Radisson Blu Stansted airport review
Taking a plane these days is a long way from the golden days of flight – endless luggage restrictions, even more security restrictions, overpriced prepacked sandwiches once you finally get on board… Who wouldn’t want to add a little indulgence to improve the whole experience?
And that goes double (triple?) when you’re facing a very early morning start, a flight with Ryanair and a departure from Stansted, one of my least favourite airports, not to mention one of the furthest away from our home in west London.
So the idea of a night in a four-star hotel, a proper meal with a decent glass of wine beforehand, a deliciously comfy bed and – best of all – a three minute stroll to departures the next morning? Radisson Blu Stansted Airport sounded like the answer to our pre-holiday prayers.
Invited along to stay the night before our flight to Tallinn, we swapped a stressful 3am car ride on the Sunday morning for a chilled-out mid-afternoon drive (courtesy of a friend) on Saturday. No tense shoulders and crossed fingers in case of traffic jams, we had plenty of time before check-in.
Having dropped off our bags, we decided to scope out the route to the terminal and pick up a couple of magazines for Minnie: even at a five-year-old’s walking pace or with heavy cases, you’d struggle to spin it out much beyond five minutes. Plus, that meant another thing off the list for the next morning. Top marks so far…
Tasks complete, there was nothing left to do but relax. Firstly, in our room. Or rather, our suite.
Walking in, the first thing I spotted was the huge bed, which looked like it probably had enough space for all three of us. Minnie also had her own single bed added in, so happily we didn’t need to share.
And even with the extra bed set up, there was plenty of space, including a table and seats in the corner, cupboards to unpack into if you wanted, plus desk space under the TV.
That was when I spotted the second room… Less exciting that the first, it’s distinctly more minimalist with grey sofas and chairs, plus a table and more chairs. Ideal, I imagine, if you’re planning any business meetings near the airport.
But also ideal if you want your child to fall asleep before an early start, but don’t want such an early night yourself – or to sit silently on the bed. It also meant we could spread cases out to get at the early essentials without any faff the following morning, or risk forgetting anything in a cupboard.
And with two bathrooms – one including a bath and overhead shower, the other with a separate shower cubicle, it meant we weren’t fighting for sink space at 4am when everyone was trying blearily to clean their teeth either.
As a big bonus, the bathrooms are stocked with products from the This Works range including Reviving Shower Gel which lived up to its name as I struggled to wake up bright and early. There was also a Deep Sleep Pillow spray which my daughter commandeered to be squirted on her pillow, to ensure she dropped off instantly.
The power of suggestion is not to be underestimated when it comes to five-year-olds. Plus it smells gorgeous.
That wasn’t the only lovely little touch: quirky artwork, including a snail heading off on holiday, a rather eye-catching statement lampshade and a Nespresso machine all helped to take this from practical pre-flight to indulgent experience.
I later discovered there weren’t any capsules for the Nespresso machine, but without a 4am start, I’m sure you could request them.
We were missing out on breakfast of course (sleep beats food when it’s the crack of dawn, although the breakfast buffet is open from 4am) but there was dinner to enjoy first.
After a pre-dinner drink. Imposing and soaring up to the ceiling, you can’t miss the wine tower, bottles stacked high (no wine angels during our visit) – plus a rather more standard bar at the base.
The hotel is undergoing renovations over the next couple of months, concentrating on the public areas, with the whole atrium being given an overhaul. Although the changes to the wine tower are still under wraps, there are plans to make it even more exciting, including a new bar being built around its base.
Frankly, it’s worth a trip to Stansted just to see how you can improve upon an oenophile’s dream come true. The trickiest bit is choosing: what to have, what to have? In my case, prosecco to start with, to celebrate the beginning of the holiday.
Then on to one of the Radisson Blu’s two restaurants: along with Station 169, with its American style and menu inspiration, there’s also Collage, which has a great buffet for kids that’s free for under-12s, plus an a la carte menu for adults.
So with macaroni cheese, chicken nuggets and bottomless cucumber for Minnie, I got to hoover up the delicious bread basket, before a massive starter of squid and a steak.
It’s not cheap, but so big, in fact, that I could barely finish it all – and we definitely didn’t need all the sides. Minnie’s realisation that sweet potato fries are even better than the regular kind did mean we didn’t have any of those leftover.
Then with that early start weighing on my mind, time for bed. Burrowing into the squashy pillows, it felt like the holiday had already started.
As it turned out next day, Stansted’s snail-like queues meant we all but ran to the gate before spending a three-hour delay sitting on a hot plane. No-one looks forward to an airport experience like that.
But a pre-holiday treat at the Radisson Blu Stansted? That’s definitely something to look forward to.
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Disclosure: Our stay and dinner was courtesy of Radisson Blu Stansted. All opinions and severe dislike of getting up early are my own
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