Stay Here: Blakes Hotel, KensingtonBy Claudine Levy
Looking for a little London staycation? It’s about time you discovered Blakes Hotel, a little hidden gem in Kensington. Here’s what you need to know:
Sometimes you go to a fancy hotel and it can just feel a little…soulless. The lobby can be so polished you will see your face reflected on every surface, the service can be so premium luxe that you will feel like royalty, the bed sheets so crisp you will almost give yourself a paper-cut, but sometimes, you just want a little soul. And that’s what Blakes gets so right.
The service, for one, just feels normal. Everyone is polite, accommodating, smiley, and just… normal. It doesn’t feel like everyone’s gone to 5* hospitality school, and it doesn’t feel like a show. And yet – the staff will make you feel like nothing is too much to ask. During our stay we put this to the test: we called down for tea cups, for fresh milk, for soya milk, for an iron, for the Observer, for the Sunday Times (both of which they went out to buy for us). We were peak needy – dialling down to reception every other minute to throw out request after tiresome request, and each and every one was met with a ‘no big deal, sure thing’ attitude, rather than a ‘it would be my humble pleasure’ attitude. That’s not to say the service is blasé, it just feels comfortable.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – Blake’s sits down a quiet residential street, an arresting vision in black in a row of striking Chelsea terraced houses. Each room is decorated differently, each with their own take on moderate-to-extreme flamboyance. We stayed in the ‘Romantic Four Poster’ room – with an enormous four-poster bed the size of my entire flat taking centre-stage, elevated to such heights that we had to catapult ourselves up using the sheets as hoists… they don’t call this room the ‘Romantic Four Poster’ for nothing, let me tell you. The room itself is bedecked in black and gold, with beautiful antique furniture dotted around the space.
In terms of facilities, Blakes literally has it all, including an unexpected basement bar which turns out to be hip’hop’happening. When it comes to spa facilities, the hotel has a partnership with the South Kensington Club – which bills itself as a luxury wellness spa, but which, in all honesty, could do with a small refurb, especially when it comes to the swimming pool. That said, it has a kitted out gym, and a spa area replete with various icy pools to plunge into before/after languidly lying in a Russian Banyas and Turkish Hammam.
Blakes restaurant specialises in Mediterranean cuisine with an Asian influence and let me tell you…the food is sensational. So often hotel restaurants hit the mark, or get away with being horribly average and/or completely lacking an semblance of vibe or life about it. Not so with Blakes – it was buzzing from 7pm long into the night, and feels very much like a d~e~s~t~i~n~a~t~i~o~n. The dining room is moodily lit, so much so that we were literally eating by candlelight and sort-of-squinting… bad for the eyes, great for the atmosphere.
Blakes restaurant is a destination for good reason. So often the restaurants attached to hotels are sub-standard and sterile – lacking any semblance of vibe or culinary aptitude. It’s such a rare treat to be able to have an incredible meal in the same place you indent to rest your weary head. The menu is relatively extensive, and we ordered a bit of everything so we can tell you what to eat with reasonable authority: chargrilled octopus served with purple potato puree and ‘tomato relish’ – with a depth of flavour so profound as to be almost a tapenade – is a joyous and perfect dish. As is the Globe artichoke heart with truffle aioli (is there anything more exciting than the pluck, dip, scrape of eating artichoke leaves until you reach the heart?)
One of the most memorable dishes of the night was the pasta special – ravioli filled with a parmesan cream and served with wild mushrooms – deceptively simple, but out of this world: pasta perfectly al-dente, filling so savoury and creamy, mushrooms bathed in brown butter… completely heavenly. I could reel off every dish we tried and wax lyrical – be that the black cod served with courgette flower and miso or the rack of lamb and fresh peas, even the bloody mashed potato was a triumph.
The stunning food continues at breakfast, where Blakes serves of stalwart classics like avocado and poached eggs on toast, bacon eggs benedict (you need to ask for the bacon), and the French toast with apricot compote and fresh fruit is otherworldly. You know this place is good, because people book tables even if they’re not staying at the hotel – and the restaurant was rammo. The fact that breakfast is served until 12 is the icing on the cake.
We totally loved this hotel, if you couldn’t already tell. Insider tip: if you stay on a Sunday, Every Monday Blakes hosts a weekly intimate yoga and meditation class at Blakes Below, where the instructor conducts a one-to-one approach, allowing all participants to share the first-hand guidance of a personal trainer – which is ideal for beginner yogis.
Following the class, you’ll be invited to experience the Sun Salutation brunch menu – think: Gluten Free Porridge & Blake’s Lavender Honey or Organic Greek Yoghurt, Avocado & Free Range Organic Poached Eggs, Gluten Free Pancakes or Wild Mushrooms & Avocado toast. V zen.