An inspector calls
A country pile in Devon is put under the microscope
Viewers of the popular reality television show The Hotel Inspector would be well aware of the exacting standards and often despairing assessments of its star, Alex Polizzi, as she visits guesthouses, small hotels and B & Bs across Britain. She is “an award-winning hotelier” with a formidable presence who also radiates charm and great good humour as she attempts to sort out faltering properties.
Sometimes the owners, no matter how badly their businesses are doing, reckon they know better than Polizzi and refuse to countenance her advice, whether on staff management or overly complicated menus. There are often more tears than cheers but therein lies the show’s voyeuristic appeal. She rolls her eyes, flinches at threadbare towels and flimsy curtains, shrieks at clashing colour schemes, and wonders why, when she thinks she has already visited the worst places imaginable, there is always an even more hideous one lurking off some heaving motorway or beside a tatty beach.
Polizzi is from a dynasty of hoteliers and knows the hospitality industry inside-out. Her mother, Olga Polizzi, is a renowned interior decorator, sister of Sir Rocco Forte of the eponymous accommodation group, the successor to his father Charles Forte’s Trust House Forte empire. Olga runs Hotel Tresanton by the seaside at St Mawes on southern Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula and the Polizzis own Hotel Endsleigh in Devon, where I am bound, undercover, to turn the tables, as it were, and inspect the inspector.
I want to put the hotel to the test in the same forensic fashion that Polizzi employs in her show. Of course, Hotel Endsleigh is hardly in trouble and I know I won’t be surrounded by cracked Dresden china shepherdesses and grubby antimacassars hiding stains on velveteen chairs. It’s a flourishing country-house redoubt, madly popular on weekends and set in the Tamar Valley on more than 40ha of woodlands and rumpled hills. It is so close to the wild and moody reaches of Dartmoor that complimentary Hotel Endsleigh postcards come with a mock franking stamp of the location.
A London friend books me online using her credit card. I am just another guest, not a snooping journalist. I go for the cheapest guestroom category and my chamber,