This place literally pops out of nowhere. When the sat nav said we were two minutes away we were pretty dubious; we were on a busy main road with a combination of run down council housing, abandoned buildings and tiny little corner shops (the type which look like they’re still selling the same rusty old cans of soup as a decade ago). Even when you get there it looks like a random office block from the outside, with nothing but a giant field behind it (duh.. airspace!). The car park looks like a business park and it’s the last place you expect to find a nice hotel. As soon as you step inside though, you’re surrounded by complete and utter luxury.
There’s the famous staircase running through the centre of the building and a load of fancy rooms which you can hire, where we saw trolleys of afternoon tea being taken – I imagine it’s a popular venue to hire out for a special event! The whole hotel is very sleek and sophisticated – there’s leather, dark wood and modern decor everywhere. The structure of the main part of the building is circular, with the Aviator Brasserie on the ground floor and the hotel reception and Sky Bar directly above it. Each floor follows the same outline, with rooms set down long corridors spiralling off the central circle. The corridors are quite dark, with simple, modern design pieces and lights on sensor which get brighter as you walk past. I imagine each room is similar inside – they’re a standard size with decent sized beds, a desk, a wardrobe with a tea tray inside and a walk in shower. Synonymous with the style of the rest of the hotel, there’s leather furnishing throughout and some random aviation-related pictures dotted about the room.
After checking in we were planning to use the pool area but hadn’t realised that they didn’t have one – we assumed that any decent hotel would have one but we were wrong! We had a quick look in the Sky Bar, but they only served cocktails and so we ventured out to “explore” the few surrounding streets. We ended up in a cute tea shop (of course we did! But it really was the only place around!) a ten minute walk away, and then stopped off at the local co-op (again, the only shop around!) where we picked up treats for after dinner. I’m seriously glad we did – the dinner was lovely but the portions were very small, though we did get several helpings of bread and butter. The food was all beautifully presented. We got bread and warm butter to start. The bread was actually a little on the stale side but it had a beautifully nutty flavour and spread thickly with salted butter it was impossible to tell. The waitress brought over more without us having to ask too which was nice 🙂
I was going to get the beetroot salad for starters but it sounded a little boring as it only came with a dressing, so I went for the oxtail consommé with porcini and oxtail tortellini and bone marrow. Marcus had the Gruyere soufflé with chargrilled apple, cheese espuma and a pecorino tuille. Mine was absolutely delicious, a beautiful pasta parcel filled with beautifully soft tender meat. Notice I said “a”. Singular. Yes I really was served ONE piece of tortellini. It was so small it was almost laughable – whilst it really was delicious it would be the kind of thing I’d expect to be served as an amuse bouche. The broth was brought in a cute jug and poured fresh at the table, and I would’ve appreciated it more had I not spent the first few minutes trying to seriously take in the size of the portion! At least there was lots of bread on offer. Marcus had a more substantial plate of food so he shared with me and it was delicious. It wasn’t a traditional soufflé – I was expecting the standard ramekin, but it was beautifully light and fluffy and came with a light and airy mousse (which again, was added at the table) and a pretty parmesan crisp on the side. Maybe the mousse was the espuma – we had no idea what it was!
For our mains I chose seared halibut with burnt onion, roasted artichoke, watercress and spiced lentils. Marcus decided on the fillet of pork with potato cannelloni, braised pig cheek, mash potato, black pudding purée and apple sauce. All of the elements of my main were absolutely delicious but something about it wasn’t quite right – they didn’t quite work together. The halibut was amazing and it was lovely with the roasted artichoke and burnt onions, but there was a bright green sauce that was a little tasteless and nondescript which added a lot of unnecessary grease to the plate. The lentils were beautifully spiced but just they didn’t go with the rest of the plate of food.
