Wel­come to the clean but rus­tic ForRestMix – Eng­land’s World Cup ho­tel

Gareth South­gate has cho­sen his squad’s base in the vil­lage of Repino – we sent Alec Luhn to stay there

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - 2018 World Cup Qualifier -

Vladimir Lenin once hid from the Tsarist po­lice in this sleepy sea­side vil­lage on the north­ern out­skirts of St Peters­burg, and the fa­mous artist Ilya Repin – af­ter whom it was later re­named – shel­tered here from the com­mo­tion of what was then the Rus­sian cap­i­tal.

Eng­land’s foot­ball team will also avoid the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city of five mil­lion when they stay in Repino dur­ing the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia. But their choice of lodg­ings, the clean but rus­tic ForRestMix ho­tel, has raised eye­brows.

“ForRestMix? They could have found them­selves some­thing bet­ter,” said Dmitry, the pro­pri­etor of a small shoot­ing gallery with a por­trait of Lenin on the wall.

“There are lots in the city. The As­to­ria or the Grand Ho­tel Europe,” he added, re­fer­ring to two five-star ho­tels in St Peters­burg’s his­toric cen­tre. “Even our na­tional team don’t stay in such places when they travel. It’s sim­ple, noth­ing spe­cial.”

He noted that the Res­i­dence Ho­tel and Spa, a ren­o­vated Soviet com­plex built on the site where com­mu­nist writer Maxim Gorky briefly took refuge, was con­sid­ered the top ac­com­mo­da­tion in Repino, al­though it only has 60 rooms com­pared to the 107 in the ForRestMix.

Eng­land qual­i­fied for the World Cup by beat­ing Slove­nia at Wem­b­ley on Thurs­day – and man­ager Gareth South­gate has re­port­edly al­ready cho­sen ForRestMix as the team’s base and has even been to in­spect it.

The ho­tel has a num­ber of ad­van­tages. It is just six miles from Ze­lenogorsk, where the Three Lions will train at a com­plex be­ing built for Rus­sia’s youth Olympic re­serve team. It is a good thing they are not train­ing at the ho­tel, which has only two child-size goals on its grounds.

While it is on the other side of St Peters­burg from the air­port, the new high­way that cuts across the Bay of Fin­land, run­ning by the city’s World Cup venue Zenit Arena, has re­duced the trip there to less than an hour.

Thanks to the sea breeze, the air is much fresher in Repino, a week­end get­away for the Soviet in­tel­li­gentsia and now the nou­veaux riches, than in St Peters­burg.

Repino’s lo­ca­tion, how­ever, could back­fire, as at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when play­ers com­plained about be­ing iso­lated in Rusten­berg. The vil­lage is a 45-minute trip from St Peters­burg’s his­toric Fin­land Sta­tion on a rat­tle­trap com­muter train, but if there is traf­fic on the high­way, the trip to the city could eas­ily take twice as long.

A 15-minute walk from the beach, ForRestMix is cut off from the de­crepit Soviet sana­to­ri­ums around it by a fence, guard­house and boom gate. It has un­der­ground park­ing and a ‘he­li­copter pad’ – a park­ing lot with a large ‘H’ painted on it.

While this is an up­scale ho­tel by provin­cial Rus­sian stan­dards, it is still a far cry from the £500-a-night Au­berge du Jeu de Paume in Chan­tilly where Eng­land stayed dur­ing Euro 2016. Rooms – dec­o­rated in gloomy brown and gold – cost £100-£200 a night. Across the street, an old Soviet sana­to­rium has been con­verted into a dor­mi­tory for mi­grant work­ers from Cen­tral Asia, who hang their over­alls out to dry on the bal­conies.

Staff said ForRestMix was a fam­ily re­cre­ation des­ti­na­tion, and there were strollers out­side sev­eral rooms and an oc­ca­sional cry­ing baby in the lobby.

Judg­ing by other noises com­ing from the rooms at night, it is also a ro­man­tic get­away – a dim restau­rant with elab­o­rate drap­ery, white baby grand piano and a can­de­labra on ev­ery ta­ble is geared to­ward this clien­tele.

The menu was ex­ten­sive, es­pe­cially the 16-page drink list, and food ranged from sim­ple Rus­sian dishes to fancier fare like duck, crab and veal liver.

ForRestMix has a gym, pool and a small sauna and hamam, as well as a VIP spa area, but Eng­land will have to bring a few more mas­sage ta­bles at the very least.

The ho­tel could be con­sid­ered high qual­ity if not for the small flaws here and there: the stock art on the walls, a toe-stub­bing slight change in floor el­e­va­tion at a door­way, an out-of-or­der shower, an ‘exit’ door that does not ac­tu­ally open.

Re­view­ers have given the ho­tel a cu­mu­la­tive 4½ stars on TripAd­vi­sor and five on Book­ing.com. Some, how­ever, have not been im­pressed, with one com­par­ing ForRestMix on TripAd­vi­sor to a “tran­sit ho­tel in Poland for the price of lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion”. South­gate’s team might be in for a sur­prise.

Down­mar­ket: ForRestMix has been com­pared to ‘a tran­sit ho­tel in Poland for the price of lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion’

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