EVEN the driver on our Stansted Express train had had enough. “Sorry for a rubbish journey on a Friday night,” he said mournfully, as our misnamed Express from London Liverpool Street station eventually shunted to a halt at Bishop’s Stortford.
Ejected into the night I joined the human chain of misery trudging over the railway bridge in the rain on to a replacement train and we set off on the last leg to the airport.
So when I finally arrived at Stansted I couldn’t have been more well disposed to like Radisson Blu Stansted, a beacon of glass and lights beaming out over the rainy car park. I swear the “Re, Mi, Do, Do, So” of the Close Encounters soundtrack played as I staggered through the glass doors into a buzzing reception.
Based around a huge atrium, the hotel has 500 rooms and suites which are amazingly quiet given that it’s right next to the runway. If you have an early flight to catch, the Radisson Blu is perfectly placed.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE
When you’re in transit, high-thread counts and luxury brand toiletries in the en-suite bathrooms are the last thing on your mind, but the hotel is four-star and has everything you need. There’s an on-site fitness centre and spa too, to help high-flyers unwind.
WINING AND DINING
There’s a choice of three dining options with contemporary Italian at Filini (pizza, risotto and polenta from £10), the New York Grill Bar steakhouse (dry-aged steak from £22 and pan-fried sea bass with chorizo and leek risotto, £26) and in the atrium, the Angels’ Wine Tower Bar serves snacks and light meals (such as calamari for £8). On a busy Friday night the first two were full, so I ate in the atrium and enjoyed the aerial acrobatics of the “angels” retrieving bottles of wine from the 4,000 stacked in a massive glass-enclosed tower. My mezzaluna with brie, roasted vegetables and pesto (£10) was a little underwhelming at the price, but the waitress more than made up for it by upgrading my medium glass of Lenora Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to large when she realised she’d forgotten about me. Part of the fun of dining alone is people watching, and the Angels Wine Tower Bar is ideal for this. The couple opposite were clearly honeymoon-bound, and then there were men-only groups, all shaved heads and leather jackets, like colonies of seals, and excited families heading off for winter sun.
The room decor is vibrant which is fitting for those with a flight to catch: this is not the place to settle in for a John and Yoko-style bed-in. There’s 24-hour room service but the massive TV showing Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs had already reduced me to tears so I sought human company in the atrium. Rooms have free high-speed wi-fi, coffee and tea making facilities and a hair dryer. As well as the comfortable bed there was a desk, reclining chair and en-suite bathroom with shower.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Having a plane to catch will always have you up and about in the morning and it’s a quick walk to the terminal next door along a covered walkway. It really couldn’t be easier. The breakfast buffet (open from 6am weekdays, 6.30am weekends) has everything you could want, from a fry-up to muesli to fresh fruit and pastries.
The aerial display did it for me. Sitting in an airport hotel restaurant or bar on your own is never going to be up there on your bucket list, but watching the Radisson wine angels’ bottle balletics is great entertainment.
If you’ve a plane to catch, you couldn’t find anywhere more convenient. Throw in a spotless room, a choice of food and bars, at a price that won’t eat up all of your holiday spending money, and the Radisson Blu Stansted is a haven right next to the runway. n
• Rooms from £96, although prices may vary so see website. Save up to 20 per cent when booking up to 28 days in advance, and if you book by 31 January for a two-night weekend stay before 31 August, you can save up to 30 per cent. Children’s accommodation in parents’ room and food free. Radisson Blu Hotel London Stansted Airport, Waltham Close, London Stansted Airport, Essex CM24 1PP (01279 661012, www.radissonblu.com)