One of the toughest choices I face when traveling is where to stay. I love staying at boutiques hotels but I also “fall in love” that I want to return to favorite properties so that’s the tough call – date a new hotel or go back to one of my old flames? In London, you’ve read (or should have read) about my loves – Charlotte Street by Firmdale, The Rosewood London and The Hoxton – so you can see how hard it is to cheat. But it was time for me to stray and cheat not only on my favorite hotels but on the neighborhood as well – it was time for me to find a small luxury hotel in Kensington, a neighborhood I had been slowly discovering over a few visits. It was time for me to see what the “&” was all about at the Small Luxury Hotel (SLH), The Ampersand Hotel.
The Ampersand Hotel – Location
The Ampersand Hotel is located across the road from the South Kensington tube station which is nicely served by three lines – the Piccadilly, the Circle and the District line. Bonus points include a short walk down to the outdoor platform and the air conditioning on the newer Circle & District line cars. Downside is that the station/platforms can get crowded quickly (due to the popular V&A and Natural History Museum) so the station is often closed without notice in order to disperse the crowds (generally on the weekends) which goes pretty quickly.
South Kensington Neighborhood
The tube station is surrounded by popular takeaway shops, a pub and a pedestrian only walking block with restaurants like Brandisa, a Spanish tapas favorite. Within two blocks from the hotel are many popular chains – Hummingbird Bakery, Bryon burgers, Franco Manca Pizza, Muriel’s Kitchen, Gail’s Bakery, Ben’s Cookies, Starbucks, etc.
For the past few visits to London, I happened upon the posh Airbnb flat and the Millionaire Mews Home from One Fine Stay in Kensington and both were lovely options to explore the wealthy residential area which sees few tourists and has cute pubs and cafes hidden down the side streets and away from the busy high street.
Arrival at The Ampersand Hotel
The entrance includes steps up to the door and then steps to the lobby. The lobby, whilst small was so very lovely as a first impression. A staircase and lighting feature greet you with the front desk off to the side of the room. With a small seating area and a larger room to the side used for afternoon tea, the design was captivating, warm and luxurious.
The front desk check in was friendly and efficient. To my delight, the room was available early so I could relax in a proper luxury room and try to erase the prior night stay at another hotel in a disappointing pink room. I had booked direct with the hotel using their “Stay 3, Pay for 2” pre-paid, non-refundable promotion.
The Deluxe Studio Room at The Ampersand Hotel
Located on the third floor, the high ceilings were the first thing I noticed upon exiting the elevator on the way to my room. The hotel has two distinct buildings and as you walk down the hall you pass between the buildings marked by the stairway. There are 111 rooms and yet I always felt that I had the place to myself. My room was located in the front of the hotel so I expected it to be noisy with street traffic but it wasn’t which was nice.
Video of the Deluxe Studio Room (King Bed)
When I opened the door, the first entrance space was filled with storage, a shelf with mirror and coffee/minibar area. The minibar includes complimentary bottles of water, soda, juice and milk which is definitely a welcome amenity for guests.
With the bedroom ahead, I could see the seating area and desk plus navy blue headboard and the settee with pillows at the end of the bed. The bed, itself, was gorgeous and comfy when I fell into it hoping to relax in luxury.
The Ampersand Hotel Bathroom
As I lay in the bed, I could see the bathroom view from the desk mirror reflection and it looked quite nice so I exited the comfy bed to explore the bathroom and see if the toiletries were chipmunk worthy (spoiler alert – yep as they were L’Occitane).
The dual sink was center with a bathtub/shower combo on the left and the toilet and storage on the right. The heavy door swung closed for privacy – it was nice that it was a real door. The tub had not only a rubber ducky for you but also a television in the wall with a remote control in case you want to watch your favorite British show (great British bake-off or gogglebox anyone?) or not miss a moment of sport.
On the hook hung a plush robe with the “&” and slippers in the pocket. Of course, I would wear both on my stay.
The Ampersand Hotel – Mobile Phone Amenity
One amenity that seems to be gaining favor in London is the personal mobile phone you can use during your stay and The Ampersand Hotel is one hotel providing this smart option for guests. The preloaded mobile phone had local information, shopping guides and maps and could be used for free phone calls. For those without an international plan, this is a great idea to help you explore the city and have the comfort that you have a phone to use.
