The Kensington hotel review: a modern Victorian classic
Welcome to a luxurious home from home in the heart of London
If hotels were people, The Kensington would be a Jane Austen hero, with a traditional Victorian exterior concealing a warm and vibrant core.
Located in a quiet street in London’s museum-packed South Kensington district, the hotel is part of The Doyle Collection group, which also includes the capital’s more widely known The Bloomsbury and The Marylebone properties.
But while more understated than its sister hotels, The Kensington proves to be a novel delight when I check in for an overnight stay.
Setting the scene
Made up of four 19th-century stucco-fronted townhouses, The Kensington combines Victorian grandeur with contemporary decor in individually styled spaces that are high on luxury but low on formality. The overall effect is a bit like visiting a very rich friend’s London mansion.
This eclectic mix is apparent from the off, with a decorative Pashley vintage-style bike parked in the hotel’s marble-covered entrance.
The hotel has a fleet of custom-designed Pashleys that guests can hire for spins around the neighbourhood and nearby Kensington Gardens - though after discovering the other attractions on offer, visitors may be unwilling to set foot or wheel outside.
Having been greeted by the friendly staff in the scented candle-fragranced foyer, I unwind in The Kensington’s spacious Drawing Rooms, where a series of original artworks add vibrant splashes of colour. Throw in year-round open fires and natural light flooding in from the large bay windows, and the result is the perfect spot for afternoon tea or general lounging.
For evening entertainment, head to the hotel’s oak panelled, art deco-esque K Bar, which has an impressive cocktail menu and a cosy, clubby atmosphere. After all that liquid indulgence, guests may want to bypass the grand wrought-iron staircase leading up to The Kensington’s 150 rooms and suites and take the lift instead.
While those cocktails are tempting, the rooms above deserve to be appreciated with a clear head, with statement headboards and wallpapers adding individual character to each.
Younger children can have a teepee in the family rooms, while my slightly older fellow reviewers (11-year-old twin daughters) opt to set up camp in our marble and gold bathroom and splash around the generous array of Malin + Goetz toiletries provided.
Flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and Nespresso coffee machines also come as standard, along with a plate of fresh fruit. Just be sure to leave space for the food and drinks being served up in the hotel’s restaurants.
Out to dine
The Kensington’s kitchen offers a small but well executed all-day menu of British and continental classics ranging from Jersey Rock oysters and tuna tartare to chicken schnitzel and aubergine and mozzarella gratin. Guests can dine in the Drawing Room, but being blessed by the weather gods during our visit, my companions and I opt to eat out in the hotel’s new al fresco dining area The Veranda.
A zingy tomato gazpacho is my standout dish, while my dessert-loving daughter is impressed by the fruit sorbets. But the biggest draw at this venue is watching the well-heeled South Kensington set sauntering past or frantically Instagramming at neighbouring tables.
The atmosphere is decidedly more relaxed when we head down to the Drawing Room the next morning for breakfast. While the service is a little leisurely, our pick of pastries, a fruit platter and perfectly poached eggs prove to be worth the wait. And in settings like these, who’s in a rush anyway?
The Kensington is just a stone’s throw from landmarks including the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall and V&A. But while guests may need to venture out for their culture fix, they can get a dose of exercise in the surprisingly large and well-equipped gym down in the hotel basement.
For those who prefer to get some vitamin D with their cardio, the concierge has top tips for jogging routes. Post-exercise pampering can also be provided, with in-room spa treatments available with Viva Therapies.
Yet while other thoughtful touches such as the small business lobby and understairs reading nook are welcome additions, what sets The Kensington apart is the home-from-home feel.
It is this warm atmosphere that ultimately ensures our all-too-brief visit has as happy an ending as any Austen novel.
109-113 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP. Room rates start from £384, with suites from £439; doylecollection.com