Soleil - Review Page 3
The kitchen area is a spacious 4.6m square. It is impressively equipped and you gain the impression that someone has put a lot of thought and care into both the presentation and practicality of everything provided.
A large four-ring electric stove and ceramic sink dominate a central kitchen island. A microwave oven is mounted conveniently to hand and a wide range of pans and utensils hang above the island. An adjacent section of units provides further work space, with a second ceramic sink and an electric dishwasher. This section doubles as a cocktail bar, servicing the bar stools accessed from the entrance foyer.
It was a surprise to find that the huge fridge-freezer didn’t have an ice-maker or chilled water dispenser. Having said that, a bag of ice was provided and bottles of water can be stored in the fridge. There is also a separate small freezer that guests can use to make ice. Mind you, it is almost a relief to find something to criticise and make this review sound less like something dreamed up by an advertising or PR studio.
The kitchen benefits from several metres of under-counter storage drawers and cabinets. Each seemed to contain myriad sundry items that might be required, over and above the standard items such as kettles, filter coffee machines, toasters and food blenders, etc. There was still more than enough storage space for our own groceries. Needless to say, there was also a substantial stock of crockery, cutlery, glassware and other sundries. Everything was spotlessly clean and in perfect working order.
On arrival, we found that the housekeepers, Camille and Dawn, had produced a wonderful meal of stewed chicken in a rich local (spicy) sauce with macaroni pie, basmati rice callaloo and coleslaw. I have to say that it was the best welcome meal we have ever enjoyed at a villa. In fact it was so delicious that we enjoyed a second helping on the next night.
We were delighted to find that the fridge was well stocked with a comprehensive welcome pack covering our first breakfast, and more. The welcome pack included bacon, eggs, water, milk, juice, bread, butter and cheese. Welcome packs like these are fairly standard with most good villas, but what impressed us most, in many ways, was that there was also a very wide stock of staples like sugar, salt, condiments and seasonings. It is so frustrating wasting valuable holiday time shopping for these essentials, most of which will be discarded at the end of the stay.
Between the kitchen and dining area is a supplementary area of tiled work surface with cabinets and drawers. Furnished with five padded stools, it is perfect as a breakfast bar or casual dining spot. It also became my office for the duration of the stay. Even after installing two laptop computers and three large flight cases of camera and computer equipment, there was still lots of space in the kitchen/bar/office area.
The house is equipped with a telephone landline and wireless broadband Internet access. Working there was a joy. Not only did I have wonderful views over the pool and sea, but the constant breezes kept me cool despite the high temperatures experienced during our stay.
The villa has four bedrooms. One master bedroom is located on the ground floorm, the others on the upper floor. Galleries run around the open courtyards, giving access to each of the bedrooms.
There is also a self-contained annexe on the pool-deck level of the house, beneath the main floors. The annexe can be optionally rented when sleeping capacity needs to be increased to five bedrooms/ten adults, or when parties require the additional facilities of the annexe.
The master bedroom and en suite bathroom are spacious and offer a combined floor space of 310ft2/28.8m².
The bedroom is dominated by a king-size four-poster bed with decorative mosquito net. I say decorative, because mosquitoes were conspicuous by their absence during our 2010 visit, largely due to the lack of rain during the previous ‘wet’ season.
As one might imagine, the bed linen was of the finest quality. Sensibly, light cotton sheets were supplemented by a light cellular blanket, with a heavier counterpane on top for presentation. Linen is changed two or three times a week, as appropriate, as are hand, bath and beach towels.
The bed is flanked by bedside tables with attractive lamps. The lamps were not really powerful enough for reading, but fortunately a switch to the main wall lights is located just above the bed, so lack of light was hardly an issue.
Additional room furnishings included a dressing table with half-height mirror and four drawers, a separate swinging full-length mirror and a comfortable cushioned swivel chair. A security safe is provided and two wooden built-in 1.3m wardrobes, one offering full-length hanging space with shoe storage, and the other offering shelf storage. A pair of white fluffy bath robes are provided in each bedroom for guests.
The 20-inch TV and DVD player mounted high in one corner of the bedroom, drooping ugly cables, was largely unusable without first removing the mosquito net canopy. This seemed at odds with the overall image of traditional elegance. Hurray – something to moan about at last!
All bedrooms are fully air-conditioned with modern split units. Although not the quietest that we have come across, they were relatively unobtrusive and we could still hear the sound of the waves breaking over the rocks below the villa when we set the a/c fan to the slowest setting. We would have preferred to dispense with the air-conditioner and rely on the natural breezes and overhead ceiling fan, but being on the ground floor it seemed unwise to leave the windows open at night, despite the constant presence of a security guard.
The en suite bathroom is another design feature. A handsome, rolled-top wrought iron bath dominated, while an attractive ceramic washbowl mounted on a simple but functional shelf stand provided storage space for toiletries. Three wall-mounted shelf units offered storage for additional items and, as with each of the other bedrooms, an electric hairdryer was provided.
The bathroom features a half-tiled shower stall with sea views, when the window shutters are open. It is almost like showering outside. On seeing the 8-inch raindrop shower head, my heart missed a beat. There’s nothing I like and need more than good all-encompassing gentle shower to start and end the day. Sadly, it was not to be and herein lies our only substantive criticism of Soleil – water pressure. Or, to be more accurate, a lack of it.
The fact is that all we got was a dribble. On investigation, we found that the house relied on mains pressure supplemented by gravity feed from the reserve water tanks utilised by every property on Tobago, due to the erratic water system. Our visit took place after a long and sustained hot period with little rainfall. The water company were limiting supplies in order to preserve water stocks. As a result, we often had no mains pressure and had to rely on the inadequate gravity feed to power theshowers. We are assured that an electric water pump is now being fitted to overcome the problem. Hopefully this will also automatically overcome an associated problem of hot water taking many minutes to heat and never rising above ‘warm’.
Water pressure problems aside, the bedroom was both beautiful and comfortable. As with all the bedrooms, it also has its own 3.6x2.3m ‘lookout lounge’. These small private balconies are furnished with a pair of comfortable chairs. They are wonderful spots for quiet solitude and reflection. The lookout in the master bedroom also has a vanity unit with washbasin.
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