Zak Smith takes in West London’s latest ‘home away from home’
After a long, multi-million pound renovation, The Kensington Hotel, a neighbourhood favourite for French financiers, aristo’s and South Ken yummy mummies, has reopened. Sitting in the heart of South Kensington, the hotel sprawls across four enormous and beautiful white Victorian townhouses and dominates the area where Queens Gate meets Old Brompton Road. Nestling amongst manicured squares, the capitals finest museums and a stone’s throw from Lamborghini London, The Kensington has been set up to feel like an elegant, understated private residence, rather than the traditional 126 room hotel it actually is.
The hotel hardly counts as boutique, however the vibe one gets when entering disguises its size. Intimate and engaging, from the inside anyway, you would never guess its real proportions, which is important given many large London hotels are losing their sense of character and identity. Contemporary with a classic twist, it is one of the flagship properties of the Doyle Collection, a privately owned group of luxury hotels including the Westbury, Dublin, The Marylebone and Dupont Circle in Washington DC.
All of the action occurs in the Drawing Room, an airy, homely and buzzing space for breakfast, daytime meetings and afternoon tea, and at night, additional accommodation for those spilling out of the newly designed K-Bar. There are gluten-free options and freshly pressed juices from The Juicery so the hotel is clearly catering as much to locals as it is to international travellers, seemingly as popular with businessmen as it is with the lulu-lemon brigade.
At night, the K-Bar (above) came alive. Its dark hews and soft furnishings cocooned in wooden book shelves sporting memorabilia, tartan accents and distressed books, gave the impression of a masculine members club. The cocktail menu has been expertly crafted by award-winning bartender Ben Manchester, and even as a standalone venue, the bar justifies itself.
What was so surprising about the hotel was the lack of fuss made about the restaurant. Hidden to the side, it made sense during the day for breakfast and lunch meetings, yet somehow, at night felt something of an afterthought. This was a shame given the quality of the food, which, akin to the overall quality of the hotel, was really impressive.
Classic, elegant and varied enough for most guests, the food was enjoyable and approachable, enabling anyone from a business traveller to a romantic weekender to find the right dish.
The seared tuna to start was exceptional, plated exotically on a multi-coloured eruption of garnishings and drizzles. Sea bass was, well, sea bass, and whilst not the most exciting option on the menu, didn’t fail to deliver. The winner however was the apple pie, an almost breast like dome of hot, supple pastry filled with the perfect amount of soft apple, vanilla essence topped with a petite boulle of cinnamon ice cream, a combination so tasty I could have easily knocked off a second serving.
Rooms were set up like a chichi London apartment, with 60’s table lamps, ornate marble bathrooms and herringbone wood floor, making them a perfect crash-pad after a hard day perusing Kensington’s finest boutiques. A charming ‘home away from home’, whether for a weekend break or London stop over, The new Kensington Hotel is well worth the visit.