Just a few weeks earlier I’d been at The Kensington hotel in central London to drink cocktails at the launch of its new bar, the K Bar. Now I was back at the luxury hotel to spend the night and to see if the cocktails I’d sampled before were as good as I remembered.
The hotel, part of the family-owned Doyle Collection, has 126 guest rooms and 24 suites, as well as a gym and restaurant, and is just minutes from South Kensington.
I’d been given a suite for the night which was very pleasant, comprising a lounge with a vast, squashy sofa, a small but smart bathroom and a opulent bedroom with a four-poster bed. Having been in the area for lunch, I arrived at 2pm, a good hour earlier than expected, but the friendly receptionist was unfazed and allowed me to check in.
The room was quiet and a perfect retreat from the outside world if a break was what you were looking for, although I suspect most people would head straight out for either a spot of culture – The National History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert are all just a few minutes’ walk away – or to explore nearby Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
There are some lovely shops and cafes in South Kensington too – I was particularly taken by Maitre Choux just around the corner – and for people who don’t want to leave the hotel at all, there is a very nice lounge area downstairs where various business meetings were taking place, as well as families having afternoon tea, and several people just relaxing over a book or a drink.
While the welcome was friendly and efficient, there were a few minor things which could be improved upon and which would help lift the hotel from feeling like a 4 star hotel to a 5 star one. There was no desk, so if you wanted to work or eat in the room, you had to improvise with a side table (taking the heavy lamp off it first). The in-room information folder needed updating, and to find out what DVDs were available to borrow, I had to go downstairs and ask someone at reception to print out a list.
The room scored highly on having power points right next to the bed, solving the usual night-time hunt for somewhere to charge my phone, and the Caesar salad I ordered arrived promptly.
There was a smart espresso machine in the room, but no fresh milk, and when I asked for some to be brought up, it arrived with room service bill for £2.50 (the hotel manager later said that was an error). And a bit of joined-up thinking would really make a difference: just after I’d been shown to my hotel room the fire bell went off for several minutes, leading to the usual debate whether to ignore it or head outside. I later found it was a weekly check – it would have been nice to be warned.
Just after that had finished ringing, a lady came to stock the mini-bar and when she left I tried to open it. After wrestling with the door I phoned down to be told that it was always locked unless requested otherwise. Again, it would have been nice to be told, particularly as I was standing there when it was restocked.
Thankfully the K Bar downstairs was as good as I remembered it and it was good to meet acclaimed mixologist and new manager at K Bar, Ben Manchester, again. The cocktails themselves were excellent. My friend Ciara and I started off with an Aviation – gin, Luxardo Maraschino, violet liqueur and lemon juice – and a Final Letter, also gin, but with Green Chartreuse and St Germain elderflower.
The atmosphere at the bar is perfect for both pre- and post-dinner drinks and I’d certainly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a nice bar for after-work drinks.
Two minor quibbles though would be that there are no handbag clips for people sitting up at the bar, so you either have put your bag out of reach on the floor, or put it on your lap or the bar – not ideal. And a hint on the menu as to the size of cocktail would be good, as it’s easy to end up with something vast when you’re hoping for something small and dainty.
Dinner was a very slick affair, with excellent service from our waiter Mattio and extremely good food. We started with Dorset crab on toast with watercress and apple, and Balmoral Estate venison carpaccio with creamed horseradish – both were delicious.
The high-quality of the food continued into the mains, where we both opted for fish: seared scallops and a whole sea bass with samphire. However there was a good choice of meat too, from roast pheasant and coq au vin to fillet or rib-eye steak done on a Josper grill. Desserts of creme brulee and dark chocolate fondant were also first-class.
Turndowns might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m glad I said yes to the service at the Kensington as I returned to my room – after a nightcap back at the K Bar – to find the curtains drawn, lights dimmed, slippers by my bed, chocolates on my pillows and even a freshly-brewed pot of tea brewing away in the lounge.
Breakfast the next day was a very healthy affair to make up for the previous night’s food and alcohol excesses, but it was still very indulgent, with a huge buffet spread out across two tables, and a good selection of cooked options.
Having tried some green cocktails last night it seemed fitting to continue the theme, this time with a London Greens juice – pear, spinach, cucumber, basil, lime and coconut water (£6.50) – from its extensive juice menu – and an egg-white omelette with chia seeds and spinach.
A short stroll took me back to the office and reality, but I’ll certainly be back. The Kensington’s bar and restaurant are too good just to be enjoyed by tourists.
109 – 113 Queen’s Gate
London SW7 5LR
Tel: +44 20 7589 6300