It’s just as well that an overnight stay at St Martin’s Lane hotel comes with complimentary membership of the gym next door.
By the time I finally checked out after what seemed like 24 hours of continuous eating, I would not have been at all surprised to find that I had doubled in size.
Dinner the night before had involved a pretty huge amount of food on its own, but added to a hefty breakfast and a frankly massive amount of food which I dutifully sampled as part of its signature ‘Cafecito‘ afternoon tea and I felt as I rolled down St Martin’s Lane towards Trafalgar Square that I wouldn’t need to eat again for at least a week or two.
‘Location is everything’ so the saying goes – but when it comes to the afternoon drinks and Italian nibbles at the Baglioni hotel in Kensington, it seems location can be a double-edged sword.
I was invited to come along and spend the evening in the sunshine (yes, it was one of those gorgeously warm summer evenings which sadly seem to have ended…) on its outdoor ‘Bellavista terrace’ which, said the hotel, ‘is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a delicious lunch, dinner or aperitivo after work.’
This all sounded a rather lovely way in which to slide from the working day into a pleasant evening. As a former inhabitant of Rome and Florence I used to love the tradition of having a glass or two of something in the early evening, along with some delicious olives, bread, freshly-sliced salami and wodges of strong cheese.
The Baglioni’s aperitivo menu, available from 5.30-7.30pm every day, costs £15 and included, according to the hotel, ‘a sparkling glass of Bellavista sparkling wine or a delicious Italian cocktail accompanied by a selection of antipasti, salumi or cheeses.’
It is always a good sign of a hotel restaurant if you could imagine going back there without being an overnight guest and Apero definitely fits that description.
Tucked beneath the Ampersand hotel and the South Kensington pavement – though designed in such as way that natural light still streams into the restaurant, Apero looks at first glance rather basic and simple, but offers a menu which is anything but.
The decor might be unfussy, with white tiles and exposed brick walls in what is basically a Victorian cellar, but the food is quirky and fun and made for a memorable evening.
I and my friend Lisa went for the £30-a-head sharing menu, a selection of dishes selected by the chef, and kicked proceedings off with a pair of Aperol spritz cocktails, which seemed appropriate.
Aperol , the Italian aperitif which is essentially Campari-lite, has been the ‘new big thing’ in cocktails for about a year now – a lifetime in cocktail terms – and so it seemed time for me to try one before the fad ran its course. Our Aperol spritzes (spritzi?) with Aperol, prosecco, soda water and a slice of orange were very refreshing and were indeed reminiscent of Campari but with a sweeter taste. Continue reading Review: Apero – below the street but still a cut above→
In spite of living and working just a mile away from South Kensington and passing through it most days, I never felt as if I really knew the area.
To me it was a vague ensemble of various things – the museums, French people, a really good sheet music shop, the tube to Heathrow – but I’d never spent much time there. From the top deck of the number 49 to Battersea I’d catch a glimpse of what looked like some nice restaurants or a lively bar, but it always remained a fairly unknown neighbourhood.
Now I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not actually my fault I didn’t know much about South Kensington even though I was so often passing through – it’s because a lot of the best bits of South Kensington are hidden away.
From anonymous doorways hiding speakeasies to hidden gardens and underground restaurants, there is a whole new world going on in SW7 in addition to the many delis and restaurants which are full of tourists and students every day.
My most recent discovery was certainly not the kind of thing you’d come across by accident. Walk down Sloane Avenue and into the smart but dull entrance to serviced apartment building Chelsea Cloisters and behind an unmarked door with a small plaque saying ‘Barts‘ next to it on the wall you’ll find a modern-day speakeasy which is very much set in Prohibition times. Continue reading Barts Speakeasy South Kensington – small but perfectly formed→