A catwalk stride from the ever-swinging King’s Road, set amidst a well appointed residential street of townhouses where Bentleys pretty much line the street like Minis do on others, Blakes is the quintessential luxury boutique hotel, with interior designer Anoushka Hempel setting the trend for small, design-led travel experiences when their doors opened in 1978. The mystique of the place is easy to understand as soon as you step into the black and gold lobby which shouts theatricality and decadence; a home from home for those who desire a more personal, low-key kind of service and a space that is nothing short of sheer escapism.
With 45 individually designed rooms and suites created by Hempel, along with a more recent Matthew Williamson courtyard, this discreet address is a Mecca for Chelsea fashionistas and those looking for something just a little bit special from their London staycation; whether taking a cocktail in the designer courtyard or Below Bar, wining and dining in the atmospheric Blakes Restaurant or enjoying a spot of seduction in one of the jaw-dropping four poster Signature suites.
Alas, for special occasions or just because you can, anything less than a Signature suite might prompt room-envy, for Blakes isn’t the place to hold back; from the fantasy white Corfu room with its four poster with floaty white drapes, to the opulent, rich tones of Cardinal or Library, it’s fair to say that there’s a setting for every mood and traveller.
With five tiers of abode that rise in size and excess, the ingenious Parisian single, reminiscent of a luxury train sleeper, is ideal for an overnight stay, as was my bold, masculine grey luxury double, chic rather than romantic. It seemed appropriate that I should find myself raiding the mini bar and wicker hamper of treats and watching late night TV (a remote control operated beast at the foot of the bed), for what could be more depressing than a four poster to oneself? Next time.
With a modern take on French Empire style, the supremely elegant Blakes Restaurant is Hempel all over and is the next best thing if you’re not staying (a must if you are). An all-day menu runs in addition to à la carte, offering something for even the pickiest diner, from comfort food classics (I opted for the generous free range demi poulet with an incredible jus) to fresh, vibrant dishes featuring Aisian ingredients and flavours. Vegan and gluten free diets are always accommodated, including breakfast (cue the pancakes) with everything cooked to order and no buffet table with flies in sight. It’s also an extremely popular venue with the local business crowd who prefer to secure deals over coffee and croissants.
There are the usual drawbacks of a small hotel, even if it is five star, for instance there’s no real lounge area for relaxing in, or spa, and the bar only opens Wednesday to Saturday. Nor was there a doorman to greet me or open the door on my way out. BUT uniqueness and aura always wins the day and Blakes is still pretty incomparable after forty stylish years. When I left to hit the shops and cafés of Sloane Square an abandoned Bentley, plastered with parking tickets, was being towed away outside. Some people.
Blakes Hotel London, 33 Roland Gardens, Kensington, London SW7 3PF. For more information and reservations please visit the website.