Purpose built as a hotel in 1888, and called the Norfolk, this was one of Kensington’s original Victorian hotels. Following an extensive redesign and renovation it opened in its current form in 2012 as part of the Small Luxury Hotels groups.
Where is it?
Less than a minute from South Kensington underground station and perfectly placed for London’s museum district. It’s also convenient for London Olympia and Earl’s Court.
There are 111 rooms and suites, all taking inspiration from South Kensington’s sights and museums as the theme for their décor. Double Rooms start at 12-15 sqm, with my Deluxe Double measuring 20 sqm and Suites ranging from 30-40 sqm. All rooms feature complimentary wifi, tea/coffee making facilities, Nespresso machines and soft drinks, 24-hour room service, LCD TVs with movies on demand, a media hub, laptop safe and airconditioning.
My Deluxe Room has ornithological motifs, dark wood, pale walls and purple accents. A large, buttoned velvet headboard piled high with cushions makes the comfortable kingsize bed all the more tempting, while a sofa at the end provides somewhere to watch TV without having to sprawl on the bed. There is a large work desk with Handy mobile phone. At night, a turndown service ensures curtains are closed and cushions decanted to the sofa ready for you to snuggle up without doing a thing.
Despite the hotel’s busy location, the windows do a good job of keeping most of the noise from the street below out, with the London buses passing directly outside audible though unlikely to disturb.
The bathroom has no bath, which is a little disappointing, given there are two classes of room below mine. On the plus side, the shower is large and powerful, and there is underfloor heating, with toiletries by L’Occitane and bathrobes and slippers.
A large built-in wardrobe should provide more than adequate levels of storage unless you are an extreme over-packer.
Food and drink
The main restaurant is Apero, in the basement, which is also where breakfast is served, including an Italian-inspired brunch on the weekends. It’s an atmospheric spot reminiscent of a wine cellar, with bare brick walls, arched doorways, leather banquettes, and a marble bar with stools and modern pendant lights hanging above.
The menu of Italian small plates has an easy appeal, though dishes featuring intriguing flavour combinations don’t quite live up to their promise. Caramelised Brie, French beans, endives and mustard dressing comprised a fridge-cold wedge of the French cheese, a poor relation for the warm, oozing golden hunk I had been expecting, while the mustard dressing was distinctly scanty. A pan-fried sea bream was perfectly cooked, though calling the barely dressed beans and samphire that accompanied it a cassoulet was stretching the truth.
The cocktail menu was also ambitious in scope but in this case my tequila phiz was everything I expected and enjoyably refreshing. Bar staff are congenial and the atmosphere is buzzing and fun even on a Sunday night – no mean feat in south Kensington, an area that can lack gusto once the tourists have headed home.
Afternoon teas and coffee can be taken on the comfy sofas in the light and bright Drawing Room – a perfect place to take a break from the overwhelming levels of sightseeing on your doorstep.
There are three meeting spaces. The Library can accommodate up to 35 people standing and the Games Room 50, while the Wine Room seats ten for private dining. There is also a communal space on the lower ground floor with two computers for guest use.
The 24-hour gym features high-tech equipment, while the Games Room has table tennis and is open to guests when not booked for private events. However, given the hotel’s location by Hyde Park and London’s best museums you’ll likely be out enjoying the nearby attractions.
A friendly boutique experience with plenty of personality. Business facilities are good, food and drink offerings sound and the atmosphere warm and welcoming. Thanks to its location in the museum district, the Ampersand is a particularly good option for those who want to add a couple of nights of leisure to a business trip, squeezing in as many top sights as possible.
- Best for Its location near London’s best attractions.
- Don’t miss The science-themed afternoon tea in homage to the nearby Science Museum.
- Price Superior Rooms start at £216, balconied suites from £402.
- Contact The Ampersand Hotel, 10 Harrington Road, South Kensington, London SW7 3ER; +44 (0)20 7589 5895; ampersandhotel.com