You can read more about the photo shoot itself here, but this is my review of the hotel itself.
So! Let’s start with location. Farnborough is in Hampshire, but pretty damn close to Surrey. I was expecting it to be a bit of a mission in the car from my house on the Surrey/Sussex border but I was surprised at how quickly and easily I got to the hotel. It’s under half an hour from Guildford in the car and from London it’s only 35 minutes on the train. Of course, this is assuming you haven’t come by private jet and landed at Farnborough Airport, in which case you’re basically at the hotel already. Swanky.
As the name implies, there’s a strong aviation theme at this hotel. Perhaps unsurprising, as it serves Farnborough Airport. Farnborough Airport is a private airport, a pretty important one too, and it’s rather fascinating to watch the private jets fly in and out. *Best Troy McClure voice*, you may recognise the airport from such successful blockbuster hits as Inception and Quantum of Solace. I resisted painting my phone number in 10ft tall letters on the airfield, as desperate as I was to end my stay with at least one plane-owning friend.
The hotel has four stars, but I suspect the only reason it doesn’t have five is due to the bizarre way the star system works. No, there isn’t a pool or valet service, but having stayed in a lot of five star hotels I would say that the service at this hotel is comparable to, if not better than, many of the five star hotels I’ve stayed in.
It’s an unusual building from the outside, very cool tho. Modern. I liked it a lot. The car park was free (yey!) and a decent size so parking was no problem at all.
The hotel is breathtaking from the moment you step inside. The stairway is stunning, wonderfully modern and gorgeously gorgeous. You proceed up this stairway to reception to check in. I was early, but my room was ready (never a bad thing) and the staff at reception were nice and friendly. Having been emotionally scarred by my TEN POUNDS A DAY wifi experience at The Strand Palace during London Fashion Week, I waited with gritted teeth when I asked what the wifi situation was like in this hotel. So I was pleased to hear that free (and fast) wifi was available throughout the hotel and I was pleasantly surprised that the receptionist asked how many deivces I had with me so that I could have a code for each. It was a simple detail, but that kind of attention to detail is what makes me say this should be a five star hotel. I don’t want to go on about it, but when I had four devices with me at The Strand Palace (laptop, netbook, tab, iPhone) my TEN POUNDS A DAY only covered one device. Completely criminal, and all too common in hotels these days.
I took the lift to my room, and the lifts certainly hadn’t been ignored when it came to design. The interior walls had a moc-croc effect and there were little portholes with animated clouds slowly drifting by as if you really were in a purdy lil aereoplane.
I had a suite on the top floor so got out at 4th. The first thing that I had to do was take a snap of the view below. It was pretty awesome and I didn’t get bored of peering over the ledge throughout my stay.
I found my room (room 409 if you’re desperate to know exactly which room this review relates to) and continued to be amazed. Those who know me will know I’m pretty hard to impress. I stay in hotels all year round and have been lucky enough to stay in some of the nicest hotels in London, New York, Monaco, LA, Madrid, Sydney and so on…I am kinda obsessed with hotels and their little details are what makes them stand out from the rest. Obviously staying in a suite rather than ‘just a room’ is always a pleasure, but this was a great suite. It was bigger than my old London apartment, for chrissake.
Put it this way, the room was big enough to warrant having two televisions. (And yes, I was watching Friends when I took the above photo).
As well as the impressive lounge area and bedroom area. The bathroom was a complete treat. A huge shower (with one of those lovely big heads), a huge bath, and suitably sexy dark tiling. This is how my bathroom would be in my house, if I couldn’t practically fit my entire house into this bathroom.
The complimentary toiletries were of a decent size and smelled fantastic. The bathrobes were gorgeous waffle ones rather than those annoyingly heavy ‘I’ve been laundered too many times but five years ago I was fluffy’ terry ones that so many hotels provide. And the slippers were bouncy and squidgy and heartwarming. (If you’re a big fan of slippers anyway – which I am).
In fact, all the details within the room were worthy of note. The aviation theme was really classy, it wasn’t remotely tacky or overplayed. (In my head I’m comparing to the ludicrously expensive high-end Disney hotels where the themes just become ridiculous).
