I spent one night at The Ampersand hotel in one of the properties impressive Deluxe Studios. The 111-room Victorian building is bang opposite South Kensington underground station, and is a brand-spanking new hotel in this sought-after location. Here’s all about my experience at the luxury boutique hotel.
On approach to The Ampersand I was a little hesitant about spending the night there, as the grand Victorian-style property is located on a fairly busy road just across from South Kensington station.
I was concerned about noise, and whether I was going to get a good night’s sleep. However, upon reaching the entrance, and entering the hotel lobby, it was clear that I had very little to worry about, as all the outside noise was blocked by tall, thick windows. I couldn’t hear the traffic (except the occasional ambulance siren) and the London chaos just died away the moment I stepped into the beautiful reception area.
Decked out in black and white décor with soft lighting, including comfy sofas and chairs and a floor to ceiling light arrangement, set between the wide staircases leading to each level, I was pleasantly surprised by the quirky design, which felt warm and welcoming.
Usual check-in time is 2pm, however I checked in at midday, filling out the usual name/address form, in order to leave my suitcase in the hotel’s secure luggage room and pop out to explore the area. This is a service that I was grateful for, as even though my room was not ready, I was able to leave my heavy holdall at the hotel.
On arrival from my outing, I was given a key card for room 311, and shown to my room by a friendly and helpful member of staff, who had made sure to have my luggage put in the room already – a nice little gesture that was much welcomed.
Room 311, a deluxe studio, was to be my home for the night, and I must say that my reaction was one of awe when entering the room. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe it – beautiful, charming, elegant and whimsical, but only a superlative came to mind; most perfect.
Facing towards the front of the hotel, with a balcony (though the tall windows did not fully open) every inch of this room is draped in stylish décor with a feel of sophistication and grandeur, yet not too overpowering to get comfortable. It had homely and quirky touches like a hidden bookshelf with classic reads behind the LCD TV flat screen on the wall, and though it isn’t a huge room in size, space is used smartly and practically.
As the hotel describes, the Deluxe Studio does indeed have a “residential sense of space, rimming with botanical style” – one of the five themes incorporated into The Ampersand’s interior design. The king-size beds are super-comfortable, and gracefully dressed with most cosy sheets, duvet and pillows, and just the magnificent headboard is enough to see the detail and thought behind this stunning room type.
There is a desk with chair, a comfy armchair and even a sofa at the foot of the bed as well as ample storage space and an area with tea/coffee-making facilities, snacks and a minibar. Even the cushions are fluffed just perfectly, and the best thing is that because the hotel charges room rates and not per person, this is the perfect room type with great space to hang out with a couple of friends, or, on the other hand, spread out with work documents.
For me, the best thing about this room, apart from the overall feeling of relaxation, was the ensuite bathroom with his and her sinks and heated flooring, where Miller Harries toiletries give a sense of England and help you to unwind, while you kick back in the tub. And, room 311, even had a TV in the bathroom, which was another unexpected luxury that was much to my taste. Some Deluxe Studios also have a free-standing bath tub in the room.
One of the absolutely great things about The Ampersand is how much you get during your stay. Amenities in the rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi, tea/coffee-making facilities, and complimentary soft drinks from the minibar, 24-hour room service, a media hub, laptop safe, air-conditioning, an iPod dock and Nespresso machine (which if I may say so, is fantastic).
There’s a high ceiling, a lovely big bed, a delightful bathroom, and lots of useful information on the hotel and local area, all tucked away in this boutique and characterful room. For me, room 311 epitomised the grandeur, exclusivity and homely hospitality that The Ampersand hotel offers.
The very first thing that will draw your eye at The Ampersand is the bright and quirky colours and designs used in the hotels interior. In fact, the hotel follows a unique concept in décor, inspired by the local London neighbourhood and the best of the cultural district of South Kensington.
There are five themes that run throughout, including botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy, all of which define Victorian values of wonder from displays at the Science Museum to ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall and drawings at the Natural History Museum.
I personally felt that the hotel succeeds in bringing this distinctive concept alive with a sense of modern quirkiness, which from the conversations I heard around the hotel drew many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and much admiration from guests.
