Travel Editor Pól Ó Conghaile spent the night at Bloc Hotel in London Gatwick Airport. Here’s his review.
Airport hotels are one of the biggest turn-offs in travel, but they don’t have to be soul-sucking spaces with Edward Hopper-style singles propping up the bar. A new breed of design-centric hotels has brought a funky (and functional) touch to the layover… and one of the best is BLOC Hotel at London Gatwick Airport.
BLOC has been dubbed the UK’s ‘flat-pack’ hotel, a boutique space whose rooms were constructed off site and slotted into a former office block at South Terminal. Similar to its sister edition in Birmingham, Bloc takes its cue from Japanese capsule hotels (Gatwick also has a Yotel, worth a look if you're transiting for just a couple of hours), and the result works a treat.
It doesn’t get closer to departures than this. Sitting in a box room waiting for the morning red-eye isn’t the most romantic vision of travel, but BLOC is literally just steps from South Terminal departures. No short cab or bus rides. No crossing of roads. It’s a ridiculously convenient location.
BLOC offers several types of rooms, including small doubles without windows and ‘Vista’ options overlooking the runway (corner rooms offer the best views). There are family-friendly spaces with bunks and a penthouse-style suite. I booked a Vista for a short overnight (pictured above), paying around €96 online.
At first, the 10msq room felt cramped – branded blinds and lights, together with dark woods and padded panels, come off clinical rather than cosy.
After absorbing that and settling in, however, I began to appreciate the devil in the detail. There’s a king-size bed, decent cotton sheets, a recessed TV, a bedside screen to operate lights, air-con and checkout (for a speedy getaway), a hairdryer in a bag and a smart space for sliding an open suitcase under the bed (below).
“We worked with a Scandinavian sleep institute to ensure your room is at the optimum temperature and humidity for a peaceful night,” BLOC says. I slept fine, but wasn’t enamoured with the neon pink window lights.
The bathrooms are wet rooms, so you shower in the same space as the toilet and sink – a feature with both pros (space, monsoon shower) and cons (don’t saunter in wearing socks after showering). It’s basically a mirrored cube, so prepare to face your unvarnished self during that 4am shower...
The rooms may be smartly functional, but there’s no scrimping. Towels are large and luxurious, there are two small, complimentary bottles of water and easy-to-access sockets beside the bed… never a given in hotels.
BLOC doesn’t do food, facilities, room service or vending machines, but it does offer decent guest discounts on Gatwick’s cafes and restaurants… 20pc off at The Grainstore or a free drink at Giraffe, for example. Café Nero, Wetherspoons, WH Smith and M&S are less than a minute’s walk from the lifts.
The Wi-Fi was free but annoyingly slow on my visit – I ended up working off the hotspot on my phone. I found the bathroom a tight squeeze, even if this is a capsule-style hotel, and though the soundproofing reduces aircraft landings and take-offs to a muffle (actually quite a thrill), I could hear wheelie cases and voices in the hallways both late at night and early in the morning.
I’ve yet to find an airport hotel to love, but this one I like. It’s a smart, simple idea and the North Terminal was less than 10 minutes from my bedroom door, via the monorail downstairs. BLOC is a solid option for flyers connecting overnight in Gatwick, and a concept that could work nicely in Dublin. I’ll use it again.
Rooms range from £59/€66 for standard rooms to £249/€278 for the Runway Suite as we publish. Check with the hotel directly before booking with another site, as it promises to beat or match competing offers.
+44 (0)20 3051 0101; blochotels.com.