Marcus’ main was incredible though. Hands down the highlight of the meal, and enough to excuse any other shortcomings. We ended up sharing, as he always insists that we do when I prefer his main to mine.. he’s too generous 🙂 He was tempted to order a steak as he’d heard they were good but he was torn between that and the pork and I encouraged him to get the pork. The steak came at a supplement of £8 and while I have nothing against ordering it I feel like there’s only so good a steak can be; it’s essentially going to be a good cut of meat, cooked well with some chips – and we’ve been to some amazing steakhouses (and have plenty more on our list!). I feel as though the delicate attention to detail and beauty of the number of elements on the plate is one of the best things about a fine dining restaurant, and clearly you don’t get any of that with a steak meal. We wanted to try the triple cooked goose fat chips of course but we could order them as a side anyway 🙂 We both agreed it was the right decision and when the meal came out we were in no doubt. For a start it was beautiful – a ridiculously enticing plate of food. The pork fillet was incredibly juicy and pink – perfectly cooked and full of flavour, but for me the pork cheek was the best part. It was well seasoned and so tender that it literally fell apart. The potato canneloni was a lovely idea – soft mashed potato in a crisp shell and the mini poached apples were the perfect accompaniment.. and they were so cute! The only part I didn’t like was (predictably) the black pudding – I did try it but I really can’t stand the texture or the taste – but luckily it was just little blobs around the plate so it was easy to avoid.
For dessert we shared again. We were close to both ordering the chocolate assiette (white chocolate and Baileys shot, aerated mint, rum ice cream, chocolate mousse and chilli & strawberry chocolate ganache) but it seemed silly to order the same thing, especially when we knew each dish would be so unique and different. We shared that and the yogurt sorbet with poached apples, orange & tarragon coulis and crystallised walnuts.
The sorbet was absolutely lovely – light, fresh and the perfect balance of sweet and sour, served on a bed of sweet, biscuity crumb. It came with poached apple cubes, edible flowers and a fresh orange and tarragon compote. The tarragon didn’t quite work for me – it was a little overpowering, though it was a unique combination that I feel like a lot of people would enjoy. The chocolate assiette was faultless though. All of the flavours were so subtle – when reading it on the menu, I didn’t particularly like the idea of rum ice cream or chilli chocolate but it there was just the slightest hint in each item. The white chocolate and Baileys shot was amazing – strong at the top but incredibly sweet and creamy at the bottom. After that there was a rich, indulgent ganache cake with a beautiful shine and a gold foil top. Then there was the rum chocolate ice cream with a crunchy chocolate biscuit crumb. It was light and refreshing – sweet but not overly so because of the tiniest hint of rum. To finish there was a chilli chocolate cup – a rich chilli chocolate base with a soft white chocolate topping encased in a smooth dark chocolate cup. The chilli was barely noticeable – just the slightest hint of a warming aftertaste.. if all chilli chocolate is like that maybe I’m not so firmly against it after all. All of the items were presented on a beautiful platter, and in between each there was a light green foam to “cleanse the palette”. It was perfect. The whole meal was lovely, if slightly rushed. There was very little time between courses which was fine for us as we were going back to our room but if we’d travelled there just for a meal I’d have liked it to last a little longer.
We left completely satisfied as we’d been spoilt with seriously good tasting food and but being the greedy people we are, if we aren’t stuffed we still want to eat! We called down to reception for extra biscuits as already eaten ours that afternoon and housekeeping brought four new packs for us.. plus fresh milk for our tea 🙂 Combined with mini double deckers and Oreo eggs that we’d bought at the co-op it was the perfect evening snack!
The rooms were spacious and comfortable, and the hotel as a whole is nothing short of luxurious. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a pool, a steam room or a sauna. They have a bar, a brasserie and a more relaxed American diner style place at the front, but there isnt really anywhere to relax besides your room since they don’t have pool area. Even the bar was fully booked out with people having afternoon tea. The afternoon tea looked amazing but you have to pre-book so I’d definitely recommend doing that – if you don’t, you can’t even get a coffee, tea or a slice of cake anywhere. It’s £25pp which I think is a pretty decent price and from the trays I saw being brought out, it looked like there was a good selection of beautifully made cakes, and synonymous with their whole refined, luxurious vibe, it was presented in a more modern way than a traditional afternoon tea. As I mentored before, there isn’t really anywhere to go locally since it’s so out of the way besides the little tea shop we went to (“The Tea Shop Around the Corner”) – the only other places we saw were takeaways and charity shops!). Considering its size and location it served up a surprisingly good selection of cakes, scones and other baked items, as well as lunch items and all day breakfast. Whilst it would have been nice to stay in the hotel, that was a lovely alternative.
