Location: Farnborough, Hampshire gay friendly hotel in hampshire
Perfect for: Experiencing that Top Gun moment
Farnborough has aeronautics in its blood – Britain’s first powered flight, flown by Samuel Franklin Cody, took off from Farnborough Airport in 1908; the Thrust SSC – the first car to go supersonic on land – was built at Farnborough, and many of Britain’s greatest aeronautical scientists and engineers have worked there. Visit and sample a slice of the high life at Aviator by TAG, a luxury hotel in Hampshire with an award winning Brasserie, incredible architecture and exemplary service. Just under an hour from London, it’s close to Ascot, Windsor and Guildford, and is home to St Michael’s Abbey, the Benedictine monastery where Napoleon and his wife are buried. If you’re really fancy, why not arrive by private jet – it’s right next door to a private airport! romantic weekend breaks uk
“Gentlemen, welcome,” the concierge says, stepping forward to open the door of our taxi as we pull up outside the ultra-modern Aviator hotel, “we’ve been expecting you!”
Too right they have – I’ve been frantically calling ahead as earlier plans which over-ran made us later and later. My flapping has been met at every stage with calmness and courtesy and it continues as our bags are whisked away and we’re escorted straight to our table in the dining room. romantic weekend breaks uk
“Something to drink?” a smartly-uniformed waiter asks rhetorically. “Martinis!” we chorus – gin for Monsieur 2, vodka for me, and off he goes to fetch them while we browse the menu and take in the glamorous décor of the sleek, curved dining room lined with black-and-white photos of real, and Hollywood, royalty.
Minutes later he’s back with two of the biggest Martinis we’ve ever seen, bone dry as requested and very, very welcome. gay friendly hotel in hampshire
Starters arrive and boy are they elegant! Mine, a jellified consommé with crab, cucumber ‘caviar’, tomato sorbet and a basil tuille, is ever so refreshing (not to mention beautiful to look at) and Monsieur 2’s white asparagus with Serrano ham and a warm poached egg is a delicious version of the Spanish classic.
My main course of hay-baked lamb with sweetbreads, peas and Jersey Royals is a taste of spring on a plate; Monsieur 2’s goat’s cheese risotto with spring vegetables, likewise. Both dishes are a little under-seasoned but the flavours shine through.
For afters I tackle a banana parfait with peanut, rum and raisin – surprisingly light given the description but completely delectable – while Monsieur 2 sips a glass of Camel Valley sweet wine. Service has been polished and presentation immaculate – and all memories of our race to get here are forgotten.
“Now this is what I call going up in the world!” Monsieur 2 jokes as we step into possibly the most stylish lift we’ve ever seen. Lined with alligator-effect leather and polished walnut, clouds passing by through a porthole ‘window’, the feeling is of being in a vintage private jet. We love it!
Stepping out onto the landing of the top floor we can see down to the lobby through the atrium. The white balustrades which circle each floor mimic the inside of a jet engine, with a central staircase looking, from above, like a propeller. The architecture’s incredible!
We step into our suite, room 410, and noting the lovely scent – fragranced tea-lights have been lit while we were at dinner – let out a collective gasp of admiration. “Look at that bed!” Monsieur 2 exclaims, looking at the super-king-size to our right.
“And that lounge!” I add, staring in front of me at the large L-shaped sofa and coffee table spread with glossy magazines.
To our left we glimpse a walk-in wardrobe where our bags have been laid out for us.
“And…strawberries!” we chime, laying eyes on the dish bearing four large chocolate-coated strawberries, drizzled with white chocolate. Aviator really do know the way to a man’s heart!
“What do you think darling?” I ask, “shall we stay or go play?” It’s very tempting to stay here, the room is really lovely, but on the way up from dinner we’d heard the buzz from the first-floor Sky Bar and decide it’s too good to miss out on.
After a very quick change we head down to the bar and take up position in an alcove. There’s only one cocktail for us: the Silver Jet!
Delightfully merry, we head up to our suite, helping ourselves to some mineral water from our complimentary mini-bar.
“You have to see this,” I say to a still-slumbering Monsieur 2, raising the slatted blinds that run the full length of the room. “What?” he mutters, but comes to join me nonetheless.
We can’t hear a thing, but “Oooohh!” we sigh, as a jet whizzes along the runway and soars into the air, for we’re looking out of our window onto a private airfield. The clue, of course, is in the hotel’s name, and the top-notch luxury is clearly aimed at the kind of people who own the planes we can see taxiing for take-off. We really are living the high life!
Eschewing the elegant elevator we descend the stairs to breakfast, noticing on the way that each landing boasts a small lounge area, larger ones in the case of the first floor reception.
“Blimey it’s busy, isn’t?” Monsieur 2 observes as we enter the restaurant, and he’s not wrong; clearly we were far from the only ones to have the idea of spending a night in rural luxury under 40 minutes from central London.
Taking our place at a corner table with a view of the airfield, we’re quickly brought coffee then head for the central self-service area. Given that we’ve been so cosseted since arriving it seems a bit odd that it’s an entirely DIY affair, but the cereals, pastries, continental meats and cheeses and mini salmon bagels are all very good. The queue’s too long for us to bother with the cooked selection but it looks to be of good quality.
“Ready for departure?” my co-pilot says. “Chocks away!” I retort and we head back to our suite via the gorgeously-appointed lobby.
Back in our room we hit the black slate-tiled bathroom for a soaking in the massive drench shower. Molton Brown products win brownie points from Monsieur 2; and as we dry off, we admire the beautiful aeronautical-themed sculptures adorning the room, too.
It’s doors to manual and cross-check as we depart our Aviator en route to Farnborough station. We’re almost surprised when the absolutely charming receptionist says, “Did you have a good stay?”; it’s been such a flight of fancy staying here that we were expecting a “Thank you for flying with us!”
We decide walk to the station, just 15 minutes away, reflecting on the no-expense-spared luxury and exceptional service we’ve experienced at Aviator by TAG. “Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been back in time to the golden age of aviation, before all this low-budget stuff made getting on a plane feel like getting on a bus?” says Monsieur 2. I couldn’t have put it more perfectly myself.
We travelled from London Waterloo to Farnborough with South West Trains. Best South West Trains fares can be found online when you buy your tickets in advance. Visit southwesttrains.co.uk/advance or call 0845 6000 650 for more details.
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