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Recent Renovations at the Kensington Offer a Timeless Taste of London

The restaurant, bar, drawing rooms, and top suite were all renovated…

Located on a tree-lined street in the upscale community of South Kensington, the Kensington, a Doyle Collection property, offers a taste of proper British life. Comprising four cream-colored Victorian townhouses, the hotel features 126 well-appointed rooms and 24 suites. As soon as guests step inside the opulent lobby, attentive bellboys are on standby to whisk mounds of luggage to their rooms, while the friendly concierge team offers warm washcloths to rejuvenate weary travelers and suggests afternoon tea in the drawing room. After undergoing an extensive, yearlong renovation, the hotel now includes an elevated restaurant and bar in addition to updated rooms and an entirely new Knightsbridge Suite.

“The hotel is conceived as a grand townhouse with a series of interconnecting drawing rooms, complete with working fireplaces, polished parquet floors, timber paneling, and period plaster detailing,” says architect and designer Denis Looby. He, the Doyle Collection design team, and the group’s chairman Bernie Gallagher drew inspiration from classic Victorian townhouses when envisioning the space. They chose carved limestone and marble chimneys, wicker furniture, mid-century artwork, an 18th-century crystal chandelier, and an art deco glass lantern to enhance the hotel’s timeless decor.

New to the Kensington is its top residence, the 1,100-square-foot Knightsbridge Suite. The elegant space features two fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling French windows, silk-taffeta curtains, 1930s Murano- and Waterford-crystal chandeliers, and a private balcony. A gilt hanging mirror houses a 60-inch television (its display hidden until it’s turned on), and a plush circular daybed offers the perfect place to sit while sipping tea. The marble bathroom showcases a walk-in shower, whirlpool bathtub, and heated floor. Fresh-cut flowers and handwritten welcome notes greet guests. And decadent Irish chocolates left atop pillows, and slippers stationed by the foot of the bed, make travelers feel right at home.

K Bar, an on-site watering hole exuding a members-only-club vibe, is decorated with oak-lined walls, a counter, and a backbar reminiscent of 1930s cocktail bars. Masterfully adorned with six handblown glass chandeliers, leather wingback chairs, and sofas in teal and violet, the bar showcases a drink menu curated by award-winning bar manager Ben Manchester. On any given night, an eclectic mix of well-heeled bon vivants populates the bar: foreign businessmen celebrating their latest deals, trendy socialites discussing hot gossip, and world travelers searching for the city’s finest cocktails. Manchester, who joined K Bar in December 2015, curated a cocktail list to match the essence of the 1930s-style lounge. “K Bar has a private-members-club feel, and it has glamour given by touches in the decor like the jewel tones and velvet touches in the soft furnishings,” he says. As for which libation guests should choose to wet their whistles, Manchester recommends the Jouanacaera—a daiquiri made with rhum agricole and celery bitters.

The adjacent Town House restaurant is a series of three interconnected drawing rooms with cozy fireplaces, antique-book-lined shelves, and both 20th-century and modern artwork. The à la carte menu, created by the team and executive chef Steve Gibbs, includes fish and chips with pea puree and tartar sauce; sea bass with brown shrimp, samphire, and lemon dressing; honey-roasted quail with caramelized figs and almonds; and rib-eye steak with a peppercorn sauce that ought not to be missed. “Town House has a home-away-from-home feel,” Gibbs says, “just like sitting in front of the fire in your own living room.” He incorporates seasonal produce and local ingredients into each dish to give guests an authentic taste of England.  

For those who want to sample the local cuisine, a wealth of culinary treasures are located just around the corner: a Japanese restaurant with flavorful sushi and ramen, a bakery with melt-in-your-mouth sugar buns and chewy meringue spirals, and an Italian eatery with pasta and stone-fired pizza. Famed shopping destination Harrods is within easy reach, too, as is the Victoria and Albert Museum, a partner of the Kensington. From start to finish, the haute hotel offers an unforgettable stay for anyone seeking an elevated English excursion. (doylecollection.com)    

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