Detailed review by fizzytom
Gateshead, United Kingdom
Having become a firm fan of the bargain that is the Formule 1 chain of hotels, I always check on that company's website first when looking for accommodation in the UK. However, when planning a trip to Leeds recently I learned that the chain do not have a hotel there and so had to do more research. The usual 'cheap accommodation in .' search found an article about a hotel that was due to open in Leeds the day before our visit.
The Etap chain of hotels are a French concern and part of Accor, the same parent group of Formule 1. They have hotels across France and Germany and are gradually opening hotels in the UK as well as in Central and Eastern Europe.
The concept is simple; all rooms are identical, sleep three people and are designed to require little maintenance and all rooms are the same price. In the hotel in Leeds this is £32; it does not matter whether you have one, two or three people in the room the price remains the same. I think this represents excellent value. For even one person £32 is pretty good value for a central location and everything you need from a basic room.
In this concept Etap hotels differ little from Formule 1; however there is one major difference and it may just be the clinching factor for people who have not previously wanted to stay in a Formule 1 hotel. Where Formule 1 hotels have shared self-cleaning shower rooms in the corridors, all Etap hotels have en suite facilities. They might be smaller than the average telephone box but Etap hotel rooms have a separate toilet and a separate shower cubicle in the room.
Breakfast is never included in the room rate but can be added if booking online or by telephone. You can also decide at the time of check-in and add the cost to your bill. Since breakfast is served in a coffee shop facility, you don't even have to decide in advance and can just take breakfast on the day if you prefer.
You can also buy hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, snacks and fruit at reception.
The Etap Leeds is situated on the south side of the city centre, next to the Calls and five minutes walk from the central markets and the main bus station. The train station is fifteen minutes by foot.
It is situated on a large island amongst some busy roads and entails three pedestrian crossings if arriving by foot from the city centre. The hotel has free customer parking.
The reception at Etap Leeds appears to be staffed twenty four hours (obviously I can't say this for certain) which is also a little different from Formule 1 hotels which are only staffed briefly at check in and check out times. It may be that this hotel was staffed because it was newly opened but the website said that the hotel reception was staffed limited hours and the automatic check in facility could be used outside those times. As far as we could see, Leeds does not have this facility.
It took some twenty minutes to check in because the computer systems (and those operating them) were not yet fully up and running. It was frustrating but only to be expected considering that the hotel had just opened. It did not appear that the very young staff had much hotel experience at all - not just with this company. It would have been a good idea for them to have training at an established branch prior to this one opening.
Two adjacent lifts take you up to the accommodation floors. You can't get lost, there is only one corridor of rooms on each floor. After a couple of attempts our keycard gained us access to the room and we surveyed our surroundings.
As you would expect everything is clean and new and in immaculate condition. Each room has one very low double bed and above it, running along the wall is a single bunk. As you go into the room the toilet is on one side, and just behind it is the shower cubicle. Next to the shower cubicle is a small vanity unit with a washbasin and excellent lighting. In the opposite corner is a built in desk and a chair. Above the desk is a flat screen television. There is no wardrobe but there are some coat hangers securely built into the frame of the bunk to act as a clothes storage area.
There's just enough space to walk around the bed but this room would be very cramped with three guests. Luckily, if you are not using the bunk, you can place your luggage on it to get it out of the way.
The television shows terrestrial channels only and you must pay a £5.00 deposit if you require a remote control. Don't bother: the room is so small you can almost reach the television from any point in the room simply by reaching out an arm.
Waking up on the first morning we both complained of aching backs; I can safely say that this was the hardest mattress I have ever slept on. I was in agony for the first twenty minutes each morning and I do not normally suffer with back problems. Since the hotel is new this may just be a case of unused new beds but I am inclined more to think that it is because these mattresses are built to last!
Another thing that disturbed us was the noisy plumbing. Every time someone on our floor flushed the toilet or ran a tap the plumbing would lurch into service and sounded like it had been installed in the reign of Victoria. The door to the toilet had a pull handle that did not move and the closing mechanism was one of those rolling ball things so you have to pull or push the door hard to close it fully. Each time this happened the whole floor shuddered.
My final complaint The hotel was clearly not finished when we arrived. We were not surprised; in act we had joked about it before we arrived. There were workmen everywhere, drilling, painting, cabling
We were rudely awoken before eight on the first morning by the sound of drilling. Since there are no telephones in the rooms I dressed quickly and went to reception where the duty manager told us that there couldn't possibly be any noise because she had told the contractors they could not start before 9.00am. I insisted that there was work going on and she said she would go up there and investigate. I said I would be leaving around nine and would come back to hear her response.
At nine o'clock I saw her at reception but at the same time she saw me and made a dash for it. The young receptionist went to look for her at my request but said she was 'busy talking to contractors and couldn't come out right now'. Not wishing to spoil our day, we left and hoped for a response later in the day. Later on we were told that there would be no repetition of the noise the following morning.
Of course there was. And the same duty manager still did not believe us and determinedly refused to consider any kind of compensation for the disturbance. She would not even go and find out where the noise was coming from because she so adamantly refused to believe we could hear anything.
In terms of customer service this left a very bad taste; the work is now finished and I'm sure that the hotel has ironed out its problems but I do think that the inexperienced staff lacked initiative and simple service skills. Maybe my rating seems surprising after what I have said? My rating is based on the concept, the value and the fact that I think it would be very rare that you would have much to complain about. I am sure my complaint only came about because the hotel is so new.
I would be prepared to stay at this hotel again because it offers tremendous value and because of its good location. I do not require much form a hotel on a city break; for me it is simply a place to wash and sleep. So long as it is clean and safe I am happy.
Etap Hotels are merely a cheap and convenient place to lay your head; for spa treatments and genial hosts look elsewhere. For sheer good value, however, walk this way
ibis budget Leeds Centre