If hotels were people, the Kensington would be a Jane Austen hero, with a traditional Victorian exterior concealing a warm and vibrant core.
Located on a quiet street in London’s museum-packed South Kensington district, the hotel is part of The Doyle Collection, which also includes the capital’s best-known properties, The Bloomsbury and The Marylebone.
But although more understated than its sister hotels, The Kensington turns out to be a new delight when I check in for a night.
Comprised of four 19th-century stucco-fronted townhouses, The Kensington combines Victorian grandeur with contemporary decor in individually styled spaces that are upscale but not formal. The overall effect is a bit like visiting a very wealthy friend’s London mansion.
This eclectic mix is evident from the get-go, with a decorative vintage Pashley-style bicycle parked in the hotel’s marble-clad entryway.
The hotel has a fleet of custom-designed Pashleys that guests can hire for tours around the neighborhood and near Kensington Gardens – although after exploring the other attractions on offer, visitors may not want to put the foot or the wheel on the outside.
After being greeted by friendly staff in the scented candle-scented lobby, I relax in the Kensington’s spacious drawing rooms, where a series of original artwork adds pops of vibrant color. Add year-round fires and natural light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the result is the perfect spot for afternoon tea or general relaxation.
For evening entertainment, head to the hotel’s oak-paneled art deco-style K Bar, which offers an impressive cocktail menu and a warm, clubby atmosphere. After all that liquid indulgence, guests may want to bypass the grand wrought-iron staircase to the Kensington’s 150 rooms and suites and take the elevator instead.
While these cocktails are tempting, the above pieces are worth savoring lucidly, with trendy headboards and wallpapers adding individual character to each.
Young children can have a teepee in the family rooms, while my somewhat older critical colleagues (11 year old twin daughters) choose to settle into our marble and gold bathroom and splash around the pool. generous range of Malin + Goetz toiletries provided.
Flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, and Nespresso machines are also standard, along with a plate of fresh fruit. Just be sure to leave room for the food and drinks served in the hotel restaurants.
Go out to dinner
The Kensington Kitchen offers a small but well-executed all-day menu of British and Continental classics, ranging from Jersey Rock oysters and tuna tartare to chicken cutlets and aubergine and mozzarella gratin. Guests can dine in the living room, but being blessed by the weather gods on our visit, my companions and I chose to eat outside in the hotel’s new alfresco dining room, The Veranda. .
A tangy tomato gazpacho is my go-to dish, while my dessert-loving daughter is in awe of the fruit sorbets. But the biggest draw of this place is watching the well-heeled South Kensington setting wander around or frantically signing up on Instagram at neighboring tables.
The atmosphere is decidedly more relaxed as we head to the Drawing Room the next morning for breakfast. If the service is a bit casual, our selection of pastries, a fruit platter and perfectly poached eggs are worth the wait. And in contexts like these, who’s in a rush anyway?
The Kensington is within walking distance of landmarks such as the Natural History Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and the V&A. But while guests may need to venture out for their dose of culture, they can work out in the surprisingly large and well-equipped gym in the hotel’s basement.
For those who prefer to take vitamin D with their cardio, the concierge has the best tips for jogging routes. You can also pamper yourself after exercise, with in-room spa treatments available with Viva Therapies.
Still, while other thoughtful touches like the small business lobby and reading nook under the stairs are welcome additions, what sets The Kensington apart is the feel of home.
It is this warm atmosphere that ultimately ensures that our too brief visit ends as well as any Austen novel.
109-113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP. Room rates start from £ 384, with suites starting at £ 439; doylecollection.com