Staying in a hotel just half a mile from your house inspires some unlikely behaviour.
If I were at home on a Sunday evening, I would probably make myself a drink and something to eat and happily settle down with a good book or in front of the telly.
Check into a hotel however and it’s a very different story. Even though I pass through South Kensington every day on my way to work, all of a sudden I’m infused with the spirit of adventure, of exploration, of discovery. I’m on holiday! Somewhere new! What’s outside? Quick, let’s go and find out!
So when I spent a couple of nights in two of its hotels – MyHotel Chelsea and the Ampersand – I ended up spending my Sunday evening having a very pleasant time walking around the streets of South Kensington, Knightbridge and Chelsea, discovering all sorts of places I never knew existed, and wondering why I would never get inspired to do this kind of thing at home, even though it was precisely 10 minutes walk away.
And what I discover is that South Kensington, far from being the fairly dull district dominated by a tube station that I’d previously dismissed it as, is actually incredibly lively on a Sunday evening.
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→