The Kensington Hotel is situated in one of the best locations in London, slap bang in the centre of South Kensington at Queens Gate. It was once three separate buildings, then knocked together and renovated for £20 million by the Doyle sisters, owners of Ireland's largest hotel group: Bernie Gallagher, Eileen Monaghan and Ann Roche, all daughters of the late PV Doyle, the legendary hotelier who was famous for his attention to the quality of service in his hotels.
Following a discussion in the car on the way up to town about the merits of a good reception area (first impressions and all that), his Lordship and I were pleased to find ourselves, upon arrival at the Kensington Hotel, in a reception that ticked the right boxes. High ceilings drew the eye up to the first of many wonderful chandeliers that we encountered during our stay, great wallpaper, divine smell, a calm atmosphere pervaded, which increased as we were greeted at the desk and a platter was offered to us with some lovely warm flannels for our travel worn hands.
Check in was nice and brief, just the way I like it, our bags were whisked away, dinner reservations made and our car keys removed and after a polite enquiry as to how long we were staying and therefore would like our car taken care of, we were assured we no longer need worry about it. Great!
Also Kensington is now congestion charge free thanks to old Boris keeping that pre-election promise.
We wandered around the hotel as we were curious to see the renovations and were delighted to see that the hotel had pulled off that very difficult balance of modern and traditional British. The whole atmosphere was relaxing but exciting too. People were taking tea with friends or working on laptops. The areas were very cleverly managed into different spaces to give privacy and a feeling of community at the same time. They have a little open office to one side equipped with large screen Macs, the only computers to have in a hotel of this quality, running both Mac OS and Windows.
Through the Tea rooms you come to the Aubrey Restaurant and Bar, named after Aubrey De Vere, granted the Estate of Kensington by William the Conqueror. The modern British style here is exemplary and as we found out later continued in both the style of the food and the cocktails. There are 149 stylish bedrooms and suites, full-service gym in the basement and you can have a massage at any time of the day or night in your room.
We were escorted to our room, number 423, a suite, an oasis of calm apart from the odd rumble of traffic. Great bed, with posts at each corner and a mirrored headboard, we later found out this is a Chichester bed, which are in many of the suites in varying designs, which are especially made for the hotel. Decor was lovely and rich, purple chairs, heavy curtains; lovely dressing room area with good cupboards, mini bar, umbrella (which we later put to good use) and decent full length mirror. The bathroom was wonderful, all black and white marble, great bath with flat screen TV at the end (again this was later put to good use!), lovely walk in shower, and loo discreetly closed off by a door.
Nice plate of fruit and bottled water on the table, though no flowers, and so after a bit of a nibble and drink and a good look through the very comprehensive blurb his Lordship and I decided a bit of a walk and some culture was in order. South Kensington is lovely to walk around and we hoped to pass a few old haunts on our way up to Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery, we decided to give the museums a miss having done them quite recently with the children.
Afternoon tea was in full swing as we left, a mixture of cosmopolitan, European and old school all enjoying their little sandwiches, cakes, tea and champagne. The 'drawing rooms' downstairs were lovely, light wooden floor, fires, comfy sofas, armchairs, traditional pelmets and curtains in the bay windows, ornate side tables, hurricane lamps and large church candles and lovely bunches of red roses everywhere, the hotel's signature flower. It's a real mixture of old and new, traditional and luxurious, yet very much today, which is reinforced with many there working away on laptops.
After a lovely wallow in the bath, once I'd worked out which tap and lever did what (actually I should be honest, I had to resort to asking for his Lordship's help, sad isn't it!) it was rather disappointing to get out and dry with a rather dry, scratchy towel, not the plump, fluffy sort that you would have associated with the rest of the room. Anyway, we headed off to the bar, and as with the rest of the hotel, there was a very relaxed yet luxurious feel to it. It was a comfortable mix between old and new, modern bar and chandelier and more traditional style paintings and leather seats. The barman was polite and helpful but not quite as warm and engaging as a really excellent hotel barman can be.
We moved through to the dining room, lovely decor, lots of wood, which was quite quiet (this was a Sunday evening) but did not feel oppressively empty, and I'm sure that wasn't all down to his Lordship's electric company! Quite simply the food was fantastic, great choice, perfect portions and wonderful clean mix of flavours. Good service, though his Lordship had to refill my glass once or twice, but maybe that's something I should keep quiet about- clearly drinking too fast!
If the waiter had been trained as a fighter pilot with the requisite reaction times, he may well have been able to refill my wife's glass before she had to ask. Or at least been in with a chance...
Humour aside, we had a lovely dinner. To start with my wife had her favourite, smoked salmon, capers, onions and creme fraiche, scrumptious, I had a little taste myself, well I did try for more, but the fork prongs kept me effectively at bay. Her ladyship followed this with rump of lamb, butternut squash puree, root veg and then vanilla creme brulee. The lamb was exquisite, pink and plump and melted in the mouth.
To start I had the scallops which had a lovely gentle flavour so often lost which made them the best scallops I have had in England. I followed this with the cod, spinach, spring onion and potato gratin. A perfect modern traditional English dish. Lovely subtle flavours, where you could alternately taste the cod, herbs and sauce. For desert I had the choc chip brownie which was a mouth watering sticky rush of endorphins, a marvellous finish.
Her lady is fond of the bubbles and we drank a bottle of the Bouche Pere et Fils Cuvee Reservee, which went down a treat on a Sunday night. I also indulged in a glass of the Pinot Noir Couvent des Jacobins Louis Dadot, one of the top Burgundy houses, which was delicious, silky, plump and fruity.
I found the wine list to be stylishly put together as it offers the finest wines and great value.
Back to our room which had been turned down during dinner, Tv on a music channel, lamps lit, chocolates on the bed with tomorrow's weather forecast and on one side of the bed (his Lordships as it happened) a plate of shortbread biscuits, a flask of chamomile tea and slippers placed by the bed. Sadly no water was placed by each side of the bed and the original bottle, which was nearly finished from earlier, was not replaced.
My wife and I were supposed to attend a fashion party in Belgravia as this was London fashion week, but the champagne and wine had tempered our desire to rock into the night and we retired to our room. We had a lovely sleep and were woken up by room service with breakfast. My wife took the marble bath and I the marble shower. Singing may have taken place, though I understand it is not my forte.
After regretfully packing up and leaving our lovely room we went down to reception to check out, where everyone, as during our stay, was extremely friendly and helpful.We were then lucky enough to be shown some other bedrooms by the Guest Relations Manager; on the top floor are studio suites, fantastic wallpaper and great rooftop views, and on the first floor there are about 20 luxury suites, we saw one with an amazing crystal chandelier, beautiful wood floors and the most wonderful bathroom, with double sinks and claw footed bath. Fabulous ... maybe next time.
This is a quintessentially British hotel with a modern twist in a fabulous location. South Kensington is the stomping ground for the modern English gentlemen, it has some wonderful restaurants and is right next to the best parks in London. It is also a few steps from Prince William and Prince Harry's favourite night club Boujis and the bar Nam Long. Ideal for summer boating in Hyde park or shopping in Harrods. It is also a stone's throw from the V&A, possibly the greatest museum in the world. A perfect London base for celebrities and businessmen.
109-113 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LR.
Tel: +44 (0) 207 589 6300, US Toll Free: +1 877 849 6258
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