You know you’ve joined the jet-set when you spot a distinguished, uniformed chap at the reception desk who looks remarkably like Sully, the heroic pilot who saved his passengers by gliding his plane onto the Hudson River. Later, whilst Dougie and I relaxed on the smart sofas and supped on signature martinis, we tried to catch what was being said as two trainee pilots were being grilled by their instructor about a recent aerial exercise.
But of course, this should be no surprise as we were spending the weekend at the Aviator by TAG, a luxury hotel for elite travellers located next to the private TAG airport in Farnborough, Hampshire. This was a fairly last minute booking, made by my husband (hey, who’s the travel blogger in this family?) Remarkably it seems Easter weekend was a quiet time for the hotel as we were able to find an excellent deal online via Trivago for a fraction of the normal rates.
Everything about the Aviator exudes class and timeless glamour. From the stylish, metallic exterior to the stunning atrium with its white curved staircase, it’s Top Gun with a generous side order of An Officer and a Gentleman . It took my breath away.
There are three types of room and we chose the entry level, Aviator room. It felt very spacious: 28 square metres with a huge mirrored wall. Quality furnishings; masculine walnut panelling and a king-size bed with Egyptian white cotton sheets; LCD wall-mounted TV with free movies; a cafetiere with a selection of teas, biscuits and complimentary bottled water. I loved the leather banquette too. Banquette! What a fabulous retro word, sounding deliciously naughty. It’s worth noting that if you choose an airside room (we were delighted to be upgraded to this level) then you can kneel up at the window on your banquette and watch all the action on the runway.
The bathroom was sexy too, with its black glass walls and granite tops. You’ll need to book a suite if you’d like a bathtub but otherwise our shower was top-notch and the REN toiletries were a cut-above. Everything was gleaming too; extremely good housekeeping.
Having saved money on the room, we instantly splurged it on a tasting menu in the brasserie restaurant. It’s an inviting space, with walls covered in black and white prints of the Hollywood greats. The service was very attentive but fun too. We could tell the waiting staff were proud of the food and wine they brought to our table. And no wonder. It was a sumptuous meal, so delicate in presentation but so rich in taste. From the beetroot salad with Douglas Fir dressing to the apple puff pastry roulade with Calvados crème anglaise, this was fabulous fine dining. Dougie chose to have the pairing wines and I declined, then proceeded to try them all out anyway by having ‘just a little taste, honest’ from each glass.
Breakfast the following morning was very impressive with a vast display of fruit, nuts and seeds. There was so much available from the cold buffet I didn’t need to hunt the sausage or the scrambled egg, for that matter. A decaffeinated cappuccino was made especially for me and I also tried the freshly squeezed orange juice and a kale and forest fruits smoothie. All delicious.
We returned to the hotel on the Sunday evening, after a fascinating day spent at the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth, which is only an hour away. An early dinner beckoned and we were drawn to the second restaurant at the Aviator, One Eleven. The name was inspired by Sir Frank Whittle, the renowned British aeronautical engineer and member of the RAF’s Squadron No. 111, who emigrated to the USA to join the United States Naval Academy.
There are no reservations so it’s the perfect place to roll up for breakfast, brunch or dinner. It’s styled a little like an American diner with an inventive Tex-Mex menu at night, featuring dishes such as jambalaya, chilli and ribs. We loved it, drinking cocktails (again) and enjoying a totally different dining experience from the previous evening. So clever of the hotel to provide two contrasting restaurants, and ensuring top quality food in each of them.
I can thoroughly recommend the Aviator for an overnight stay or a meal/drink if you’re in the area. You don’t need to be travelling by private jet to relish the service and ambience of the Sky Bar or the dining rooms. We saw groups of friends, families and couples of all ages taking advantage of this superb hotel… plus a suave pilot or two, just passing through.
The Aviator hotel has been open since 2008 and is a striking, chic establishment. I think it’s fair to say it’s earned its wings.