There are three very different dining options in the hotel; The Apero, a softly-lit and laid back restaurant, tucked beneath the Victorian cellar arches of The Ampersand and serving fresh Mediterranean style food; The Wine Room, a much smaller, very intimate area, adjacent to The Apero, perfect for an elegant evening with a close group of friends; and my favourite The Drawing Rooms, where British flair meets French finesse, with deep sofas and studded armchairs, scarlet velvets, and kingfisher blues, serving light bites and afternoon tea.
The Drawing Rooms has a great sense of buzz with tall Victorian-style windows allowing you to appreciate the close proximity to London’s attractions, yet having a place of privacy to escape to for delicious treats.
The hotel also has a fitness suite, for workout buffs, a library for bookworms and a games room for those who want to test their skills at table tennis. The hotel also caters to private and corporate meetings and events with a choice of three spaces all kitted out with the latest technology and holding on to the buildings Victorian roots, providing a truly unique place in which to conduct business.
The service and hospitality I experienced at The Ampersand was probably the best of all the hotels I’ve stayed at in the city; staff members were polite, friendly, efficient and attentive.
The smaller, thoughtful touches is what made my first impression of The Ampersand so great - like receiving a welcome gift with a note and some sweet treats, and the housekeeping at the hotel which provided an excellent turn down service in the evening, was just exceptional - guests robes and slippers are laid out and pillows and cushions fluffed to perfection.
When asking for directions, by virtue of the reception desk, I was offered helpful advice. The staff members volunteered to get me a taxi, offered the hotels lovely umbrellas for protection from the rainy London streets and even suggested places to explore nearby. The concierge service, in particular, was great, allowing me to leave my luggage in a safe place hours before check-in. Overall, service was superb.
There are no other places in London quite as glamorous, sophisticated and charming as the neighbourhoods of Kensington, Knightsbridge and Chelsea – all within walking distance of the hotel. The Ampersand is more than well placed for things to do and see in London, located just a few seconds walk from South Kensington underground station, with the Piccadilly Line connecting visitors to many great areas in the capital.
If shopping is your sole purpose for visiting then The Ampersand is more than the perfect base from which to do this from. The neighbourhood of South Kensington, bordering on Knightsbridge and Chelsea, is popular for both well-known luxury brands and intimate boutiques such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Stella McCartney AND V&A Shop to name but a few.
Alternatively, if you’re a self-confessed culture vulture then there’s no better place than The Ampersand to stay when seeking cultural pleasures, with the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Christie's South Kensington, all on your doorstep.
While I stayed at The Ampersand, I was able to attend a travel show at Earl’s Court – just two stops from South Kensington on the tube, and meet up with friends near the popular Gloucester Road area for a bite to eat (just a five-minute walk from the hotel).
You can absorb yourself in local London culture, shop till you drop, or simply enjoy an evening out dining with friends. I would recommend exploring on foot, but if you’re worried about getting around then just ask for information and any member of staff will be willing to help.
I didn’t experience any major downfalls at The Ampersand, except that the £8 charge for on-demand movies was unappealing. However, with the complimentary services you receive including Wi-Fi and soft drinks in your room, and for the area in which the hotel is, this price for entertainment is expected and very acceptable.
The only other small downfall was in the morning at breakfast, in The Apero. Once you are seated and given a menu, nobody really explains how breakfast works, and on this particular day it wasn;t the easiest to get a staff members attention as there were only two in the restaurant, overwhelmed by guests.
There is a great Mediterranean spread buffet beakfast with fresh fruit and yogurts and delicious, warm bakery goods, all laid out, however it was unclear whether this is where I got my breakfast from or whether I had to order off the menu. In the end I helped myself to the spread, which although appetising, seemed sparse for the £11 per person it cost.
Quirky, quaint and surprisingly quiet, The Ampersand ticks all the right boxes for a comfortable and luxurious stay in a great London location. The privately-owned hotel does attention to detail in the most impeccable manner, from concept design on each floor and throughout the hotel, to the cushion control in rooms, and even the hand folded design on the toilet roll in the bathrooms – all of these things make The Ampersand an upcoming contender, for the top of the list, of boutique hotels in South Kensington.
I would highly recommend the hotel to couples looking for a romantic city break, groups of friends wanting to do nothing but shop and sightsee, and any culture-seekers hoping to experience the best of London.
The combination of design, quality and setting leads me to say that, in comparison to other luxury boutique hotels in London, The Ampersand is the finest and most exclusive accommodation you’re likely to find in this area.
For more information on the The Ampersand, or to book a room, go to www.ampersandhotel.com
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