Let’s face it, Kensington & Chelsea can be a bit stuffy; the Royal Borough isn’t exactly known for letting its hair down.
But The Ampersand – a boutique hotel less than a minute’s walk from South Ken station – has a refreshingly energetic feel to it. When I arrive at 5pm, afternoon tea is in full flow – it’s not the usual hushed tones and gentle chinking of china, but instead there’s a really buzzy vibe. More on that later.
The hotel celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, but feels like it was renovated much more recently. The building’s history of course stretches further back – a converted Edwardian townhouse, transformed off the back of the Great Exhibition in 1851.
And history is rather a big thing in this neck of the woods. Whether you’re here for palaces and parks or museums and music, you couldn’t find a better located hotel for exploring everything this part of town has to offer.
Comprising 110 rooms across five categories, there’ll be one for your requirements – including interconnecting options for families.
All come with dinner-plate shower heads which will drown you if you’re not careful – in a good way – and plenty of Malin + Goetz goodies to make you smell suitably expensive.
The beds have fantastic mattresses more than a foot thick, and there’s an opulent velvet headrest which reminds you that you’re laying your head down somewhere special.
Running throughout the property are five central design themes: botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astrology. Our room has an abstract monochrome photo of a feather on one wall, opposite a ten-foot dove's wing is woven into the silk wallpaper. Not a room for anyone with ornithophobia, then.
THE FOOD & DRINK
Apero is the beating heart of The Ampersand. The restaurant and bar is located within the original hotel’s 19th-century cellar arches – again there’s a really upbeat feel about the place. The playlist is great – and the Smoky Negroni is worth a trip in itself. The added smoke comes courtesy of both mezcal Quiquiriqui and a blowtorch held to wood chips to dramatic effect and flavour.
When it comes to dinner, try to bag the cute little booth – inside one of the arches and hidden behind velvet curtains, it’s like a miniature private dining room for up to four guests. The menu has an eclectic range of pan-Med greatest hits. Highlights include a banging beef carpaccio and buffalo mozzarella elevated by way of a delicious mushroom mix.
The hotel has also become renowned for its afternoon teas, which lean heavily on the hotel’s close proximity to the Exhibition Road museums. The Jurassic and science-themed teas have interactive elements to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy a hard-earned drink.
The hotel has three event spaces – The Library, The Games Room and The Wine Room – which are suitable for anything from board meetings to birthdays.
The Ampersand, 10 Harrington Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 3ER; ampersandhotel.com