Regency Guest House, Cambridge

There is a TV programme called Four in a Bed, in which owners of small hotels, guest houses and B&Bs host one another in a bid to be named the hosts of the week (or some such phrase.)  This show brings out the worst in human nature, causing otherwise genial hoteliers to become hypercritical and hypocritical zealots, hell-bent on revenge and finding minute fault in the spotless hostelries they visit.

I mention this only as a point of context that I regard the purpose of reviews to be fair and balanced, but not shy of constructive criticism where it is due – so do bear this in mind when reading on. A few guests at the Regency Guest House certainly seem to have taken that approach in their online reviews (see the bottom of this review), of which more in due course.

On the same theme you would not want to review a greasy spoon against the standards set by Le Gavroche, so the same applies to hotels: location location location. The Regency occupies a splendid spot overlooking the green pastures of Parker’s Piece and certainly offers character, a saleable commodity.   It occupies a fine old building, as quoted on their website:

“Regency Guest House is a beautiful Victorian building located in Cambridge City centre. The house was built in 1850 and has the charming characteristics of a typical Victorian townhouse, with high ceilings, tall windows, and a basement.”

It also has the quirky characteristics of old houses such as uneven floors, which strangely enough was the sort of individuality that prompted me to buy my own old cottage.  However, the restoration has made good obvious shortcomings often found in older buildings:

“Regency Guest House has been under new management since late 2013 and we have slowly been renovating and improving the feel of the house.”

My friend and I visited the Regency as part of a double birthday celebration, having researched available options within central Cambridge, the context being that prices are steep in Cambridge.  An excellent nearby hotel from a boutique chain charges £254 for a room, and rubs salt into the wound by charging £17 for breakfast – fine if you’re on expenses but not good on a budget.   The Regency charges £125 up front, which would be notably pricey in most locations but turned out to be the most reasonable option where rooms were available in Cambridge.  Whether or not it constitutes good value is another question entirely.

Service is fairly minimal but available if really required from a youngish crew whose specialty is not typical of the personal service and attention you might expect in British B&Bs.  Like barbers and taxi drivers who blather on, conversational hosts are not to every taste, though somehow I missed that component of our stay.  Coded locks on the outer doors mean you are on your own.

A word on parking in Cambridge: if you are visiting, allow for the fact that there is no parking provided by the guest house, though you can park on the road between 6pm and 8:30am sharpish to avoid getting a ticket.  We chose to leave the car in the nearby sports centre car park overnight for a reasonably acceptable £16.80, though I’m told other car parks would leave you with a much bigger bill.

So to the interior of the Regency:

“The house has undergone a huge transformation with new carpets, furniture and fittings. Wi-Fi now runs as standard throughout the house and is free to use for all guests.”

The style adopted in the course of these extensive renovations is contemporary and minimal rather than traditional feel, perhaps appropriate in view of the technological backbone.  The furniture is of the light wood variety and the accessories chosen with some thought and care.  Not luxurious but neither entirely run-of-the-mill.

Every room now has a flat screen TV, DAB radio, tea and coffee making facilities, comfortable mattresses with duck and down feather duvets and pillows.”

All true, though the mattress was certainly on the firm side for my tastes.  Venetian blinds that don’t quite succeed in keeping out all the light would also not suit every punter and lack the warmth of good old-fashioned curtains.

I didn’t check whether you could swing a cat in the en suite bathroom, though it was a touch poky.  There was a sink, though not actually in the bathroom.  The shower worked well though, was hot and had sufficient pressure to do the job properly.  At least that was better than those poor folks who complained about having to share bathrooms and shower facilities.  For such small mercies we should be grateful, though expectations are clearly much higher these days such that having to share anything leaves us in a state of quivering indignation.

All told, the room was comfortable without being exceptional.  The thing I don’t get is why beds are so often topped off with cushions.  This brings to mind the memorable rant against the plump fluffy buggers in Coupling, and I agree – they serve no useful function other than to be thrown off at bedtime!

Going back to the Four in a Bed motif, I didn’t do an in-depth inspection by running a finger over every surface, though on the face of it the room appeared moderately clean, if not squeaky clean and good enough for those TV shows hosted by people with an anal obsession with extreme cleanliness.   However, the hoteliers would have leapt upon peeling paintwork in the bathroom as a demonstration that the place was less than pristine.  There are unquestionably flaws to be found at the Regency.