I couldn’t make great use of it as I was only staying for one night, but having a walk-in wardrobe was the real highlight of the suite for me. Again, it’s this awesome attention to detail. Other things that ticked the happy boxes were the decent sized desk, free movies (there was a huge library of new releases ready to be watched), full sized hairdryer, full sized iron and ironing board, wonderfully stocked (and free) mini-bar which had plenty of wine as well as gin (they clearly knew I was coming). Oh and the turndown service! Yeah, I never get bored of a turndown service. After working all day Saturday afternoon I returned to my room to find the lights dimmed, curtains drawn, candles lit, classical music quietly piped through the Bose sound-system and the bed ready for action. (Or in my case, sleeping and late night QVC watching). Had I been there with my boy then it would have been pretty damn sexy. I found the whole thing rather enjoyable even without a boy, so I will definitely make a point to return with one in tow. (Update: Since originally posting this review I have returned with boyf – and everything was perfect. TAKE YOUR LOVED ONE. TAKE THEM NOW.)
But of course, it’s not just about the room – as lovely as it was.
How was the food?
As a dining location, I loved the decor…
And the good news is that The Brasserie matched up to the high standards I had quickly grown accustomed to since stepping foot inside the hotel. For my supper I started with the baked fig tart with goats cheese, rocket and a port reduction, I followed this with a wild mushroom and feta cheese puff pastry dish with savoy cabbage and a girolle sauce, then dessert came in the beautiful form of baked vanilla cheesecake and passionfruit. And, errr, if I’m honest – I also nicked some of the exquisitely pretty rhubarb dessert from a fellow diner.
For those reading this thinking “I don’t care what you ate – you’re vegetarian and your views don’t count”, let me assure you that I ate with the gang from the shoot and between us we probably sampled everything on the menu – from jasmine tea smoked salmon to braised pork belly to roasted halibut to pan fried duck breast….everything was well received. And of course, you can eat at the hotel without being a guest.
But before I stayed at the hotel I knew what I really wanted to try were the cocktails in the Sky Bar. When I tweeted that I’d be staying at The Aviator, I got a surprising amount of replies from people saying “OMG you have to try cocktail x”. I didn’t go mad on the boozing, I was there to work after all, but the Silver Jet cocktail I had (created by Aviator’s own barman – Aaron Hibbert) was pretty damn memorable…tequila, vanilla syrup, lime juice, ginger beer and chilli. Just wow! And the blackberry martini was very special too. Another Aaron Hibbert creation – Cirus Tea – was a truly yummy off-menu treat. Mid-shoot I asked if it was possible to get a soft drink that was big on either lemons or limes and Aaron created the indescribably delicious ‘Cirus Tea’ for me, and then he had to make one for the rest of the crew after they’d all had a sip of mine. The bar staff clearly know what they’re doing here, and I’d put them on a par with the amazing service at one of my very favourites – The Charlotte Street Hotel.
After a great night comes the most exciting part of any hotel stay (if, like me, you are obsessed with hollandaise sauce)…BREAKFAST! I’d actually decided I wasn’t going to indulge (hah!) but quickly changed my mind and ordered mushrooms and poached eggs on toast with lotsa hollandaise. And extra toast and marmalade. And a massive mocha. Yum! It was delicious and I was also furnished with the Sunday Times to enjoy whilst stuffing my face in a less than ladylike manner. People watching at breakfast was a highlight. There were American soldiers (IN UNIFORM) at breakfast which I found rather exciting, and there was a man who I decided was definitely a rock star.
We shot for the rest of the day and then check-out was simple and easy. All in all, a totally, totally fabulous stay. I will definitely be staying again, even though there isn’t much to do in Farnborough itself. This isn’t really a hotel you come to because you want to visit Farnborough, it’s a hotel you come to because you want to stay at The Aviator. You check in and you don’t leave til you leave. (You can leave, of course, it’s not the Hotel California, but there’s enough sexy in the hotel itself to not warrant venturing out).
It’s a great place to go for a weekend, espesh as a couple. And if you’re near enough to fly in (geddit?) just for cocktails or a meal then I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
My next task will be choosing who to take next time I stay…my favourite kinda decisions 😀
Wanna know more? Here’s their website.
Prices start at £250 per couple for two nights, including breakfast both days and one three course intimate dinner.