Newtown's The Brick Hotel is Out of Hotel Hell
Or so restauranteur Gordon Ramsay hopes after its stint on his Fox show.
Gordon Ramsay and The Brick Hotel's staff//All photos courtesy of Fox.
Infamous British culinary and hospitality expert Gordon Ramsay returned to televisions—and hotels—around the country at the end of last year, and along the way, he paid a visit to Pennsylvania.
The chef and television show host of favorites like Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares is taking on hotels in Fox’s Hotel Hell, which premiered its third season last month. The premise of the show, much like Kitchen Nightmares, exposes the atrocities of establishments and makes efforts to fix them.
On this season’s list of hellish hotels was Newtown’s The Brick Hotel, which aired Tuesday, June 28. The quaint inn, neatly surrounded by a white picket fence and garden, looks like a large—if slightly distorted—colonial home. With white siding and green shutters, it lends a welcoming air from the exterior, but as Ramsay so blatantly points out, the interior is far from welcoming.
The aging hotel has struggled to maintain the polish for which it was once revered. Though the exact origins of the hotel are unknown, according to its website, it was established in the mid-1700s and boasts a stay from George Washington.
From Left: The Brick Hotel's newly revamped interior; the historic hotel's restaurant.
Once a popular destination for Philadelphians, “The Brick,” as it has been nicknamed by locals, has made a poor impression on Trip Advisor reviewers. Thirty-six of its 75 reviews are “terrible” and just 18 are “excellent,” earning it 2.5 stars overall. Guest reviews include complaints like dirty sheets, wet towels and generally unseasonable conditions. One commenter mentioned that she had never heard of Hotel Hell, but the name of the show “describes [her] experience.” Another recent review asserts, “George Washington would have opted to stay at Valley Forge than stay here.”
Ramsay certainly agreed. Upon entering the hotel in November, when the episode was filmed, he was impressed by its size but not by the smashed windowpane by the reception desk. Within minutes, he peeled off a strip of dusty wallpaper, identified grey linens that should have been white and spoke to a hoard of dissatisfied ex-employees.
These former workers, as well as current staff members, criticized owner Verindar Kaur for her maltreatment and mistrust. Ramsay questioned Kaur’s too-frequent presence in the kitchen and her focus on the rooms upstairs, calling her “totally oblivious.” Going so far as to pull the fire alarm one evening to evacuate the hotel, the restaurateur announced to diners Kaur’s incompetency in terms of monitoring both bacteria levels and her team.
In both the kitchen and the guestrooms, Ramsay felt obligated to take an extreme hands-on approach. In his own room, he tested the hygiene level to be at 5,680 (anything over 30 is considered unhygienic). He and his team gave the walls and furniture a sleek remodeling with a palette of classy shades of grey.
From Left: Newtown Mayor Corky Swartz with Gordon Ramsay.
The kitchen proved to be just as dirty. “What a mess,” Ramsay said at first glance. “Since I’ve been here, no one’s cleaned it,” one chef commented.
The Brick Hotel’s restaurant has earned a far more favorable view from both Ramsay and diners. Trip Advisor reviewers complained most frequently of poor service but had a largely positive analysis of the cuisine, calling it “simple and tasty” and “to die for.” Ramsay did not enjoy the food he ate at first taste but complained far less about it than he had about other restaurants’ cuisine on the show. He merely updated the menu, replacing Kaur’s cauliflower steaks and tasteless soup with food suitable for large-scale catering, since the hotel makes the majority of its money by hosting events.
During the taping of the show, Newtown Mayor Corky Swartz and his wife Jane paid a visit to the hotel restaurant and met Ramsay. According to a Bucks County digital news story, he anticipated the show would bring positive attention to both the hotel and the borough.
Ramsay left The Brick Hotel and its few updated elements in the care of Kaur several months ago. “We can’t continue like this. It’s do or die, and we need to step up,” Ramsay told Kaur’s previously negligent son CJ, summing up by saying that he believes the reputation of the hotel in the town is on the mend. The manager’s recent responses to critiques on Trip Advisor claim that a large renovation will be taking place within the next few months, but, as Ramsay ends every episode by reminding viewers, it is ultimately up to the owners to keep the hotels up and running. Kaur revealed very little motivation on that front, and so we wait to see if this landmark will prosper or crumble.
1 E. Washington Ave., Newtown. Visit www.brickhotel.com.