The Ampersand Hotel
Where: London, UK
Long story short: Surprising amounts of personality behind a swanky South Kensington address.
Short story long: Before we can talk about anything else at the Ampersand Hotel, let’s address the elephant in the room.
The elephant is one I have never seen before in any of the hotels I’ve ever stayed in, from Cardiff to Caracas. It’s an easy elephant to spot as it’s on a pedestal right there in front of the windows.
Could it be a modern art installation? Nope. It’s definitely a bathtub. In the bedroom. Yes, not in the bathroom, where, to my mind, bathtubs have naturally thrived for centuries, but right next to the bed. In the window of my first floor room, looking out onto the busy streets of South Kensington.
I can see this being a very divisive design feature. It’s definitely a bold use of space. Truth is, I kind of like it. It makes me feel like an A-list film star who has made an unreasonable demand about where their bath should be and some quivering interior designer has had to indulge me. “You want the bathtub…next to the bed?” “YES, NEXT TO THE BED! WHY ARE YOU QUESTIONING ME?”
I’m not in my element in West London. I mainly walk around just thinking about how I don’t have the breeding or money to walk around in this part of the city. I mean, I can navigate the cosmopolitan coffee menus and complicated salads, but it’s not my scene, generally.
I was sceptical that I’d find the hotel to my taste. From the outside, it looks knowingly swanky, a semi-looming presence as you exit South Ken tube. Oh great, I thought. It’s going to be raft of people lining up to look down their noses at me and my non-designer luggage and off-brand haircut.
My fears were allayed, though. The reception staff are the opposite of snooty and the porter engages me in some conspiratorial working class banter as we take the lift up.
It’s the day of a tube strike, so my bus journey here in the middle of summer was less than comfortable, and I’m almost audibly sighing at the airiness of the room. Bold colours, a sprawling bed, that bathtub in the window. Yes, I thought, we’ll do well here. The royal ‘we’. It’s Kensington, after all.
Small details make me very happy in hotel rooms. A lighting situation that doesn’t require a primer in theoretical physics. A desk with adapters and USB ports, etc, built into the side of it (this should be standard by now) and – a rare treat, and perhaps a silly one, but you cannot go wring with a heated tile bathroom floor. Yes, in August. I’ll stand by the comforting nature of this amenity in any climate.
I was only staying for 18 hours, so apart from a cursory amount of lolling about in the bright public spaces, I only had two other experiences.
I always feel like you’re being doubly righteous by going to a gym in a hotel. I feel good about going when I’m NOT surrounded by luxurious bedding and window bathtubs, but to crowbar myself out of a comfy room and go? That’s beyond the call of duty. It’s a smallish basement exercise room, but high-tech and well-stocked with towels/waters enough to be more than the sum of its parts.
After a night’s sleep (I didn’t notice any traffic noise despite being on a busy high street), I also tried the breakfast in the hotel restaurant, Apero. It’s a cellar-like room, but sunny and staffed with servers patient enough to deal with a super-demanding American family who at one point were trying to get another family evicted just because they couldn’t get the table they wanted.
As much as I enjoy dining room kerfuffles, I was distracted enough by the frankly impressive buffet selection (like being given the keys to a high-end deli) and an a la carte menu that was an easy victory over my no-carbs intentions. Super high quality all round (The hotel has two other dining spaces: The Drawing Rooms and The Wine Rooms).
Reader, after breakfast, I took that bath. The sun on my face. Suds spilling over like I’m in a Cadbury’s Flake advert. South Kensington going about its business outside. I felt like that rockstar. For 30 minutes. Then I packed my cases, checked out, and waited for a bus.
Champagne tastes: The window bathtub experience, should that appeal to you, comes with the Deluxe Studio rooms, which start at around £420 per night.
Shandy pockets: The breakfast – given the extremely high quality and the fact you’re in a five star hotel in South Kensington – is very reasonably priced.
Paul Oswell was a guest of the The Ampersand Hotel
The Ampersand Hotel: