SBT steps into the business traveller’s shoes, reviewing a stay at the Gatwick/Crawley Arora Hotel before jet setting off…
Travel, whether for business or pleasure, is an aspect of our lives which is important to keep as simple as possible: get there quickly and smoothly, without stress and the feeling on arrival is one of contentment. This is what makes the Arora Hotel a pleasure to stay at. Situated in the heart of Crawley town centre, The Arora Hotel is perfectly placed for pre-travel accommodation – far enough from the airport that you don’t feel stifled by the constant murmur of an aeroplane flying overhead, but close enough to not worry about transit time or cost. The hotel is located among many local business within Manor Royal Business Park, with superb transport between wherever home is and the hotel or to and from the airport: easy access to M23/A23 and M25 motorways, direct access to Crawley Main Line Train Station platform and direct bus transfer to Gatwick Airport. The Arora Hotel General Manager, Bruno Delrieux commented: “I don’t think the hotel could be in a more ideal location for business travellers.”
Having driven from the East Sussex coast, I parked my car in the hotel car park (a seemingly very safe and secure option for leaving my car over my 10 days away), and headed up to the reception area. This struck me as the height of simplicity and ease, especially compared to the many other times I have rushed and stressed over getting to the airport in the morning. Stepping into the hotel lobby, you get an immediate sense of the establishment’s four-star grandeur, with shined, bright tiled flooring, the sound of running water from the four story high fountain beside two elegant glass encased lifts. Behind the lifts lies a seating area, a bar and the AA Rosette restaurant, The Grill. I first took a wander around, seeing all the award-winning features, including meeting and conference rooms, training and banqueting facilities, plus a Health and Fitness Club, set with gym, sauna and steam room. Bruno Delrieux said: “The hotel is the perfect space to get away from the office for creative thinking, team building or one to one meetings.” He continued: “We have flexible facilities that can cater for two to 270 people. Many of the rooms benefit from natural daylight and all are equipped with the latest technology to ensure the conference or meeting goes smoothly.”
The room I was staying in, on the fourth floor, was minimal, yet had everything one would need for one night prior to international travel, or indeed for a business conference or meeting. It was clean, comfortable and quiet (if I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed it was even close to Gatwick airport, or near a motorway).
After settling into my surroundings, my partner and I headed to The Grill restaurant, tucked away at the far corner of the hotel’s ground floor. I made sure to meet the Head Chef, Tony Staples, who immediately offered canapés, and explained that this was the only restaurant in the area to have an AA Rosette. He continued to explain that he had been Head Chef at the Sofitel Gatwick Hotel, but had moved to the Arora to exact the same high standards there. He was enthused by the food he created, and recommended the A La Carte menu – whatever my guest and I wanted to choose. We tucked into a delicious and decadent plate of canapés, all beautifully arranged and eye-wateringly well presented, before being served bread – a choice of three – and deciding on our starters and mains. I chose a starter of goat’s cheese with caremelised onion and a mushroom pot, and my partner chose scallops with apple chutney and parsnip. Both looked magnificent, and tasted lovely. If we were to criticise, it would only be that the parsnip slightly overpowered the scallop, but they were beautifully cooked – a feat in itself – and delicate.
As we had been informed that one of the stars on the menu were the superb cuts of meat, we both decided on steak: I had rib eye, and my partner had sirloin. Both cuts of beef were exquisite: full of taste, juicy and well sized. Not only was it delicious, but also my steak was cooked to absolute perfection; I had said medium rare, and medium rare was what I got. Having done a few restaurant reviews over this past year, this was a rare delight. The steaks are cut from only British breeds, such as Aberdeen Angus, South Devon or Hereford and are chargrilled to order, which explains their succulent, fresh flavour.
The restaurant’s motto, ‘when dining at the Grill, always save room for dessert’ was apparently told to us too late – we were extremely full. However, we managed to squeeze in a vanilla panna cotta, and a pear and almond crumble with rich chocolate ice cream. They looked very good, and tasted very good, however not the best course of the three.
The atmosphere in The Grill strikes the perfect balance between professional, luxury dining and casual, homely comfort. The décor is warming and inviting, and in particular, the staff were impeccable: they were friendly, and thoroughly slick in their service. Bruno highlighted the huge benefit of having such a successful restaurant in the hotel and the area: “having the only AA Rosette restaurant in town means that business travellers can be assured of high quality food whether they are staying overnight and want to wind down with a delicious meal, or inspire and refresh delegates attending a conference.” I agree that, especially with this level of efficiency, this would be an ideal venue for a business lunch or dinner, as any guest would be attended to and waited on without fail.
The next morning, after an equally enjoyable breakfast (although still full from the night before), I made my way on the shuttle bus from the hotel to Gatwick North Terminal – an easy and stress-free journey, all organised by the hotel and only costing £3.50 as opposed to the £10 by taxi usually. I left feeling relaxed and looking forward to my long transatlantic flight: a sensation I could certainly get used to with the luxury of such a hotel stay.
Arora Hotel, Crawley
Address: Southgate Ave, Crawley, West Sussex, RH10 6LW
Telephone: 01293 530000