Farnborough Road, Farnborough, GU14 6EL
The Aviator stands majestically before Farnborough airfield, its dark-tinted windows reflecting the aircraft circling the skies above. This 169-room hotel has been open for two years now and has been welcoming businesspeople, the affluent who soar into Farnborough in their private aircraft and hungry locals alike - the Aviator has provided somewhere truly impressive for all of them to dine and unwind. At the entrance of the hotel is the Aviator Deli, serving up freshly ground coffee and delicious breads. The Deli is the perfect place to enjoy a lazy breakfast, or to pick up some truffle oil for your pasta at home. Informal wine evenings are held here and guests leave taken in by the convivial and infectious atmosphere. At the back of the hotel is the piéce de résistance, the stunning Aviator Brasserie - an atmospheric, dark-panelled restaurant with breathtaking panoramic views of the airfield and its sweeping skies. This is the home of Andrew Donovan, executive chef at the Aviator since September of 2010; thanks to him, the Aviator is rapidly moving up the ladder of local gastronomy. Andrew's past accolades include winning the Norwegian Seafood Competition, a gold medal in the New Zealand Lamb Competition, and the 'Order of Excellence' from the Academy of Culinary Arts. True to his nature, Andrew is keen to increase his haul of trophies with his work in the Aviator kitchens. Andrew's cooking comes to life in the candlelit, atmospheric brasserie, and the menu of simple dishes with a subtle twist of sophistication not only left me struggling to select a favourite from an array of worthy winners, but also reflected the ethos of the hotel itself. Immaculate without being pretentious, this is the food that everyone wants to eat. I started with Andrew's pan-fried spiced prawns with mango, chilli and coriander salsa. I was an instant fan; the cool salsa was the perfect partner to the fiery prawns, and after sampling the dish my appetite was truly whetted for the next course. For my main I chose the slow-roasted belly of pork with buttered Savoy cabbage and caramelised apple purée, a beautiful dish of delicately prepared, melt-in-the mouth meat - each mouthful was comforting and enthralling. Cooked for a number of hours, the meat just fell at the touch of my fork, and was perfectly accompanied by the indulgently prepared cabbage and caramelised apple. Keen to support local producers wherever possible, Andrew had ordered this pork from new local butchers Turners & Sons, and each mouthful told me that the move towards ethical sourcing is one we should all be supporting. My guest chose the sublime dark chocolate pavé with honeycomb and roasted nuts for dessert, and I decided to indulge in the hotel's renowned doughnuts with a range of dipping sauces. The Aviator is truly special. Firstly because it offers a fine-dining experience at gastropub prices, and secondly because it recruits trainee chefs through their links with Farnborough College, training them to the level of top London restaurant chefs. Aviator is one to watch, and well worth making a journey to experience, whether by private jet or family car. Nobody should miss out on this level of exquisite dining.