There is an art to Afternoon Tea, where a perfect composition of creativity, flair, luxury and tradition combine to create a memorable interpretation of this classic British ritual.
The Luxury Editor recently tucked into a great example of a stylish, avant-garde and thoroughly British Afternoon Tea at the rather swish Kensington Hotel. This was part of the hotel’s Fashion Forward Experience, inspired by the ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition, the outstanding Alexander McQueen retrospective running at the nearby Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum until 2 August 2015. The hotel’s Fashion Forward experience includes Bed and Breakfast accommodation, a stylish afternoon tea and admission to the impressive exhibition.
Here we review the Hotel and its Afternoon Tea.
What to Expect
Location – It comes as no surprise that the Kensington Hotel is in London’s chic Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea , a few minutes’ walk from South Kensington ‘tube’ station. South Kensington is London’s museum district, with its world famous Exhibition Road being home to The Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, and of course the world’s largest museum dedicated to design and the decorative arts, the very cool, V&A.
High Street Kensington, a rather upscale take on a typical British High Street, is close by, as it the Royal Albert Hall, which regular hosts world-class concerts and events. For one-of-a-kind retail therapy, then head to Sloane Street or the Fulham Road, whilst for luxe indulgence and plenty of sophisticated ‘bling’ then it must be neighbouring Knightsbridge.
Ambiance – The Kensington Hotel is a quintessential elegant South Kensington property, with bright white stuccoed exterior walls, and steps up to his large columned porch. Yet once inside one realises this is very much a modern hotel, with an eclectic, creative feel, bringing together classic British and continental European style with contemporary touches.
Check In and Welcome
Almost as soon as the taxi door swung open, the doorman came down the steps to greet me and take my bag. I arrived late, so the lobby was subtly lit, and fragranced with scented candles. The team were genuinely friendly, the atmosphere welcoming. This is always a great sign and usually an indication that the stay will be an enjoyable one.
Although it was relatively late, the General Manager Frits Potgieter came to reception to personally welcome me. He’s a friendly guy and clearly has a very good rapport with his team, so that must explain the great atmosphere in the hotel. My check in details were already prepared, I just had to verify them and sign and then within moments I was in the lift being taken to my suite.
If you travel frequently you may find that hotel suites sometimes lack that initial impact, that power to ‘impress. Yet walking into The Knightsbridge Suite that evening I have to admit to being ´wowed´. I love that feeling, the sensation of being excited about a new hotel room.
In its entirety, The Knightsbridge Suite is a 2 bedroom, 110sqm privileged enclave. For single or double occupancy the second bedroom is closed off, leaving the super elegant period drawing room, separate guest W.C., bedroom, dressing area and bathroom.
Living Room – It was a late spring evening in London, with a freshness in the air, but the suite was warm and cosy, and in the living room fireplace was a glowing faux log fire, which with its wisps of ´smoke´, (ingenuously created by water vapour, and all controlled by a remote control), made the thoughts of the journey to London long forgotten.
The overall design is classic, with Georgian proportions, including high ceilings, and plaster detailing. Understandably, considering the French flavour of South Kensington, the suite had a notable chic Parisian flair with sumptuously upholstered, gilt period chairs, and art deco detailing such as the beautiful 1930s Murano crystal chandelier and a rather cool retro-style lacquered cocktail drinks cabinet stocked with decanters of spirits and sparking crystal glasses.
There is a Bose speaker, large flat screen TV and DVD player.
Bedroom – Trying to divert my gaze from the chocolate fudge and plump plums of the welcome gift on the coffee table, I went into the bedroom. The feel is luxurious, quite sexy actually but understated and very elegant. Opposite the impeccably made king bed was another comforting decorative fireplace. Fresh freesias, in a trio of delicate glass vases sat on the mantel. In the corner alcove was a circular, velvet upholstered daybed, full of plumped cushions, with its own small flat TV.
Floor to ceiling French windows in both the drawing room and the bedroom opened out onto a balcony running the length of the suite, overlooking the street.
On the writing desk was a flask of hot water, and a glass tea pot filled with dried camomile flowers.
