The Kensington Hotel London: A luxury yet homely stay in a wealthy corner of the city
As I was pulling our Dunlop suitcase past Kensington Palace and down Queen’s Gate, past an equestrian statue of Robert Napier (you’ll have to look him up, as I did) and several embassies, including Iraq's and Yemen's, I was reminded of a quote from my favourite film.
Robert Duvall, playing old school New York tabloid editor Bernie White in 1994 film The Paper, is telling an anecdote to Glenn Close’s character.
Talking of a $9,000 bill handed to a table of drunken and rowdy hacks – paid off by a “funny-lookin’ old guy” who just so happens to be Pablo Picasso, he says: “The people we cover – we move in their world but it is their world.
“You can’t live like them. You’ll never keep up. Now, if you try and make this job about the money, you’ll be nothing but miserable, ‘cause we don’t get the money – never have, never will.”
As let me tell you, reader, as this working class born-and-raised-in-a-council-house northern news editor – who somehow landed a decent job through luck and a dollop of hard work – walked into the luxury five-star Kensington in an Adidas T-shirt, joggers, and trainers on Monday, he definitely felt in his own world.
But I know my target audience and I know they too will be fiercely proud of their roots and I’m confident that, should I feel at home in one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Europe – if not the world – and walking past the multimillion pound Regency homes then anyone can.
And I did. The welcome was warm and friendly and not once was I made to feel like I belonged in a different world.
Alongside my partner and our two boys, nine and five, I stayed in a family room, which had a king bed and two singles, plus a bathroom filled with marble and brass.
On its website, the hotel promises children “their very own teepee, turndown service of milk and cookies, and a collection of classic children’s and family DVDs to choose from”.
While they never got this, us adults did get a hot drink and slippers laid out before a freshly made bed, while an ironing board and iron was brought to our room upon request.
The offering was completed by a large TV offering Chromecasting, which allowed us to link up our own devices, free WiFi, a fresh bowl of fruit, and a handwritten note telling us to enjoy our stay.
After an incredibly fun (and free) tour of the Natural History Museum, which is a five-minute walk up the same street as the hotel, we ate a three-course meal on the hotel’s Veranda, a newly built al fresco space, beside a Ferrari and as a cast member from Made In Chelsea casually walked past in his gym gear. “That’s Miles,” the missus said. “I think he’s French.”
I replied, much to my own amusement: “Well, surely he’s called Kilometres then.”
I was sceptical about eating with two Blackpool-born kids under the age of 10 at somewhere so upmarket.
The five-year-old had spaghetti from the children’s menu, though, and really enjoyed it.
And the nine-year-old burger-phobe, who usually detests the very thought of the things, polished off every bite of his ‘beef sliders’ – which were essentially two very well cooked burgers!
I enjoyed a steak cooked to perfection, while the better half had – I know, I know, she travelled to London from Blackpool for – fish and chips, and said it was the nicest battered fish she’s tried.
That evening we walked five minutes to the Thames and crossed the Battersea Bridge as I Googled house prices and remarked how much that sort of money could buy you in leafy Lancashire.
It was a route I remade the next morning during a brisk three mile jog.
While the hotel has its own gym, I’d rather pound pavements and could easily have run 10 minutes up the road to the impressive Hyde Park as well.
The Kensington is a perfect base for sight-seeing.
A three-minute walk to the closest tube station, it’s around 15 minutes by train to Tower Hill – where we jumped off for a visit to the remarkable Tower of London, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, and St Katharine’s Dock – and slightly less to Westminster, where you’d see Big Ben et al; and St James’s Park, the closest station to Buckingham Palace.
It’s probably worth mentioning, especially in the current climate, just how safe we felt everywhere we visited.
The hotel, museum, and Tower of London all had hand sanitiser available, while staff at the Kensington were wearing masks whenever we saw them.
We opted to drive to London, parking off Bayswater Road – around 30 minutes’ walk from the hotel – for £25 for two days after pre-booking online.
We did not have to pay the congestion charge or ultra low emission fee, though those in less efficient cars would have to cough up for the low emission fee.
Breakfast at the hotel was equally enjoyable, with the kids saying the pancakes were the highlight of the trip, and it’s hard to find anything bad to say about it.
It struck the perfect balance between being luxurious and homely.
The dog-friendly Kensington Hotel has new interiors using maximalist Thibaut wallpaper and Chinoiserie prints.
The new Veranda allows guests to dine on the throughways of the Royal Borough, while the concierge can create a bespoke itinerary with pre-booked tickets to attractions.
Rates start from £281 per night for a classic room with one queen bed, through to £488 per night for a family room.
See doylecollection.com/hotels/the-kensington-hotel or click here.
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