A Stunningly Extravagant Retreat Blakes Hotel, South Kensington

16th January 2018

Most travellers would tell you to avoid London in the winter, but if you don’t mind layering up and sheltering under an umbrella, it can be one of the most beautiful months to visit the city and much more serene without the influx of summer’s tourists. Think clear, bright frosty days and dark, cosy nights. Tucked on a quiet residential street, a five minute walk from the King’s Road, Blakes Hotel is the city’s most stylish winter escape.

We arrive at the hotel one snowy afternoon. Housed in a set of Victorian townhouses painted black, the hotel’s immediately striking amongst the surrounding pastel coloured facades and a winter blizzard. The fires are lit and a plate of mince pies sit on the front desk for guests to nibble as they pass. It has the feel of an eclectic country home, more homely than most of London’s slick five-star hotels and decidedly more friendly. It may sound like a tiny detail, but being handed a key with a silk thread tassel as opposed to a room card, feels special. As does the unique designs of each room, all the exquisite visions of celebrated designer and architect Anouska Hempel.

We are led through a tiny little corridor, out into a courtyard, past the winter garden (a cosy, cushion filled conservatory) and up a flight of stairs to room 504, the red-striped Director’s Double. The style is colonial Asian with bold red striped fabric walls, curtains and furnishings, and oriental artworks. Everything’s unbelievably soft and warm from the underground heating to the huge double bed and fluffy white towels stacked up on a table alongside the standalone bathtub that sits in a little cove within in the bedroom, underneath a beautiful hanging lamp. There’s a separate bathroom too with a powerful rain shower and a neat little balcony, which one can imagine would be a delightful spot for breakfast if it wasn’t so cold, or snowing. So often under-rated, the lighting of the room has been perfected to a golden glow that adds to the sensual ambience. It feels decadent, imbued with a wonderful kind of old world romance.

The design of the restaurant is similarly impressive. Black walls, gold detailing and mirrors recall the elegance of the Art Deco era. The menu is compact, making the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients with a separate section for raw starters including oysters, sashimi and beef carpaccio. We are served a whole baked artichoke to begin, with truffle mayonnaise and salted olive oil, and an assortment of herb crisp breads. The food is simple with interesting, innovative twists on classics, although on some occasions, lacking in more subtle flavours. However, the courgette spaghetti stir fry with smoked ricotta is delicious as is the side of purple truffle mash and the rich Ferrero Rocher chocolate mouse desert.

The hotel staff are casually attentive and eager to help. When we leave later on in the day to wander around the neighbourhood, the concierge equips us with recommendations for cafes, restaurants and pubs, and equips us with smart black umbrellas when we insist that we’d rather walk than take a cab – Chelsea is best explored on foot.

It’s little wonder Blakes is a favourite amongst musicians, designers, actors and the fashion crowd. It’s effortlessly luxurious and discreet; an aesthete’s wonderland with none of the snootiness that so often comes with high concept design hotels. One of London’s very best boutiques.
For more information on Blakes Hotel, see here.
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