Although Christmas might seem a distant memory and the decorations are all safely stashed in the loft, I’ve been enjoying looking back at photos from our Family Festive Lunch at the Crowne Plaza in Marlow.
With family living in Birmingham and Cardiff, it’s hard for us all to be together on Christmas Day so we’ve learned that the best way to cope with a ‘long-distance’ family Christmas is to have more than one Christmas Day before the 25th December arrives. With this in mind, I arranged for my Birmingham relatives to come down to Maidenhead on the weekend before Christmas so we could all be together. Knowing that we had a 93 year old and a 3 year old to please, it wasn’t particularly easy deciding where to take everyone so the idea of a family friendly Christmas Dinner appealed. We chose the ‘Family Festive Lunch at the Crowne Plaza Marlow‘ which offered a three course meal, a visit to Father Christmas and children’s entertainment for one set price per person.
Here’s how we got on:
The Crowne Plaza at Marlow is a 15 minute drive away from Maidenhead along the A404. Approaching the hotel is bit funny, you seem to drive further and further into an industrial estate and you’ll find yourself checking your Sat Nav that you’re actually still going to the right place…. but have faith. When you arrive the hotel is in a much nicer setting than you think and the main restaurant and function room look out across a lake with a fountain. Quite a pleasant surprise.
Outside there was a small playground which was great for the Little Lady to explore after the meal and she was fascinated by the outdoor hot tub and the indoor swimming pool too.
I liked the idea of a meal with entertainment because it worked for the eldest and the youngest of our party… a tough call with an age range of 4 months to 93 years. My Nan was in favour of a ‘proper’ Christmas Dinner as she would like to have a nice meal and spend time with us all. But this meant I had to find something that a 3 year old who’s not too keen on sitting still for longer than 20 minutes could enjoy too. Traditional, formal meals just aren’t really the right thing for her at this age.
Walking into the restaurant was a rather surreal experience. It was full of families, just like us and there was a lovely mix of chatter, giggles and the squeal of ‘tiger tail’ balloons as they were let off around the room. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was certainly lively and the Little Lady was thrilled.
We were shown to our own individual table close to the window which had plenty of room for the pushchair along side, and had the added bonus of looking out across the grounds and the lake. There were high chairs in abundance which was great for the toddlers, although we chose to take our own booster cushion so that the Little Lady could sit at the table wth the grown ups.
What was included?
Included in the price of the Family Festive Lunch:
- Three course meal
- Private visit to see Father Christmas in the themed grotto and a present for the children
- Face painting with Lily’s Facepainting
- Mini disco with party games, balloon modelling, bubbles and snow storm with Oscar’s Entertainment
Adults were £29.95 and children were £17.95
As well as a mini disco the entertainer kept the children busy with balloon modelling and various party games.
After the meal we took a little stroll outside into the fresh air and the Little Lady was rather pleased to have a whole playground to herself to explore, although we didn’t want to get her party dress wet on the slide!
Food and Drink
When I originally booked the meal the food was going to be a buffet, which I quite liked the idea of, but as the date approached this was changed to a sit down meal which concerned me a little. We’d been to a large scale Christmas meal the year before and we’d found the food to be bit average. I think its hard to do a proper roast on a large scale without compromising on taste, or everyone getting a hot meal at the same time.
But, looking at the menu that was offered I was quite pleased to see a mix of dishes so you didn’t just have to have the traditional turkey. Also, being seated in smaller family tables meant that the food was served to us individually rather than en masse as a room.
I chose the beef and was really impressed. It was ‘melt in the mouth’, one of the best bits of beef I’ve had in a restaurant for years and I loved the garlic roasties.
The hubby, my Nan and my Dad had the turkey and my mum chose the salmon. Unfortunately the salmon dish wasn’t served with the dressing it should have come with and it took us a little while to get the attention of someone to remedy it for us which was a little frustrating at the time. We also had to chase the cranberry sauce. As an essential part of Christmas Dinner I felt it might have been better to have this on the table ready for the diners.
The desserts were pretty amazing though!
The children’s menu had the option of a smaller version of ANY of the adult meals or the choice of a cheeseburger, spaghetti or fish fingers. I felt this offered a fair mix of child friendly options and seeing that garlic bread was on the menu (a firm favourite) I figured we’d be onto a winner. The little lady happily tucked in to a portion of Spaghetti Bolognaise (in between playing with all the bits and bobs in the silver boxes on the table).
Value for money
This is a really interesting thing to decide. At first glance it might seem expensive to pay £17.95 for a three year old to have a meal. But actually, when you look at what’s included and what it would cost elsewhere individually, it starts to make a bit more sense.
She had a three course meal, had a private viewing with Father Christmas (even if she refused to look him in the eye!), was given a present, had her face painted and danced with other children at the mini disco. She even had a run around outside and played in the playground. But the best bit was that because she was happy, we were happy too and the adults could enjoy their meal without having to take it in turns to ‘child mind’ while our food went cold. How do you put a price on that?
This was the second time we’d done a ‘Family Christmas Dinner’ and this experience at the Crowne Plaza was much better than our first experience at a hotel in Birmingham. I liked being sat on smaller group tables, the boxes of streamers and balloons for each person and I could see that time and care had gone into the ‘Father Christmas’ part of the day. It felt like a quality experience. We had happily whiled away the whole afternoon (arriving just before 1 and leaving after 6) something that would have been much harder if we’d opted for a traditional sit down meal in a restaurant. In an ideal world we’d have liked to have stayed longer, enjoyed a sherry in the bar and then collapsed into bed later. Perhaps next year we’ll do just that.
The things that I felt dampened the experience a little were the missing sauces and dressings on some of our meals, and the fact that at times it was hard to pin point a member of staff to remedy that. But, on the plus side I’ve been in touch with the Crowne Plaza to let them know this and they’ve taken the feedback on board to help improve the experience for people next year.
So the ultimate question… would I do it again next year?
Having chatted to the family we all agreed that we would. Maybe with a dip in the hot tub too!
About this review
The Crowne Plaza were not aware that I was writing this review for the blog at the time of my visit so I can guarantee that there was no ‘favouritism’ towards us, we were just regular paying customers. The prices and included activities were for Christmas 2015 and may change by next year.
I write this ‘Maidenhead Mum’ blog to share my experiences of life here in Berkshire. To read my posts you might like to follow me on Twitter or to join my Maidenhead Mum Facebook page. Or, if you subscribe using the box below you’ll get my posts delivered straight to your inbox.