Where: The Ampersand Hotel
Rating: 5 Stars *****
Stayed: March 2017
Location: South Kensington, London
These days, as a London resident, my local hotel visits are limited to dining in on-site restaurants or meeting out of town friends and family in the lobby. It had been a long time since I’d stepped foot in a room, so I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to stay for a night in The Ampersand Hotel.
Opened in 2012, The Ampersand is a 111 roomed boutique hotel, housed in an imposing 5-floor Victorian building in South Kensington.
The style of decor is modern, but care has been taken to preserve and incorporate traditional elements of the building’s design.
On arrival and throughout my short stay, the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more welcoming. Check in & check out were swift and I was upgraded from a ‘Deluxe Room’ to a ‘Suite.’
For those who want to eat in house, there is a charming French-style Drawing Room where afternoon tea is served. Alas, there were no dairy-free or vegan options on offer when I visited so I was unable to partake.
Breakfast is served between 6:30 & 10:30am (weekdays) in the downstairs Mediterranean restaurant, Apero. They offer both a cooked food menu and an ample continental selection: bread, ham, cheeses, pastries, cereals, yoghurt, fruits smoothies and juices. All the things which you would expect, along with a full range of tea and coffee options. Everything that I tried tasted good quality and flavoursome. I came down to eat at 7am and had the place to myself for 20 minutes to read the papers peacefully before other guests filtered in.
The hotel is packed full of interesting little design details. My favourites were a carved installation and the feather-winged lights which illuminate the length of the original Victorian staircase.
Amenities include a small fitness centre, open 24/7, with a treadmill, exercise bike, cross trainer and free weights. When I poked my head in mid-afternoon it was full so I wouldn’t count on this if you are desperate to work out. Need to print out tickets or documents? Then there is a business centre area on the lower ground floor.
If unlike me, you are staying with some company, you can play ping-pong in the games room.
I stayed in room 506, a top floor suite. There is a lift which runs through all of The Ampersand’s levels, so no walking required if you’ve had a tiring day. The front door opens immediately into a living area furnished with a sofa, desk, table and chairs, plus a strangely angled flat-screen TV. Best of all, there is a kitchenette equipped with a fridge, microwave, toaster, kettle & Nespresso machine. Wow, a lot of listing there! These weren’t all necessary for my short stay but perfect if you will be there for an extended visit. There is a good amount of floor space if you want to do some yoga or a body weight workout (useful as the gym is so tiny!)
Behind the sofa, sliding doors take you out onto a darling little balcony with yet another table and chairs. The weather was still on the chilly side during my visit so I didn’t do much but peer over and watch the world go by for a moment but this would be a delightful spot to sip some wine in the summer.
The bedroom itself is dominated by the king-sized bed which I give a thumbs up for comfort. I had a great night of uninterrupted sleep. As for decor, geometric patterned wallpaper carries through from the living area. I en the pops of orange accent colour used for the soft furnishings.
The bathroom was my favourite element of the suite. A big, deep bathtub with a TV, what bliss! For the time poor, there’s a sizable walk-in shower nestled in the corner. Toiletries are by L’Occitane.
Being by myself, the living area was wasted on me, but in a city where rooms are almost always economical in size, I was impressed by the spacious area.
My sleep quality was excellent, I didn’t hear any noise from other guests and the bed and pillows were marshmallow soft. The AC/temperature control was simple to use and worked efficiently.
One interesting element which I had never seen before was the ‘Handy’ – an in-room mobile phone. It features unlimited phone calls and data, along with travel guides and hotel information. I can see that this would be exceptionally useful for foreign travellers to avoid being stung by huge roaming bills as its use isn’t limited to the hotel, you can take it out and about in London with you.
Getting around when you are staying at The Ampersand is a breeze. The hotel is just two minutes walk from South Kensington Underground station, served by the Piccadilly, District & Circle lines. You can go directly to & from Heathrow & Knightsbridge shopping is just 5 minutes away.
The world class museums of Exhibition road: Science Museum, Natural History Museum and V&A are less than 10 minutes walk. I went to the latter during my stay and whiled away a pleasant couple of hours admiring the artefacts in the Medieval & Renaissance galleries.
If you are seeing a show or concert at the Royal Albert Hall, The Ampersand is staggering distance.
There is a multitude of places to eat nearby, whatever your budget, from chains such as Comptoir Libanais, Honest Burgers + Wright Brothers. Sweet treats are to be found at Hummingbird Bakery, Snowflake Gelato & Maitre Choux. A 7-minute walk will get you to the Michelin starred dining of Bibendum.
Feeling more modest, I got a salad from Squirrel – just across the road from the hotel and some sushi from Wasabi for an in-room picnic.
All in all, my visit might have been brief but I had a restful day and night at The Ampersand and got to feel like a tourist again in my city. If you like history and visiting the museums, South Kensington really is an ideal staycation spot.
I would 100% recommend the hotel to out of towners wanting a base allowing them easy movement throughout the city – particularly those who want comfortable luxury without the stuffiness you can find in larger 5 star establishments.
I hope that I’ll get the opportunity to staycation in London and play full on tourist again very soon. Hotels on my local visit hitlist currently are: The Rosewood, Shangri-La at The Shard, Great Northern Hotel, The Ned & The Mandrake.