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Tucked into those Victorian terraces that stand like marble soldiers near Hyde Park and its museums, the design of the Ampersand Hotel won me over from afar.
The service and sweet treatment of children grabbed my heart the moment I stepped inside.
An original Victorian terrace with high ceilings and dizzyingly elegant staircases that embraces bright, contemporary colours. Designed to look good on an instagram feed.
Bare brick and white walls mingle with midnight blue velvet, hot pink cherry blossom and toy-box green while musical notes dance across cushion covers and chunky wooden ampersand figures look down at you from the shelves.
Everything, everywhere looks good, which made me feel a little nervous as I approached with a young baby and all the associated paraphernalia.
I needn’t have worried. If anything, travel with Rosa resulted in better service as receptionists and waiters jostled for position to see who could get the best smile. The travel cot was laid out ready and waiting and breakfast couldn’t have been easier.
The family friendly vibe at the Ampersand reminded me of the joy of life in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. In other words, places where children are welcomed as people instead of shunted off into over-plasticated, under sound-proofed “family friendly” venues and largely ignored.
The 111 rooms at the Ampersand have distinct themes, based on the surrounding area, with bedside books like What a Plant Knows and Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History reflecting the botanical slant of the nearby Natural History Museum.
We stayed in Room 311, a luxuriously large room by London standards – and indeed almost anywhere in the world. It’s one of the hotel’s Deluxe Studios with a spacious seating area and screened area for unpacking, clothes storage and somewhere to stash the Nespresso machine.
The chief joy was the king-size bed with its studded headboard that loomed like a character from Alice in Wonderland. The desk proved comfy and the large windows let plenty of natural light into the room, another potential pitfall when staying in London.
The bathroom came in Geordie Mint Humbug style, a tighter fit than perhaps expected given the size of the room but more than adequate for the needs of our travelling trio.
This is a quiet, refined beautiful area of London yet close to many, many of the main attractions in South Kensington. It’s a short walk to South Kensington Underground station and into Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, V&A, Royal Albert Hall and just a 15 minute walk from Harrods and the rest of Knightsbridge.
Gathering our courage, we took our four month old baby down for dinner at the Apero Restaurant and Bar, albeit at a rather uncourageous 6.30pm start. Apero neatly sidesteps the hotel trap of feeling like an afterthought with its bare-brick walls, white tiles and teal blue studded chairs providing a completely separate feel.
Its location in the basement beneath the Victorian Arches provides cosiness rather than claustrophobia and the judicious use of curtains converts alcoves into snug hideaways.
Tapas has a sketchy reputation in the UK, often with good reason, yet the flavours of Apero’s migas and Iberico ham croquettas made me fall in love with the idea all over again. Plus, they had my favourite Spanish dish: the small green peppers from Padron. Salty, crunchy, marvellous. It was a meal made to linger for.
Apero doubles as an evening restaurant and breakfast area but the character and design of the place makes both appropriate. Breakfast combines a buffet with a la carte options and is fully stocked with the 2017 staple of avocado and sourdough, with a twist of juicy chorizo, poached eggs, feta and olives.
In other words, heaven.
This warrants a special mention because I found it just so beautiful. Sky-blue alcoves with glass domed artefacts, strutting peacock designs, neat teacups and flowers upon flowers everywhere. They serve a Science Afternoon Tea, which we sadly didn’t have time to check out, but I’d recommend a visit here to just soak up some solitude when the throngs of London crowd upon you just a little too much.
A Games Room, Library and small Wine Room, a small open-plan business area and small gym (which I’ll confess to not having tested.)
Wifi is included throughout and there is parking at the back of the hotel.
The building was completed in 1888 and there has been a hotel on the site ever since.
Absolutely. In all the good, wholesome, genuine senses of the words. Disabled access helps you enter from the street, travel cots are provided and staff just seem to fall in love with babies. It’s a boutique hotel made for bundles of babies.
Bright, brilliant, baby welcoming boutique hotel in London’s leafy and learned South Kensington. An absolute pleasure from start to finish and – if you haven’t guessed it yet – highly recommended.
Who it’s for: couples, families, solo travellers
Who it’s not for: lovers of chain hotels or low budget options.
Disclosure – We paid a reduced rate to visit and dine at the Ampersand Hotel in London for review purposes. As ever, as always, we kept the right to write what we like here on Inside the Travel Lab. Otherwise, there is just no point. Check out the other reviews of special places to stay in London and see.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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