When we told our family and friends that we were heading over to East Midlands airport for a night away they all thought we were mad but actually, after having been invited to spend the night at the Thistle hotel there, we were very pleasantly surprised.
Having worked for an airline for 6 years I probably have more experience of airport hotels than a lot of people and really, they tend to be much of a muchness. I've been to the East Midlands Thistle before but never overnight and couldn't remember too much about it.
At first glance, it's not the most attractive building and this probably puts people off but once inside, this hotel definitely feels a step above the Premier Inns and Travelodge's of this world. The bar and lounge area are decorated in neutral shades and the restaurant has a rather lovely and surprising conservatory area, which is where we sat for our dinner. You wouldn't think you were in an airport hotel inside!
There are 164 bedrooms at The Thistle and several conference suites of various sizes suitable for weddings parties and business gatherings. We looked around one of the smaller rooms which had almost a medieval feel with arched windows, a feature fireplace and big heavy wooden doors. We were a million miles away from normal hotel conference rooms and set up for a wedding it looks really pretty:
We stayed in the Milan suite - one of the recently upgraded 'smart rooms' at the hotel. It was fab, spacious and full of mod cons. There was a massive flat screen 3D TV on the wall and a wireless sound system which meant we could play music from my phone to the speakers in the room - how cool! The rainfall shower was another luxurious touch we weren't expecting. I want one at home now!
The food wasn't fine dining but it certainly wasn't too bad. To start I went for a Mediterranean roasted vegetable flatbread with hummus which was really good and the other half had ham hock terrine with soft ciabatta with sundried tomato flecks on the side. Yum! For mains, obviously the other half had steak (surprise surprise) with chunky chips and peppercorn sauce which was nice but he'd asked for medium-rare and unfortunately it was a little more done than that.. I had a king prawn linguine which was was really good. It was cooked simply with garlic, chilli and parsley and the prawns were plentiful and juicy. A crack of black pepper and squeeze of fresh lime just finished it off perfectly. For pud I went for ice-cream - Ben & Jerry's (can't beat the best) and the hubby had chocolate fudge cake (of course). It came with a blackberry compote which was a nice sharp antidote to the rich choccy.
All that was left was to head down for breakfast for a fry up of course. Breakfast starts (incredibly) at 3am but then I guess that makes sense for early /late departures! Before we knew it, that was our mini break over and it was time to head home. Throughout our stay the staff were really friendly, from the bar and restaurant waiting staff to the gym attendant and the receptionist. They all went out of their way to talk to us and interact. Top brownie points for that!
I guess this review is really for people from outside of the East Midlands - people flying out or in an needing a bed for the night. Or people looking for somewhere central within the Midlands to hold a big family party or wedding. I would recommend all of you give The Thistle a whirl - its less than a 5 mins walk to departures and unlike most airport hotels they have personality and charm. A nice start or end to your next holiday!
*We enjoyed a complimentary night at The Thistle East Midlands but as always, my opinions are my own! If I don't like it, you'll know about it!