The Kensington London sounds like a palace rather than a luxury hotel – and if it were the former, the gal would be talking about the city home of Prince George and Princess Charlotte and their parents and a few distant relations and hangers-on. But think of The Kensington London, at the junction of Old Brompton Road and Queen’s Gate in South Kensington, and we have a super home that anyone can enjoy. The brilliantly talented businesswoman who runs the Doyle Collection has taken adjoining six-floor townhouses and made them into a hotel full of antiques, art, and little nooks and crannies.
Outside, there are now musical instruments hanging. Why? As the very-Italian GM. Francesco Sardelli says, this is one of only two hotels that partners with the Royal Albert Hall, ten minutes’ walk away. Stay here and you have access to special tickets, and behind-the-scenes tours, of the London Proms, the UK’s most celebrated annual music event. This is why there are violins and tubas hanging up, and they certainly excite interest, and business. Sensibly, too, Townhouse Restaurant and Bar serves an early pre-event dinner, from 5 pm. You could alternatively have a late afternoon tea, which apparently is so popular here that every two-hour slot, from 12 noon on, is filled most days: this is really a proper meal, offering such savouries as cheese soufflé followed by egg mayonnaise and cress sandwiches, to go along with white chocolate mousse and you can add a glass of Jacquart Champagne or have a Kensington cocktail, with Calvados.
This is a 149-room hotel that is perfect for eyes-open, well-travelled tourists, and its proximity not only to the Royal Albert Hall and one minute further on, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, helps, as do the many museums nearby (the hotel also has a partnership with the Victoria & Albert Museum). For business executives, they have a 24/7 LifeFitness gym, with a good array of different instruments-of-torture, and they recently brought forward Townhouse Restaurant and Bar’s breakfast opening from seven to 6.30 a.m. This is a clever meal, by the way: the art-filled club-like bar becomes a buffet, with fantastic pastries, and the à la carte includes the most-crimson eggs I have ever seen, darker even than those in Kyoto (these are Heritage Copper Marans, originally from the Charente-Maritime region of France). I had dined there too, joining local fashionistas supping alone in library-like corners – our neighbour had an Irish ribeye, fries in a cup and an Irish coffee. We sat in a more formal area, with shelves of really enticing books around us.
Francesco Sardelli is from Puglia so we had glasses of 2015 Imprint of Mark Shannon Primitivo, A Mano, Puglia, which somehow seemed to enhance the feel-good factor of the superfood salad. ‘Our chairman is into healthy eating’, I was told, but then Sardelli, looking forward to his Hurghada holiday next week, finished with tiramisú and I ordered a lemon tart flip just to photograph it (want to know what it is? Blend citrus and Stolichnaya vodkas and add egg white and, yes, lemon tart syrup!). Well, I do say that this is certainly one of those luxury hotels that does make you feel not only good but better for having been there. My room had lovely white orchids, even in the bathroom, and Aromatherapy Associates’ toiletries are always appreciated – easy to open, easy to get out, nice scent. The simple-to-work Nespresso came with 36 sachets, all labelled, and I had a pristine copy of Robb Report (there were stacks of decent newspapers, displayed in military order, as I passed through one of the reception rooms on my way out). Both a bellman, in a well-cut tweed waistcoat with Edwardian pockets, and the Mercedes driver, Jai, smiled and said come back, and off we went – airport transfer is thoughtfully included with the main suites. On the way, Jai, a former Nepalese gurkha, told me how every Thursday afternoon he drives a Belgravia Lady, capital L, who is all of 86: she goes to her hairdresser, has afternoon tea and takes a short walk in the park. I smiled at such tradition. NOW SEE A VIDEO OF MY ROOM, BELOW