Following on from our first hotel review at Puro Hotel, Palma de Mallorca, we thought it was best to follow up with another top-rated hotel this time here in our home-city London. The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington.
Located in South Kensington, one of London’s trendy spots for the upper-classes, The Ampersand is literally 30 seconds from the underground and a short journey to just about anywhere in central London and the west-end whether it be by tube, bus, or London’s iconic black cabs. It’s ideally located for London’s museums on Cromwell road (Natural History Museum, V&A etc) or a spot of shopping at Harrod’s or Selfridge’s which are all within walking distance.
The Ampersand stands out for a number of reasons before you even begin to look at the pictures and read all the reviews. The Ampersand Hotel is a member of the ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’ also known as SLH. SLH is a collective of independently owned, small luxury hotels around the world with very high standards that all its member hotels must adhere to, much like Star Alliance is for airlines. With this in mind, you can rest assured the service for one will be of the highest standard. Also, along the same lines of checking up on the hotel, one of our most trusted tools when deciding on hotels, restaurants, and attractions through out our personal leisure time is Tripadvisor. It’s become the go-to resource for crowd-sourced information from regular people just like us who have visited and experienced the places we consider. Just about everywhere is on there. And The Ampersand Hotel is no different. How does it rank? 18th in London out of 1,073 hotels with a phenomenal 96% score out of 446 reviews. To be fair, we’ve read the negative reviews and can’t really agree and here’s why;
Arriving at the hotel, one of the most breathtaking views is before you even step foot inside. The 19th century façade, in all white is a splendour to see and, very typically classical London. If you come to London to stay in the cultural centre where you’re a stones-throw away from the west-end and some the greatest museums in the world, there’s a certain achievement accomplished from staying in a building that embodies the cultural architecture from the British Empire’s golden years. As swanky as glass buildings are to look at, there’s just so much character missing.
Walking in to the reception of the building, there’s an overwhelming boutique-y feel to the place. A framed ampersand (&) made completely of white buttons hanging by the reception desk, black and white motif of the lounge area decorated in floral patterns on the cushions, the grand stairway to the upper and lower floors, white marble flooring and an almost iconic light fixture hanging from the upper floors and running all the way down along the stairway is quite breathtaking.
The staff were extremely well-mannered, friendly, and always greeted us with a smile. We love the fact they’re dressed in smart blue-jeans, shirt and waistcoat. You instantly feel more relaxed. There’s a smart-casual feel to the whole experience of dealing with the staff as a combination of their dress and cheery good-nature that makes you feel miles away from the tightly-strung city-folk we’re so used to in the capital. You’re here for a break from all that, and so you feel that way without ever leaving the city.
We were shown to our room by the porter as you’d expect. When we got to the room, we were in for a small surprise. The room card’s use some sort of near-field-communications technology (we assume) and only needs to be held up to the entry system which is on the wall much like the new contactless debit/credit cards and the room is unlocked. A small detail but one we appreciated very much being technology-geeks. No need to swipe this way, or that way trying to figure out how to get it to work. How much lazier can we get? We’re not sure but we’re very happy pushing it to the limits to find out. All in the name of research of course. There’s also no more swapping cards on the door knob if you wish to keep the maids away. Simply push a button to show the hotel’s cleaning staff you wish to be left alone and they’ll see it on the other side on the entry system. Likewise to ask for your room to be cleaned. A clever use of technology.
The rooms are beautifully designed. The black and white theme from the communal areas followed on to our room, adding a splash of colour in a dark purple shade that’s probably closest to being called byzantium and turquoise accents. Many other rooms follow a similar design pattern but with different colours. We found our particular mix to be quite warm and perfect for resting our weary heads after an eventful day. the colours were quite soothing to the eye.
The bathroom is one of the most important places for us. A pet peeve is mouldy sealing around baths, stains, and the sorts. Luckily, The Ampersand Hotel is flawless in this respect. The hotel is by no means new, yet the cleanliness across the room and bathroom is spotless. It’s as if the entire place is brand new. There’s a predominantly white colour theme with black and white tiling.
The beds are super comfortable. We haven’t had such a good nights sleep in a long time and this was partly helped by the excellent black-out curtains. Early to bed, early to wake up isn’t a good idea in London during the summer months where it doesn’t fully get dark until after 10pm. Yes, we’re in bed VERY early and so we were VERY thankful.
Worth mentioning, the mini-bar in the room is completely complimentary. And there isn’t any scrimping here. The mini-fridge is packed with juices, soft drinks, and water. We were so pleased, we spoilt ourselves with an artisan lemonade which at any other hotel you’d be charged to the delightful sound of £4 a pop. It’s such a small thing to provide by the hotel, and such a small thing to gain by the guest especially when you consider the cost of a hotel in London. Yet, it just makes you feel so much more at home to be able to go up to the mini-fridge, grab a drink without feeling like you’ve just made a purchase.
In the morning, breakfast is in the Apero restaurant. A stunning Victorian kitchen style restaurant that has absolutely tons of character drawn from the buildings early life. There’s an elegant mix of contemporary design that’s lightly steampunk to fit in with the Victorian theme of the room. You’ll find a delicious spread of freshly baked breakfast muffins, pastries, fresh fruits, and yoghurts on an impressive feature table. The staff are delightfully helpful and make an excellent coffee that’s miles ahead of any Starbucks or Costa coffee you can get outside. We’d highly recommend getting a good dose before heading out for a big day of museums and art galleries. We’re sure it’ll be the highlight of your morning. Later on in the day, Apero becomes a Mediterranean restaurant serving lunch and dinner, as well as drinks and cocktails for those who prefer to mingle by the bar. But it’s not your only option for dining in The Ampersand Hotel. The Drawing Rooms is another option for light-bites and afternoon tea. They’ll even prepare an afternoon tea picnic hamper with champagne if you fancy exploring the local area a little more.
Looking back at our stay, we can’t think of many hotels where we’ve felt so comfortable. We’re not going to lie. You’re not looking at Holiday Inn prices. But then again if that’s the kind of hotel you’re after, you’re reading the wrong review. However, as with every purchase/expenditure we make in life, it’s important to consider value, and not cost alone. And in terms of value, we think The Ampersand Hotel is a pretty impressive proposition. Every part of our stay made us feel that we are somewhere of the highest quality.
If you like what you read and you’d like to learn more about The Ampersand Hotel check out the hotels website www.ampersandhotel.com.