Until our visit to the Holiday Inn Winchester, I’d never come across a Holiday Inn with a full spa on site. We are already fans of IHG, and have stayed in Holiday Inns many times across many countries – we appreciate the consistency and reliability of their offering and their mid-budget price point. But until this experience, we’d mainly booked HI properties when seeking a comfortable base from which to explore a city or region. Now, with the introduction of the spa offering (and an expanded bar and dining service) in some HI properties, they have become a great option for a bit of pampering too.
In 2019 Holiday Inn Winchester carried out a £2.5 million refurbishment during which they built the ANA Spa in the basement, and expanded their lobby, bar and restaurant areas into a really large and attractive space across the ground floor.
The Open Lobby is staffed all day for coffee and drinks from the bar, and is also where guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the Odyssey Restaurant menu. Afternoon tea is also available.
Rooms at the Holiday Inn Winchester
The hotel itself boasts 131 bedrooms, offering standard and executive twins, doubles and family rooms as well as a spacious and well-equipped Luxury suite. Accessible rooms are available, with a lift serving all floors including the basement spa. Our Executive double featured a superbly comfortable king-sized bed, an attractive modern bathroom with full-size bath and over-bath power shower (and toiletries), a desk with sufficient power and USB charging provided, heating and aircon, flat screen TV with satellite channels, complimentary Wi-Fi, bathrobes, hairdryer, and tea and coffee making facilities. The extras in an Executive over a standard room are a larger double bed, a (chargeable) mini-bar, a laptop safe, and complimentary magazines. The website also lists seasonal fruit and homemade petit fours, but we were given a selection of chocolates and snacks from their Starbucks franchise instead, which suited us very well!
The ANA Spa
The onsite ANA Spa is a real gem! As well as a thermal suite featuring a sauna, a steam room, two bubbly foot spas, a sensory shower and a large jacuzzi pool, guests can also book a wide range of treatments including massages, facials, body wraps, and mani- and pedicures. The spa has its own lounge area where guests can enjoy a two course lunch or afternoon tea.
There’s also a well-equipped gym.
As spaces are limited, and the spa and gym are also open to non-residents of the hotel, it’s advisable to book not only for treatments, but for use of the thermal spa and gym (£25 for a half day pass if you are staying at the hotel, £35 if you’re not).
Instead of booking treatments and a pass for the thermal suite individually, you may prefer to choose one of the many packages available, some of which also include a hotel room with dinner, bed and breakfast.
Pete and I both enjoyed a 25 minute Back, Neck and Shoulder massage (£45) and were really impressed with the skills and professionalism of our therapist who busted a lot of muscle tension in our two short sessions. I have massages regularly, and these were very good indeed.
We also really enjoyed the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi pool in the thermal suite.
Eating and Drinking at the Holiday Inn Winchester
The redesigned Open Lobby has created a really attractive area for guests to relax. You can use the space to relax, read a book, and chat with family and friends. And you’re welcome to grab a coffee or drink from the bar, or enjoy a light or full meal throughout the day.
When the weather is good, you may enjoy the outdoor patio which offers a further seating area and is accessible through the main dining space.
All Day Dining
We have both lunch and dinner at the hotel, ordering from the all day menu on both occasions.
The Coastal Platter (£13) is a generous plate of smoked salmon, peppered mackerel, prawns, ctayfish tails and fresh Hoxton bread served with lemon and chilli mayonnaise, and tartare sauce. It’s really good and would be plenty for two people to share for a light meal.
The Ham and Winchester Cheddar Sandwich (£6.50) is also decent, with a tasty apple brandy chutney inside. The menu’s listed accompaniment flavoured popcorn turns out to be crisps instead, which we reckon go better anyway!
Our server Craig is helpful and friendly, and we can tell from the warm greetings he gets from several customers at breakfast the next morning that he’s known and well liked by regular guests of the hotel.
Somehow our afternoon relaxing in the ANA spa has made us ravenous so we go for a three course dinner.
Tempura Battered Prawns (£8.50) are good, tender inside and coated in a light, crisp batter.
Hummus (£4.50) served with a sprinkle of sumac and slices of pitta bread is a generous portion for the price, and also decent.
Pete can rarely resist a good pizza and he’s not disappointed with the Salami, Pepperoni, Red Chilli and Rocket Pizza (£13) he orders. The dough is tasty, well-textured and nicely risen around the edges, with no soggy bottom underneath. Toppings are good and the pizza is served with a pizza cutter to allow diners to size their slices as they like.
Note that all 7 pizzas can also be ordered as flatbreads at a slightly lower price if you are looking for a lighter meal.
I dither a while between Mushroom Ravioli Pasta (featuring wild mushrooms, £12) but in the end I crave something meatier and choose the 28 Day Aged Ribeye Steak (£24) which comes with baked mushroom, grilled tomato and fat, chunky chips.
The steak is cooked as I ask and I really enjoy the dish, though I’m a little discombobulated by the sauce. I order a Red wine and blue cheese sauce (£2.50) but what comes is a pot of fairly plain gravy. Thinking perhaps I conflated two items on the menu, I check but see that I read it correctly. I ask and am told it’s a “red wine jus”, and doesn’t have blue cheese in it. Not sure whether it’s a menu misprint or a kitchen misunderstanding, and it’s not a big deal but I’d have picked differently had I known.
The only other disappointment of our three meals in Odyssey is the Tomato and Onion Salad (£3) that I order on the side. The large sliced tomatoes used are the palest, most under-ripe examples I’ve seen for a long time, and both they and the few slices of red onion are overwhelmed by a pile of insipid mixed salad leaves.
For dessert we share the Rich Dark Chocolate Brownie, Cremaux and Milk Ice Cream (£7.50) and the Lemon Tart with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Sauce (£7). The cremaux turns out to be chocolate sauce, and the strawberry sauce is sadly more of a plate decoration than enough to eat. And we agree that the milk ice cream would pair better with the lemon tart, and the clotted cream with the lemon tart. But I’m quibbling and both desserts hit the spot.
What we like about the all day menu is that it’s got something for most diners, from sandwiches, jacket potatoes, brunch items and starters or nibbles to sharing platters, burgers and grill items, and pastas and pizzas. Bangers and mash, Beer battered cod and chips, and Thai green chicken curry also feature. The restaurant also offers a Chef’s roast of the day every Sunday.
Prices are reasonable, especially for a hotel restaurant that’s open all day, but there are also a couple of offers that can bring the prices down, including a “2-for-1 Pizzas” that runs Mondays to Thursdays, and a “Two Dine for £39.99” deal that’s always available.
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Winchester
Depending on the room rate you book, breakfast may be included with your stay, but if not, a full breakfast is £14.95 per person, or a continental is available for £7.50 each. If the hotel is very busy, reception may ask you to pre-book a time slot on arrival to help reduce queues and waiting.
The full breakfast is a self-serve offering that allows guests to choose what they fancy and it’s evident when we arrive that it’s really popular.
Everything is spaced out with dedicated areas for hot drinks, fruit juices, bread and toast, the hot food buffet, cereals, pastries, and fresh fruit. Sachets of sauce are found next to the juices, and butter, jam and other spreads are on the table of cereal and fruit.
The only station that’s a touch too small for demand is the toasting area. It takes a fair while for bread to make it’s way through the machine and slide out as toast, and we spot a few guests who, like us, decide it’s not worth the wait.
Even though there are lots of guests dining at the same time as us, there aren’t queues of more than one or two people for anything else.
The hot food buffet is good, with far better quality sausages than I’ve been served at luxury hotels! And I appreciate that the chefs do a good job of keeping everything topped up.
Extra marks for the beautifully cooked hash browns which are golden brown and beautifully crisp, unlike the soggy pale yellow that’s so often.
The only disappointment on the food front is the mini pastries which are cheap, dry and lacking in taste. For me, the delicious hot buffet and perfectly ripe fresh fruit make up for it.
One of the best things about staying at a Holiday Inn for us is the service, and that certainly proved to be the case at Holiday Inn Winchester.
The reception is manned 24 hours, and you can find a member of staff in the Open Lobby to help with drinks, snacks or a full meal throughout the day. Room service is available 24 hours.
Staff are well-trained and their sense of pride in doing a job well was really evident – we could see the friendly, relaxed but helpful way they interacted with guests. Craig, who looked after us during lunch and breakfast, was clearly known to and well liked by a number of regular visitors; the genuine interactions were a pleasure to observe.
Located next door to the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, and only a 15 minute hop on the bus to Winchester city centre, the hotel is also a great base for exploring the county of Hampshire and wider region of South East England. You are at the edge of the South Downs National Park, and within easy reach of New Forest National Park and North Wessex Downs.
We stayed and dined as guests of the Holiday Inn Winchester.