I personally didn’t find the beds that comfortable. They were a little hard and the pillows were crazily soft – the part of the pillow which my head was resting on sank right through to the mattress whilst the rest of the pillow then smothered me! To be honest I didn’t sleep well at all but that’s not uncommon for me as I often struggle to switch off and stop thinking at night.
We’d heard good things about the breakfast and obviously I woke up excited for a feast as always! It definitely lived up to expectations! We were offered juices as soon as we walked in and we also ordered tea and coffees which were brought promptly as soon as we sat down. There was a big table with a huge spread of breads, bagels, pastries and spreads (including a jar of Nutella!). There was a breakfast bar with juices, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and other toppings. Next to that was a continental section with cheeses, meats and a smoked fish platter. Then opposite that was the cooked food section, with the usual bacon, eggs, sausages etc and a mountain of incredibly crispy hashbrowns!
You can order items at a surcharge – Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and Belgian waffles for example – but there’s so much choice that it would be silly in my opinion. You can even get smoked salmon and thick carved ham from the continental section, and they bring fresh toast to your table.. so there really is no need! We started with cereal as always, and there was a decent selection. We followed it up with our first round of pastries! The chocolate stuffed croissant was a little disappointing though. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a but strange as I prefer a soft and squishy pastry to a light and fluffy one, these were neither.
There was a huge basket of them and they looked so enticing.. but sadly looks were a little deceiving in this case. They were a bit hard and crusty.. though the middle was fairly soft, and stuffing it with heaping spoonfuls of Nutella improved it greatly, so all was not lost 😉 The rest of the pastries were unfortunately a similar story, but the loaf of bread was incredibly soft and fluffy, and the fresh hot toast which they kept bringing to the table was a lovely touch – and it had a beautifully nutty taste, similar to the bread we’d had at dinner the previous night. As always we got poached eggs with our cooked breakfast course.. then I moved onto the meats, cheeses and of course I went to town on the smoked fish platter – which came complete with mini gherkins and sundried tomatoes!
One thing to note is that you really need to call in advance to make a booking for the Brasserie if you’re planning to go. We had the set menu included as part of our booking so we were lucky that they’d automatically booked us in but there were no slots free when we arrived so we couldn’t change the time we’d been allocated and we heard other people checking in being disappointed that there were no free slots at all to eat there that evening. There are almost no other options around there to eat – you’d probably have to drive to get to anywhere decent. There’s One Eleven opposite the Brasserie but that’s an American diner (which literally just does your standard burgers and hot dogs) though they did also mention they own a pub a five minute walk away so I imagine that could be a last resort!
Overall I would probably say that I’d recommend the Aviator Brasserie for a lovely meal for a special occasion but I probably wouldn’t stay here again. I realise that it can be impractical not to stay as it’s very out of the way and after finishing a meal late most people would love to just go back to their rooms rather than get a taxi somewhere.. which is why I imagine it’s popular to stay here. In terms of the hotel itself though, whilst the public areas are beautifully luxurious, the rooms aren’t anything special and the fact that there’s no pool/sauna/steam room and it isn’t near any nice surrounding villages means that there’s very little to do unless you drive somewhere else. If you do want to stay over, Guildford is a 20 minute drive away and it’s beautiful there – you could definitely spend the day there.. I just feel like arriving in the evening and going for dinner, then leaving in the morning after breakfast perhaps isn’t worth the extra money if you live close enough that not staying over is an option.
Link to their website: https://www.aviatorbytag.com/