Nevertheless, a reasonable night’s sleep, aided by the fact that we were on the 1st floor rather than the ground.

Breakfast is served in a surprisingly airy basement room, but if you were expecting a fry-up, think again:

“A Continental breakfast is served in the morning from 8-9am. Bread and croissants are freshly baked every day and are enjoyed with a fresh pot of coffee.”

This is also DIY, including the coffee, toast and every other aspect of delivery.  Not that I necessarily mind a continental breakfast; indeed, one of the best breakfasts I ever ate was in a youth hostel in Norway, featuring a wide assortment of cereals, yogurts, juices, breads, cooked and cured meats, cheeses, fish – you name it.

The initial impression given by an arrangement of good-looking fruit is perhaps slightly deceptive.  There are a few cereals, natural yogurt and a few so-so juices.  The breads are restricted to supermarket croissants and par-baked rolls (bit cheap that), stay-fresh white sliced bread for toasting (cheaper still.)  Then there are the individually presented slices of cheap ham and cheese, one variety of each.  True, the jam and marmalade on the the tables in proper Killner jars was a nice touch, but my abiding memory is of an underwhelming breakfast that could easily have been much better.

Perhaps that is the verdict on the Regency as a whole: not that thought and investment has not gone into the place, since clearly both have.  However, the corners that have been cut have evidently left many guests dissatisfied and believing for the money they could have done a lot better.  A hearty English breakfast and more personal attention would have made a startling difference, since we can forgive many things if the hosts can be seen to be making a personal effort on our behalf, but in the absence of the personal touches the parts seem less than the sum of the whole.

Verdict:  Not as awful as some reviewers would have you believe, and with plenty of positive touches worthy of praise, but could easily do better by making guests feel welcome and well-fed.

Reviews written by others follow…

 It’s nowhere written in their website that the bathroom facilities plus the toilet are shared and are outside the room! It very is misleading and far too expensive for what it is!
There is noone at the door, you have to let yourself in, you call the number indicated on your reservation and there is an answering machine! lack of communication in case of need
Not too mention the unfriendly people working there that they do not even greet you unless you ask a question, the wifi not working! 

Rather like a cheap B&B: Small spartan room, none of the extras that expensive B&B’s have, like refrigerator, safe, etc. Cleaning no more than adequate. Sink drain clogged, light over sink didn’t work. If I had paid — per night I would have been very satisfied. But I paid 2x— per night. Maybe the location (which is really excellent) makes the price acceptable

Checkin was straightforward. Wifi worked. The manager was helpful when I needed to speak to someone. Unfortunately, the carpets on the stairs desperately need a clean. There was no toilet paper in the washroom, but this may have been removed by guests. Main issue was the noise: building work outside and the bathroom and next door kept banging through night so I was woken on an hourly basis. For experience and cost I felt a cooked breakfast should be offered.

This guesthouse is really a budget youth hostel at hotel prices. The website is very misleading as the decor is utterly past it’s best. The carpet is stained and frayed (can’t possibly have been new this year) and was not properly hoovered in our room. The curtains were hanging off in room 9 and the paintwork was chipped. There was no breakfast although it was laid out with the lights and radio on, but no food or staff so we had to go out to a cafe instead. Parking is permit only. Just terrible!

This is the third time I’ve stayed at Regency Guest House because it serves my needs perfectly whenever I’m in Cambridge on examining business, and is significantly better than the ‘officially approved’ accommodation available if you book through the exam board. The location is perfect for the Hills Road examining offices and there are plenty of interesting and reasonably-priced places to eat nearby.

Room was clean and nicely made. Lovely location next to park and town center. Breakfast quality was very good butno cooked breakfast. .First impressions were disappointing as the entrance and hallway carpets were shabby and bad smell.

We had a 2 night stay at the Regency Guest House, and stayed in the ‘newly renovated’ family room (3 adults). The room was situated on the ground floor next to the front door. Our room is adjoined to the bathroom of room 9, so we could hear everything, EVERYTHING! Also, being right next to the main corridor, we were interrupted by other guests passing through. Some even knocked on our door thinking it was ‘reception’. Based on the overall experience, I’m afraid it wasn’t ‘adequate’.

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