Hotel of the week: The Ampersand, South Kensington in London
Sometimes a hotel catches your eye because of it’s elegant architecture, or an unusual name, it may be the location that is ideal or the staff have a reputation for excellent service.
The Ampersand has all these and much more, including a Mediterranean inspired restaurant and luxurious rooms and suites, and combines them all with an interior filled with playful and stylish touches.
Set amongst the greenery of South Kensington, the hotel is only a 5 minute walk from the Science, Natural History and Victoria and Albert museums and uses these along with the nearby Albert Hall as inspiration for it’s eclectic decor.
Throughout the hotel you will find the recurring themes of botany, music, astronomy, ornithology and geometry represented in furniture, artwork and collectables.
The idea is to connect guests with the local area and this is achieved in a quirky yet tasteful manner, which encourages you to relax and enjoy your stay at this friendly and welcoming hotel.
Also nearby you will find Harrods, Harvey Nichols, a plethora of designer shops and art galleries, and the Royal Parks. South Kensington tube station is only a minutes walk away and from here you can easily explore the rest of the capital and its many attractions.
Originally built as a luxury hotel in 1888, the Ampersand underwent an extensive renovation in 2012 and now has a smart contemporary feel whilst staying true to its Victorian heritage.
This is apparent from the moment you enter the bright and open reception area, with it’s marble floors, white pillars and winding wrought iron staircase, accentuated by a dramatic 20ft light installation designed to resemble goose feather wings.
Setting the tone for the rest of the hotel, it reflects the history of the building while providing a clean, modern and welcoming vibe.
At the reception desk (resembling an old museum chest with drawers), you will find a friendly team who pride themselves on delivering a personal and professional service aimed to help you make the most of your stay.
They can advise on where to eat, shop or walk the dog, and provide running maps and access to activities such as roller blading and horse riding.
(Yes, I DID say walk the dog, the hotel offers a warm welcome to small pets, you can even take your cat!.)
From the foyer, follow the smell of fresh coffee to the adjacent Drawing Rooms, a vibrant hybrid of English tea room and French salon, decorated in shades of blue and red.
Dotted with hand woven rugs and bespoke velvet chairs and sofas, it is the ideal place to sit back and watch the world go by, framed by the huge Victorian windows.
The patiserrie serves a tempting selection of sweet and savoury pastries accompanied by artisanal premium coffee and a selection of teas, and there is also a light bite menu, popular with hotel guests and local residents alike.
Open from 9am to 11pm daily, this is one of those spots that you keep being drawn back to and if you fancy a bit of fun, try the Science Themed Afternoon Tea!
This inventive idea features dinosaurs, spacemen and planet shaped treats as well as the more traditional offerings, and adds a quirky touch to this most British of experiences.
Heading down to the lower ground floor you will be greeted by the relaxed ambience of the Apero bar and restaurant, tucked away under the cellar arches.
With white painted brick walls, wooden floors, banquettes and bistro tables and chairs, it is the perfect backdrop to sample the delicious Mediterranean small plates menu.
Using the best seasonal ingredients, dishes are perfect for sharing and include Chickpea and butternut squash stew, Gnocchi, mushrooms, baby spinach and parmesan, and Garlic spiced prawns.
The bar serves a tempting selection of wines from the Mediterranean, including natural and organic varieties. Cocktails include all the usual classics, with intriguing specialities such as Snowy Peak, National Velvet and Tropical Toad.
Apero is open throughout the day, and along with the lunch and dinner menu, you can also indulge in a hearty breakfast to start you off for a days sightseeing or shopping.
A good continental selection from the counter includes homemade muffins and banana bread, while tasty hot dishes ( including a Full English and Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs ) are cooked to order.
Adjacent to the Apero are three stylish event spaces, all available for private hire, and perfect for business meetings or small social occassions.
The Wine Room has an intimate feel, with an oak banqueting table that seats ten, surrounded by leather lined chairs and with statement lighting overhead.
One wall is lined floor to ceiling with the hotel’s red wine collection, making it the ideal space for a spot of wine tasting.
The Library has a specially curated collection of books displayed, and The Games Room boasts a full size table tennis table, making both rooms an unusual and interesting backdrop to any event.
Both are bright modern spaces with white walls, modern art and colourful funky furniture. When not in private use, both rooms are available to hotel guests who fancy a quiet read or a more energetic game of ping pong!
More energy can be expended at the 24 hour gym, featuring Technogym equipment including a bike, treadmill, crosstrainer and free weights. Private trainers and yoga instructors can be arranged by request.
Spread over five floors, all 111 rooms and suites have been individually designed to reflect the Victorian values of discovery and wonder.
Whimsical elements such as the astronomy themed wallpaper in the Double Rooms do not overwhelm but serve to enhance these stylish and comfortable spaces.
Room categories from Single through Double, Superior and Deluxe all include luxury features such as statement velvet headboards and L’Occitane toiletries in the stylish bathrooms.
Amenities in all rooms and suites include complimentary wifi, a media hub, LCD TV’s with movies on demand, tea/coffee making facilites and soft drinks, 24 hour room service, a laptop safe and air conditioning.
Deluxe Studios offer king size beds and a larger seating area, iPod docks, Nespresso machines and the option of either a bathroom with built in TV or one with a freestanding bath in the bedroom – the choice is yours!
The geometry themed luxury Suites on the fourth and fifth floors comprise of a bedroom with king size bed, a separate sitting room and kitchenette and smart black and white bathrooms all with built in TV’s.
Each kitchen has a microwave, kettle, toaster and fridge with tea and coffee making facilities, a Nespresso machine and complimentary soft drinks.
Light pours in through the floor to ceiling windows and there are balconies looking out over the London rooftops – very Mary Poppins!
Two of these suites can be interconnected to Deluxe Rooms making these ideal for families, and the hotel also offers other child friendly ideas such as a children’s menu in Apero and free continental breakfast for under 4’s.
Older children up to 16 can enjoy half price breakfasts, and the hotel can arrange a cot or extra bed in larger rooms at no extra cost. Babysitting can also be arranged through reception.
In a nutshell
With beautifully designed rooms and suites, and the buzz of Apero and the Drawing Rooms, This elegant boutique hotel has a sense of playfulness about it, and the quirky nods to the local museums and the friendly and relaxed atmosphere are guaranteed to make your stay a memorable one.
Superior rooms cost from £216 per night and the Luxury Suites from £402 per night. Rates exclude breakfast.
For more information, visit ampersandhotel.com.