I live in the ‘fine’ city of Norwich and love to travel, however unless I want to go to Amsterdam or on a 2 weeks package holiday to Spain, my options are a bit limited and for flights to Europe my destination is nearly always Stansted Airport
If there are no traffic problems it’s a 90 minute drive to get there although apparently next year they are opening a direct rail link, but it’s not really what I would call ‘local’.
If I’m booked on an early morning flight I have to leave home so early it’s virtually the middle of the night, which is a real pain especially in the cold, dark of Winter and far from the ideal way to start a holiday adventure.
Last week I thought I would try something different and I stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Stansted airport the night before my flight. Rooms are from £119 bed and breakfast and the Hotel itself is literally the nearest building to the Airport Terminal. Some of the other adjacent hotels have regular shuttles, but the Radisson Blu is so close you can walk from the Hotel reception to Departures in less than 5 minutes.
Now, proximity is good, but the Radisson Blu isn’t just some grey boring airport Hotel that’s somewhere to sleep and convenient. It’s big, bold and beautiful in all the right places and after a recent £6million renovation programme it’s almost become a destination by itself.
Inside / Outside
Upon entering the Hotel you can’t fail to be impressed by the vast high ceilings and open space in the Reception area and Wine Tower Bar behind it. I’ve seen a similar design in another Radisson Blue Hotel in Berlin (that one has a huge fish tank in it, instead of the Wine Tower) and it gives this Hotel a real wow-factor too.
There are entrances to other spaces to the sides (function rooms, health centre, restaurants… more on this later) and the lifts connect the atrium to the blocks of bedrooms via dramatic, futuristic crystal maze-like walkways with glass on either side.
The rooms are modern, clean and very comfortable. My bathroom has a heated square section of the mirror that refused to steam up no matter how long I stayed under the awesome rain soaker shower for. There’s big TV and all the usual room services available 24/7.
On site there is a comprehensive wellness offering with spin and yoga studio, swimming pool and spa included, in addition to lots of smart meeting rooms where smart people with real jobs talk about stuff in.
I was at the Hotel for dinner and ate at Station 169, the Hotels flagship restaurant. The name ‘Station 169’ comes from the United States Army Air Force Base that was on this site during WWII and the restaurant is under the steerage of Executive Head Chef, Ben Nottage. Ben has a great track record, working with Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavrouche The Cumberland Hotel with Wayne Tapsfield and fourteen years alongside Gary Rhodes, so if anyone knows his onions, Ben does.
To compliment Stansted’s history Ben and his team focus on traditional and sophisticated Anglo-American cuisine. For dinner with wine you’re looking at around £50 per person so it’s not for travellers on a tight budget. The food is great though and I can definitely say it was one of the best meals I’ve had this year. The restaurant’s staff are just the right side of attentive and you really do get a 5 star dining experience for your money.
If your budget is a bit tighter there’s also the choice of lighter meals at the Wine Tower Bar, in addition to the Collage restaurant that is a bit more family friendly too, where kids under 12 eat free.
Back at Station 169 there are plenty of steaks on the menu and a good Fish selection too, I went for the ‘Pan fried Turboit, roasted salsify, wild mushrooms, champagne caviar cream with new potatoes’ together with some ‘Buttered French beans, fried bread crumbs, grated boiled egg with parsley’ as a side order, paired nicely with a glass of Italian Vermentino.
Despite temptations such as ‘Gin and tonic cured Salmon’ and ‘Pumpkin soup’ I skipped the starter, but I did indulge in a glorious apple pie strudel thing for dessert, that I can’t unfortunately remember the name of. It was fantastic!!
Depending on the time of your flight, breakfast is served from a eye-creakingly early 4am and there is a fab selection of fresh pastries, cereals and meaty cooked things to tempt you. What I liked about the breakfast set up was that despite the Hotels size the food doesn’t feel like it’s been batch cooked in an oven the size of a car and there’s a nice coziness to the buffet style breakfast. There are home-made muffins, delicious and mango smoothies to go with your full English and pint of tea or coffee if required.
Park & Stay
If you book in advance parking is just £6 per night (£12 otherwise), which is way cheaper than any park or ride places and they will take you an extra 30 mins to get to (At least). Park at Radisson Blu and you can be heading home before the Mid Stay Car park Bus has even turned up.
I can really recommend the Radisson Blu at Stansted, not just as a Hotel, but as the first real day of your holiday. I caught my early flight refreshed and stress free. Incidentally if you are wondering about the noise, I never heard a single aircraft engine all night.
Radisson Blu Hotel London Stansted Airport
standard rooms from £119 B&B
www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-stanstedairport or 01279 661012 for more info