Turn-down Service at The Ampersand Hotel
Each night, turn-down service was offered and is always a nice feature to come back to the inviting bed, slippers on the mat and warm lighting. They do a much nicer job than when I toss the pillows and jump into bed exhausted.
I’m not sure why I had an issue with motion (onset of getting sick?) at the hotel but while lying on the comfy bed, I thought I could feel the room shake a bit. I thought I was just a bit crazy with low blood sugar so I waited it out until the next morning. Since I have an inner ear issue, I’m more sensitive to this type of stuff so I asked the front desk if they could move me. They had another room available but it would be a slight downgrade not in category but in space, I agreed and they said they’d move my bags while I was out and provide a new key upon return.
The New Deluxe Studio Room
My new room was on a higher floor and down the hall from the old room which meant my high ceilings were gone. I had a standard height room which instantly made the room feel smaller and the layout was slightly smaller (I was missing the separate desk area) so overall like they said a downgrade in space but still nicely decorated and comfortable so I was ok with the change.
My Missing Bag
I fell asleep during my “let me just lie down after dinner” and woke up hours later at 1 am wanting water and went to find my shopping bag in the front hall and it wasn’t there. I hadn’t checked that all the bags were moved earlier so I called the front desk to report that my shopping bags placed on the shelf of the first room were not here. He said they’d check the video and let me know when I came down for breakfast. Thankfully, the free minibar was filled with water, soda, juice and milk. I didn’t care much about the water I was missing but I was missing about $100 worth of chocolate from my favorite shop in their posh purple and gold bag.
The hotel has video in the hallways (not in the rooms) and reviews of the video in the prior room hallway show housekeeping removing the purple bag and throwing it out when they cleaned the room. I was first concerned that the bag was not reported to security as guest property left behind as the bag did not have trash in it but nicely wrapped and unwrapped chocolate gifts. The hotel confirmed their mistake and instantly gave me a credit on my bill (I went back to Soho to replace the chocolates to bring home). They followed standard procedure from my initial report to resolution, which was comforting. They acknowledged that the housekeeping oversight would be addressed – what if it had been a bag of valuables left behind by a guest?
Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel Drawing Room
I don’t drink tea (or coffee) so a proper British Afternoon Tea is lost on me. Each day I passed the lobby drawing rooms, it was crowded and everyone looked quite happy indulging in the tea, sandwiches and cakes. I was offered to partake in some sweet treats but I declined while I snapped photos. Tempted of course but the staff was unaware of the cupcakes, cookies and chocolates in my bag. Check out my friend Suze’s review of The Ampersand Hotel Afternoon Tea
Breakfast at Apero, The Ampersand Hotel
Breakfast was served in the basement restaurant, Apero. The bright space was broken up into smaller nooks of tables with the buffet served in the open two-storied ceiling space. The options abounded for those who were keen to explore the hot and cold options. For me, I chose the ala carte option of eggs, streaky bacon and juice. It was quick and easy.
Front Desk Staff
For most of my stay, the same staff was working the front desk and greeted me by name every time I walked past. Given my room change, the missing chocolates and a few queries, I was known by name (good and bad). I don’t like to be “that guest” but staff were lovely and attentive throughout. Watching the staff interact with other guests, many returning, you can see how personalized the service is and each person seemed happy.
The Ampersand Hotel Tour
I asked the sales manager for tour of the hotel during my stay which he agreed to. You can read more about the tour in an upcoming post. With six room categories, there is enough choice to make guests enjoy the luxury hotel as well as nice meeting room space. Travel agents, meeting planners and leisure travelers can all find something to like at The Ampersand Hotel in London. Small luxury hotel touches with high style and design.
Final Thoughts – The Ampersand Hotel Review
I loved my stay at the Ampersand Hotel and happy I cheated on my hotel loves as I now have a new love to add to my list. The small issues I experienced were one offs, in my opinion, which the staff quickly resolved. Kensington is a lovely area to explore – day and night. With great underground access, the free museums and Hummingbird cupcakes, what more can you want from the neighborhood? The boutique luxury hotel had attentive staff, luxurious design details and quiet comfort which is what most vacations are about – a chance to relax and enjoy life’s luxuries both big and small.