there's no excuse for crap food and then charging for the pleasure but i'm pretty sure that even without this review we could have ascertained the crap level!

President SarkozyFebruary 28th 2008.

shocking review!

BenFebruary 28th 2008.

I've never eaten at the Novotel, so this is slightly at a tangent, but I have stayed there. Once. Never again. to say that this was the worst hotel I've ever stayed in would be no lie. I booked a so-called "superior" room, literally a few months after the hotel had ben refurbished and this was what I got. A poky room with a sub-IKEA sofa in it. A FOAM mattress on the bed. Poly-cotton sheets that were itchy and sweaty. FOAM pillows. A synthetic duvet that was like cardboard. A temperature control system that didn't work and was stuck at 24 degrees and a shower that was stained and blocked. When I'm paying upwards of £100 for a room I expect 400 thread count cotton percale sheets, goose down (or at the least feather) pillows and duvet, a properly sprung mattress and airconditioning that works. When I complained in the morning I was presented with a shifty assistant manager who claimed that the air conditioning did work (he made up some bollox about it being fed buy a resh air matrix or something) and that the quality of the furnishings etc was top notch. Interestingly when I went into work I said that I'd had a terrible experience in a hotel and BEFORE I MENTIONED THE CHAIN, two of my colleagues piped up and said "it wasn't a novotel was it?" Seems like this lot are a by-word amongst those who know for appalling levels of rubbishness and I for one would rather a lifetime in a Travelodge (at least you know what you're getting for your coin) than a single night in a Novotel. On the basis of this I wouldn't feed my dog in a Novotel restaurant and am surprised that gordo saw fit to give it as high as a three. in summary, if you're thinking about staying in a Novotel - Don't. If you've already booked cancel - even if they charge you 100% you'll be doing yourself a favour. If this rant deters even one person from staying in a Novotel, it'll be worthwhile! Anyone else out there had similar experiences?

GCFebruary 28th 2008.

I must say that I spent quite a few weeks in the Novotel in Birmingham a year or so back and it was fine... If you ever want further exposure to really shocking food and service I would try The Colony restaurant at The Midland Hotel, without any doubt the worst meal I have had in several years.

Gloria1504February 28th 2008.

It looks revolting in the pictures to be honest.AT least you dont mince your words Gordo....Ill give this one a wide berth

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