Series 4 - The Castle Hotel, Brecon

Alex Polizzi visits The Castle Hotel in Brecon

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For her first assignment of the series, Alex faces the tall order of rescuing a massive 43-bedroom hotel in Wales that has seen better days. Reputedly the oldest hotel in Wales, the Castle of Brecon was once a glamorous destination for the rich and famous. Neglected for decades, it is now owned by Leon Ricci and his Russian wife, Natasha. With no previous experience in the industry, the couple admit they bought the hotel on a whim - and were even advised by an agent to steer clear of it. "He said, 'No, don't buy it - it's a well-known white elephant in the industry'," Leon recalls.

On Alex's first visit, she encounters a beleaguered, understaffed hotel with its finances in freefall. The Castle is losing up to £40,000 a month and the management seems to be out of control. Leon is manning the reception and Natasha is cooking breakfast, while most of the staff seem to have gone AWOL. Alex is stunned by the enormity of what the pair have taken on. "I'm horrified by your arrogance in thinking that you can do this with so little experience," she says.

Investigating the guest rooms, Alex is particularly dismayed by Room 18's dated decor and filthy bathroom, complete with pubic hair in the soap dish. She is also unimpressed by Natasha's extravagant room refurbishments. The next day, a furious Alex tells Leon and Natasha that things have to change. Her prescription is clear: if they want to save the hotel, the couple need to recruit more staff, improve cleanliness and rein in Natasha's chaotic renovations.

Alex returns a month later to find Natasha and Leon insisting that things have already improved; however, a meeting with the hotel's staff soon reveals that very little has changed. Revisiting Room 18, Alex is outraged to find the offending hair is still in the same place. In an attempt to make Leon and Natasha see where they are going wrong, she forces them to clean one of their own rooms. "I would like you to prove to me that, in fact, the two of you can do a room in half an hour," she says.

Next, she offers to redesign Room 18 herself, before taking Leon and Natasha to visit her own hotel in Devon, where they get a taste of how a luxury hotel is supposed to be. In the face of mounting pressure, Leon and Natasha finally decide they are no longer up to the challenge of running the Castle by themselves and decide to hire an experienced general manager to take the reins.

On Alex's final visit, she is pleased to find a reinvigorated hotel preparing for its first major event - a hog roast for 100 guests. Moreover, Alex's refurbishment of the contentious Room 18 has given Leon and Natasha an agreed template for how to redevelop the hotel. With the party in full swing and guests signing up for a club offering special events at the hotel, Alex is relieved to see that Leon and Natasha are finally putting the pride back into the Castle of Brecon.



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