NICK HAMMOND settles into new digs in London’s leafy museum district – and finds a hotel that offers charm, calm – and keeps him from harm…
If I had a townhouse in Chelsea (which, let’s be frank, is unlikely) I’d like it to be akin to The Kensington.
It’s light, airy and spacious and the ceilings are satisfyingly tall; one can breathe here.
As I stride up the front steps, the newness of the interior brings me a moment’s pause. I’m told the refurbishment of the ground floor has just been finished for my benefit (not sure the concierge actually said the last bit, but I’m sticking to it).
So I hand my brolly and overcoat to an attentive receptionist and head straight for my favourite place – the bar.
This is a bar to stiffen the spirit and summon up the blood. Curving languorously into dim, wood-panelled recesses, The Town House bar is the shining centerpiece of an enclave that encompasses the Town House restaurant, a mini library, secluded fireplaces and a hidden whisky bar.
A gin Martini is the first order of the day to set some equanimity into proceedings and after a chat to the barman and a handful of seriously good Wasabi nuts, a Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned is the second order of the day.
By now I am in the swing of things. I find my suite – The Kensington – after only minor detours around the upper echelons of this homely yet luxurious hotel. My resting place for the night is enormous, with a fireplace, snug and marble bathroom and after a tinker with the air con I have just enough time before dinner for a nap.
There’s nothing quite like an afternoon nap, is there? To be able to drop off, warm and cosy somewhere, post-prandial, is one of life’s great luxuries. And to wake up, refreshed and ready for further shenanigans is the result.
The spa bath is fun – as is the TV at the foot of it and the waterproof remote (good job it’s waterproof as I dropped it in the bath).
And ablutions complete, I am ready for the restaurant. I’m joined by Lady Hammond, who is delighted by the intimate atmosphere of our little candlelit table. The restaurant can be discreetly closed off into a small, Parisian type affair (as per tonight) or, with dividing door open, become a larger, more cosmopolitan dining room.
On spying a reasonably-priced red from Chinon on the wine menu, we order it up tout de suite – a recent family sojourn there will live with us forever with its rolling fields of sunflowers, screaming swifts and omnipresent wine and crepes.
And we descend on a menu designed by Steve Gibbs, formerly of Caprice and Hix parishes. It reads beautifully and opens the batting with positivity with my seared yet barely cooked Hebridean scallops. Lady Hammond opts for cauliflower soup and then a delightfully oozing macaroni cheese with lobster and truffle. My bone marrow inspired dish is nearly there; the bone marrow should be the very essence of the dish but succeeds in merely playing a bit part.
No matter, it’s a lovely evening in a lovely restaurant and we depart – I for a snifter and small cigar on the tiny but comfortable (and heated) front terrace; Lady Hammond for the comforts of a spa bath, huge bed and telly.
Breakfast the next morning is nearly a shemozzle of my own making, having turned a 10 minute trip for a nearby meeting into an hour’s sweaty march; but it matters not a jot to the suave denizens of The Townhouse, where we are this morning ensconced (this time on the other side of the room divide).
I was way past breakfast ordering time, so Lady H manned up in my absence; yet when I arrive, a cold sweat down my back and all in a fluster, there’s a covered plate of the old E & B, complete with a round of toast and a steaming silver pot of coff.
Gawd bless Lady H and Gawd bless establishments like The Kensington. People like me need them to protect us from ourselves.
The Kensington Hotel, 109-113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London, SW7 5LR, Tel +44 207 589 6300. For more information, visit www.doylecollection.com.