Lucie Loves... Travel // Review: James takes a weekend break at the MacDonald Windsor Hotel
“January” and “Blues”; two words that are now synonymous with modern living in London. January – friend or foe?
Sat deliberating the final Bloody Mary on the first day of the New Year, to counterbalance the effects of the night before – my mind wanders on to how lovely it is to escape. As I sit at my table in this crowded North London pub, I spy couples discussing their options, as they scour through the travel supplements of the Sunday papers. Some look for warm climates, others think about boarding a plane and spending long weekends in European cites. I had no such plans, but a burning desire to get away, throw myself into a big bed and sleep. So when Lucie asked me to go and review the MacDonald Windsor Hotel I had no hesitation in agreeing.
It was an easy journey from London Paddington to Windsor; total travel time was less than my commute to work; twenty-six minutes in total and just one change of train. This meant I could meet my Instagram Pal David (who kindly agreed to come with me) mid-morning, without fear of missing a whole day of sightseeing. By ‘sightseeing’, I mean we were going to be in a pub for a few beers before moving on to the next.
I booked the train tickets ten days prior to departure and got a great deal, the price of two (open return) tickets to Windsor was just over £20. The journey was very easy and it made wonder why I never think of venturing into the neighbouring shires more? The last time I went to Windsor was when my sister in-law was visiting the UK five years ago. She loves the Royal Family – much to my brother’s annoyance – so it seemed fitting to show her around Windsor Castle and its surroundings.
Five years later, as stepped off the train into the centre of town, I noticed how the high street and shopping area has grown. Unfortunately, there was little in the way of independent shops – not counting the tacky gift shops selling Windsor-emblazoned postcards, teddy bears and tea towels. David and I were early for our check in and it took no time at all to get from the station to the hotel.
MacDonald Windsor Hotel is well camouflaged and you would be forgiven for missing the entrance. Upon entering the hotel lobby David and I were greeted with a large modern and bright room, friendly staff, roaring fires. The soft furnishing giving a subtle, tasteful nods to its original Scottish roots.
For our stay at the MacDonald Windsor Hotel we were given an Executive Suite, one of the largest of the 120 rooms available at the hotel. It was kind of the hotel to give us complimentary red wine, flowers and strawberry cupcakes too. The room was sound proofed from the busy high street, light (even on a grey day) and had a very calming effect on both of us. The view of the castle was superb and after trying to spy on the Queen for a few minutes I gave up and on explored our room.
The decor was tasteful, what you would expect from a quality hotel chain, I’m not sure if all the rooms have different colour schemes but ours was purple. A large sofa separated the main living space, acting as a partition between the living room, complete with large flat screen TV and a king sized bed. Wine now consumed, and cupcakes devoured, we decided it was time to head off an explore Windsor.
After strolling around the beautiful historic town – avoiding the biting swans – popping in and out of the shops, and having lunch in Eton (which is only a five minute walk from the town centre) we decided to head back to the hotel. In true January style, it was dark early and I was feeling the cold. I decided to take full advantage of the big bath tub before heading down to dinner.
The Executive Suite boasts a large en suite bathroom, which was bigger than the bathroom I have at home. It had all the usual amenities, including a large bath, shower with a rain shower head, two sinks and underfloor heating. I left David to entertain himself, in the make shift living room, with a coffee, from the room’s Nespresso machine, and a spot television.
Passing the well-stocked bar to the Scottish Steakhouse restaurant, we were shown to our table and greeted by our friendly waiter. Our drinks arrived and we were ready to order our food. It was difficult, as so many of the dishes listed were very appetising, I wish we could have stayed an extra night!
The restaurant was full of that evening’s guests: couples out celebrating anniversary’s, a large family celebrating a birthday, and I’m sure I spotted a few newlyweds too – but I couldn’t look at them for too long; staring at newlyweds is like looking directly into the sun! The food was delicious, well-presented and brilliant quality. With its low lighting and wooden beams, it felt like we were in a converted barn.
Our waiter was attentive and the menu was loaded with dishes that I wanted to try. One of the things I noticed about the Macdonald Hotels is their attention to serving food using seasonal ingredients, this means that the menu changes often. The Macdonald Hotel Windsor is host to the Scottish Steakhouse and since deciding to kick red meat out of my diet, I salivated over the chicken and vegetarian dishes, whilst David made his immediate choice of fillet steak. True to the restaurant’s Scottish heritage, the beef served comes from fully accredited Scottish farms and is supplied by Scotch Beef, they are suppliers to the highest quality retailers in the country. The beef is then traditionally aged for a minimum of 21 days on the bone, and hand cut by highly skilled butchers using time-honoured techniques, delivering the perfect Scottish Steakhouse experience, so David was assured a quality dinner.
Here’s what we ate:
- Stornoway black pudding Scotch egg (£8)
- Crisp crumbed goat’s cheese and pickled Heritage beetroot (£8)
- Free-range corn-fed chicken kiev (£17)
- Butcher’s cut and skinny fries – Fillet Steak (£32)
- Colcannon mash (£4)
- Rocket and Parmesan salad (£4)
After dinner, it was time to climb into the huge king size bed and, for the first time in what felt like forever, I was able to get a good night’s sleep. Within seconds of my head touching the pillow, I was dead to the world, and when I woke up I felt better than I had in a very long time.
I left the Macdonald Hotel Windsor relaxed and rejuvenated, and took one final look for the Queen, before getting on my train, refreshed and ready to face the week ahead.