ROOM FACILITIES My executive room was on the ninth floor, and had one double bed and a pull-out sofa bed. Facilities are standard throughout (executive rooms being larger in size), with air conditioning, safe, minibar, tea and coffee facilities, iron and ironing board, work desk, and a flatscreen TV with complimentary satellite channels, as well as paid-for services such as movies (from £3), music albums (£2) and TV internet (£3 per hour) – a bundle package giving access to all services plus wired internet access costs £17 for 24 hours. There is also a cable connected to the back of the TV which can be plugged into your MP3 player so you can play your own music. Rooms are simply but tastefully decorated in creams and whites, with splashes of red and brown. Bathrooms have separate bath and shower, and are divided from the bedroom by slatted concertina doors.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Guests can pick from a range of dishes on the menu, and decide to have them as tasters (tapas size), starters, or mains. It sounds gimmicky, but it actually works really well – Elements dishes include Thai green curry, seared duck with green bean salad and fillet of salmon (there is also a menu of "old favourites"). The restaurant also has the new "TV dining" concept – a couple of flatscreen TVs with headphones at single tables, where lone diners can eat and watch terrestrial channels (or CBeebies for the kids). The hotel also has a trendy bar overseen by Leon Hachuel, an enthusiastic manager who has created a wide-ranging cocktail and champagne list – and guests can log on with wifi internet access.
BUSINESS & MEETING FACILITIES There are eight meeting rooms (some of which have sliding partitions, making a total of ten room combinations). Room capacities range from 12 boardroom-style up to 90 theatre-style. Wifi internet access is available in all rooms, along with individually controlled air conditioning, black-out curtains and AV equipment on request.
LEISURE FACILITIES The fitness centre is located in the basement of the hotel. There is an indoor pool, steam room and sauna, and a gym with the latest cardiovascular equipment, including personal TV screens.
VERDICT Novotel has obviously put a lot of thought into its new generation of hotels – the rooms and public areas feel fresh and modern, and little things like the MP3 cables and TV dining concept show that the brand is aware of its increasingly tech-savvy customers. It has also stolen a march on brands like Hilton and Malmaison, which will both be opening upmarket properties in Reading within the next 12 months.
PRICES Fully flexible internet rates for a midweek stay started at £145, room only.