On the bed pillows lay a dried sprig of lavender and a wrapped chocolate.
Discretely hidden within a wall cupboard was the mini bar which includes complimentary soft drink mixers for the cocktail cabinet, and a la cart alcoholic beverages. Above is a Nespresso machine with a generous selection of capsules, and some shortbread cookies.
The dressing area had two double wardrobes, with security box, umbrella for the classic London weather, slippers, robes, shoe shine tray etc.
Bathroom – The marble bathroom is really special. With a heated mirror wall and under floor heating it was seductively warm and cosy. The full size spa tub even featured lighting, and had a flat screen TV; wonderfully decadent, the kind of luxury one wants in a hotel bathroom! There is a separate shower and twin wash hand basins…oh and the best thing? Well that would have to be the full size Aromatherapy Associates toiletries. The soap, shampoo, conditioner, and gel all had wonderful essential oil fragrances.
In addition to the complimentary drinks and coffee, and the chocolates in the suite, there was a beautifully bound hardback copy of the Alexander McQueen exhibition book, a privileged gift extended to all guests of the Fashion Forward Experience. Beside it was a small welcome gift bag of Doyle Collection Hotel goodies, including a soft bound notebook, pen, postcards etc.
Rest of the Hotel
The Kensington Hotel has a boutique feel, but in fact has some 150 rooms, from standard, to Superior through to Deluxe. There are three signature suites, The Brompton, The Knightsbridge and The Kensington, as well as two Studios Suites.
Spa treatments are available in-room, as well as in the hotel´s treatment room. There is no pool or gym.
I took a nightcap in the hotel’s cocktail bar, which has a period glamour about it, with flattering lighting and attentive service.
Breakfast is served in the hotel’s restaurant, ‘Town House’. Good cold buffet as well as an a la carte hot menu – I opted for Eggs Benedict and I wasn´t disappointed.
Fashion Forward Afternoon Tea
Of course, the pièce de résistance of my chic Kensington Hotel experience was the Fashion Forward Afternoon Tea.
Served in the hotel’s ground floor drawing rooms, of the newly refurbished Town House restaurant, the tea is a work or art. It brings together all the traditional elements for the classic British ritual, such as a wide selection of teas, finely cut sandwiches and warm scones served with thick clotted cream and fruity jam all served on fine china (bespoke to the hotel).
Yet it also had a modern edge, a homage to Alexander McQueen, with stylish, decadent cakes with original designs. Champagne flowed, and as a celebration of all things British, Frits Potgieter suggested I try the award-winning Nyetimber – seductive bubbles from Sussex, a blend of three typical champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, yet created with British style.
It was delicious with the fois gras cornet, and the luxurious gold dusted quail’s eggs (inspired of course by a McQueen creation).
Sweet treats included macaroons, panna cotta and light Genoese cake again inspired by a McQueen fashion creation, this time a clutch bag. At the top of the cake stand sits a red velvet and rose cupcake, decorated with chocolate butterflies, a homage to Philip Treacy’s red butterfly headdress that was part of McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection.
It’s a decadent and memorable way to spend an afternoon in London.
What made it special?
The friendly team really made it special.
The Fashion Forward Experience is a fun idea, and included in one´s stay are tickets to see the Alexander McQueen ´Savage Beauty´ retrospective show at the V&A. Tickets allow guests to join the next timed slot, so just turn up and enjoy. I am by no means a fashion guru, but the show is impressive not just for its remarkable content, the McQueen creations, but for its innovative presentation.
The Fashion Forward Experience £335.00 including VAT (Room, English breakfast, Afternoon Tea, exhibition tickets for two and gift). Other themed packages are available.
Standard rooms start from £246.00 per night.
Would I recommend it?
By the time one is reading this part of the review, I hope it’s clear that yes I would recommend it. The Kensington Hotel was a real surprise for me. It was so much more than I expected. Behind it classic façade is a on-trend hotel, with a excellent team. The Kensington Suite is one of the plushest I’ve seen in town.
Address: The Kensington Hotel, 109 – 113 Queen´s Gate, South Kensington, LONDON, SW7 5LR, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 589 6300