Review by Fiona Duncan, published 28th June 2009.
Well, that was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in, a joy from start to finish. I left feeling refreshed, revived and ready for the off.
My time in my tiny Yotel cabin was short, four hours and 30 minutes to be precise, so forgive me if my report is sketchy. In fact, as I was mostly unconscious, I can't remember much at all, except thinking that I'd quite like to stay there forever.
My cousin Sara, when a child, took the cardboard box from a washing machine, kitted it out as a dwelling, complete with electricity and curtains, and lived in it contentedly for some months. I'm sure she'd be happy to take an entire holiday in Yotel Gatwick (or Heathrow or Amsterdam), where she could relive the experience. Just as in her cardboard box, she can shut herself away from the strident, confusing world outside and curl up in a safe, insulated space with everything she needs to hand. And I'd be more than happy to come with her.
And if you are as spectacularly lucky as I was, and go to Grange Park Opera near Winchester on a Friday night, then take the 5.50am flight to Sardinia the next morning for the Dubois Cup superyacht regatta, you will want to know about Yotel, too. Sandwiched between a magical evening of Champagne and music (where a new, true star, the soprano Claire Rutter, sang Bellini's Norma) and a glittering weekend on the Costa Smeralda, the time spent in Yotel was always going to be the low point in the proceedings. All things considered, however, it held its own very nicely.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Simon Woodruffe, who founded Yo Sushi, Yotel brings Japanese pod-style accommodation to Europe. Not being Japan, however, he opted for cabins rather than "pods" and the first pleasant surprise was that, while too small to comfortably swing a cat, my standard single was roomier than I had imagined. I had imagined sliding into a capsule, like having an MRI scan, and being shot out the other end when the alarm went off.
A single cabin (there are twins and doubles, "standards" and "premiums") looks like a couchette in a train with an upper bunk, at the end of which is a flat-screen television with full entertainment system, plus a pull-out desk (free Wi-Fi) and a minute bathroom separated by a glass screen with monsoon shower, basin and loo. The bed was a bit too firm for me, but excellent quality, as were the pillows and linen. The lighting was just right and the door heavy enough to cut out external sound. There's no outside window, but as the hotel is somewhere beneath Costa Coffee in the arrivals hall of South Terminal, the view wouldn't be that hot anyway, and the cabin felt fresh and airy.
Check-in and out was swift, the friendly lad on the desk gave me an alarm clock, I slept like a baby in my perfect cocoon and woke bright-eyed and ready, as I say, for the off.
South Terminal, Gatwick Airport (020 7100 1100; www.yotel.com) From £25 per person for four hours' stay. Adapted cabins for guests with disabilities.