Guest review – Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington in London

UK Hotels

I was so delighted when Sarah wrote to me a few weeks ago saying that she liked the blog but more importantly that I inspired her to start her own blog. Since then, Sarah has embarked on another adventure, creating a children’s clothes brand, Cub and Pudding.

Sarah is also a boutique hotel lover (that’s how she found me) and today, she kindly wrote a guest post about her staycation at the beautiful Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington, London.


A luxury staycation in London for a wedding anniversary

As I live in London, I can’t really class being ‘away on holiday’ until we’re at least ten miles clear of the congestion zone or else we could have saved a fortune over the years and have simply holed ourselves up in Greenwich Travelodge for a fortnight eating Mr Whippy’s on a pedalo in the park.

Hmm, not exactly globetrotting though is it?

I have, however, always harboured a secret longing to stay in a plush hotel in London for a night. This always seemed a ridiculously luxurious concept because even if we wanted to party into the wee hours, a cab home to our South London bed would still cost a fraction of the price of a decent London hotel.

Then came along Mini B and at last a marvellous reason to make the dream a reality, finally. Our summertime jaunt to Rye continued our tradition of celebrating the anniversary of having met all those years ago but this left us another opportunity to call on Mother Beee for a babysitting favour to milk the most of our third wedding anniversary. Without abandoning my mum at the crack of dawn to travel too far from home but wanting to wave adieu to Mini B and arrive at our hotel in time for an afternoon tipple – a London staycation was clearly the answer.

A five star boutique hotel at reasonable prices

I had a few yummy hotels in mind but there was one that had been on my radar for a few months – the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington, a five-star boutique hotel which appealingly didn’t mean parting with a month’s mortgage payment for a night’s stay.

When you think of South Kensington, a certain stereotype of hotel may spring to mind to accomodate all those Harrods account card holders’ weekly visits to stock-up on caviar but the Ampersand is a hotel which breaks this mould. It opened in late 2012 on the site of an original and imposing Victorian building which was also once a well-established hotel of its time. 111 bedrooms have been designed with the location of the hotel in mind, taking direct inspiration from the Natural History, Victoria & Albert and Science Museums with clever playing on the themes of botany, music, geometry, ornithology (study of birds, yup, I had to look that up) and astronomy. It’s subtly done – no giant photos of Einstein or petting zoos but instead elegantly styled decor with hints of luxury such as velvet armchairs and beautiful printed wallpapers that I was dying to steal for our bedroom.

Beautiful bedroom decor

Hotel Ampersand, London, UK. Deluxe studio room

I’m a suspicious sort and on many occasion I’ve fallen for a hotel from the cleverly lit photos on their website, only to discover that in reality it’s been a ‘show home’ affair where what you see on the tin is only on offer for the VIPs and you’re instead left with the room with as much character as a crisp packet in Hollyoaks. What a relief then that the Ampersand went beyond even my hopeful expectations. I’d bigged up our anniversary when I booked – I always do this kind of thing, much to Mr B’s embarrassment but hey, we’ve had a few freebies in our day thanks to our, ahem, frequent ‘special occasion’ bookings and I was massively impressed that our room was upgraded on our arrival to a Deluxe room.

The bedroom was immaculate – a chaise longue to spread eagle on and a TV with my favourite perk – pre-set playlists for all kind of music tastes, plus none of these shower-only let-downs, a decent sized bathtub with gothic but fabulous black wall tiles. The bed has since set Mr B and I on a new mission – it’s time to buy a new one at home. It was a giant feast of a bed with a sumptuous velvet bedhead and pillows so comfy you literally melted into them. I’m surprised we could prize ourselves out of it by the time we’d hit snooze for the fifteenth time the next morning – it trapped us in its clutches and needless to say, our own bed has paled into comparison ever since.

Plenty for the food enthusiast

Hotel Ampersand, London, UK. The drawing rooms with tea and cakes

On the ground floor there’s a drawing room with a French feel styled like a contemporary twist on Versailles Palace where afternoon teas are make it the place du jour else be lured by the champagne menu and bar-size snacks.

It’s a wonder you need leave the hotel at all because heading down to the basement level you find the building’s vaults have been transformed into a fresh-faced restaurant and bar – there’s an informal modern diner atmosphere and a deliberate intention to divert from the fact you are below-pavement on a busy London road and instead steer you towards Mediterranean holiday sun-lounging. The bar is open late too, none of this closing by 11pm rubbish and even I fought my usual habit of clock-watching past 10pm and frantically making a dash for bed in the fear I may not get my cat-like nine hours sleep – we were served cocktails by cheery bar staff at midnight and refreshingly, there was no obligatory ‘up late’ bad dance music in earshot. We didn’t dine in during our stay but the menu is my cup of tea – queen scallops with chili butter, 35 day aged Rib-eye steak, Dorset snails, mozzarella and garlic and an extensive pudding choice (always a winner for me) including hot chocolate fondant honey toffee, rosemary ice cream and pine nut crunch. This is no average room-service BLT sarnie kind of place..

Great friendly service

The staff were chipper throughout our stay and as we’d booked on a Mr & Mrs Smith getaway we had the bonus of a free glass of champagne each and petit fours in our room on arrival. Rather than have to remind people 100 times that we had a freebie to claim, the moment we checked in the receptionist told us we could have our champagne whenever we liked (yes please).

A big thumbs up from me all round, perhaps I’ll rethink that congestion-zone benchmark ruling afterall, I could happily while away a few weeks in the capital using the Ampersand as my base – if the Ritz in Paris was good enough for Coco Chanel to move in, I think I’ve got this place bagged.

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