Blakes Hotel – the very name conjures up a whole era of modern decadence. Each room at Anouska Hempel's South Ken boutique hotel has its own style, but all are inspired by various far-off lands: Russia, India, Turkey… The decor is testament to Ms Hempel's impeccable taste and astonishing attention to detail.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Sommelier's choice wine in your room and Continental breakfast for two throughout your stay
Noon. Check-in is from 3pm. Both are flexible (subject to availability).
Double rooms from £237.14, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast.
The Matthew Williamson-designed garden is a real urban grotto: there are Moroccan-esque tiles on the floor, flowerbeds packed with brightly-coloured blooms and little round tables dotted here and there. It's open daily from 8am–8pm, for breakfast, lunch and pre-dinner drinks. The star of the show is a huge, glass, bird cage-like structure, filled with a table, lined with benches and strewn with patterned cushions. Guests who bag this spot will have the added reassurance of a glass roof to protect from the elements – always a worry in London…
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, garden. In rooms: Bang & Olufsen flatscreen TV, iPod dock and desk.
Our favourite rooms
The Corfu Suite, which you enter from the garden; the Cardinal Suite (all in luscious reds); the Empress Josephine Suite with tented bed and a rich colour scheme of ebony and gold. If you're a book lover, try the grandiose librarian suite.
In-room spa treatments are available on request. The hotel also has membership of the nearby South Kensington Club, with its up-to-the-minute gym, spa, hairdresser and lounging areas.
You're in the heart of Chelsea, so some designer labels (to fit in with the locals) wouldn't go amiss. That being said, Blakes prides itself on making every guest feel at home, so whether you teeter in stilettos or traipse in flip-flops, no one will bat an eyelid.
Children very welcome; babysitters and nannies available on request (with 24 hours' notice).
The hotel are trying to reduce chemical and water use with a towel- and sheet-washing service on request only.
Table 11, tucked away at the back of the restaurant. That said, all the tables are good.
Sheer glamour: this is the 'couture' hotel, after all. However, if you'd rather go casual, a good pair of jeans and a white shirt is a London style classic.
All meals are served in the Anouska Hempel-designed eatery on the ground floor. It's sleekly outfitted in black and gold, in keeping with the designer's theatrical suites, and an organic Mediterranean menu is served. Our top picks? The soft-shell crab and black cod are so good you'll be tempted to order double.
A grand central bar ties together the hotel's restaurant, where guests can order from a list of handpicked wines and cocktails. Try a Chai Tea Martini or an Amalfi lemon-infused Love Pancakes cocktail. Downstairs is Blakes Below, a sexy bar just right for nighttime tipples and couples' assignations. There's live music on a Thursday, too.
11pm in the restaurant. Blakes Below is open Wednesday–Saturday, but is sometimes closed for private hire.
Order anything from breakfast to late-night dessert and drinks from the room service menu any time of the day or night. Please note, a reduced menu is served from 3am.
The nearest airport is London Heathrow, officially only 30 minutes by car from the hotel's Kensington setting. From London Gatwick, it'll take about an hour. The Heathrow Express train takes you into central London every 15 minutes.
Gloucester Road and South Kensington (both on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines) are the nearest Tube stations. The hotel is 10 minutes from London Paddington overground station (which you can reach from Heathrow using the Heathrow Express train), and 20 minutes from Waterloo.
Stay on the M4 until it becomes the A4 and you get close to somewhere resembling the bright lights of the city; then head in on the A3220 until you can switch to the Old Brompton Road and the hotel won't be far. There's one parking space that can be booked for £75 a day; otherwise, you'll need to use the pay-and-display parking spots on the street.
Worth getting out of bed for
Chelsea is a notoriously fancy London neighbourhood, so you're in the right spot for shopping, people-watching and fine dining. Head to the Kings Road and Sloane Street for designer boutiques, High Street Kensington if its mid-priced British brands you're after, and Walton Street for trendy, independent boutiques selling everything from shoes to linen, china and glassware. Of course, South Kensington is home to all the great museums: The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museumand The Natural History Museumare all within a few minutes' walk of each other. The recently opened Design Museum is on High Street Kensington, so pop by if graphics, fashion and architecture are your thing. Right beside Blakes, there's a Santander cycle hire docking station, so pick up some bikes and roam the area on two wheels.
Try Ours on the Fulham Road for glitzy, dressed-up dinners, and Bibendum opposite for something more casual, but nevertheless refined (the oysters are the best in town). Sherry and ham take centre stage at Capote y Toros, at 157 Old Brompton Road. There’s a well-curated wine list and inventive small plates such as lamb sweetbreads and fresh garlic-infused artichokes mixed with mushrooms. Walls are lined with photos of bullfighters and candid family snaps.
Head to Aubaine on the Fulham Road for perfect croissants, great cappucinos and a friendly atmosphere – bag an outside table so you can watch the super-cars speed past. For something more relaxed, go to Iddu on Harrington Road, where you can order classic Italian drinks like Campari and Crodino.
We're quite fond of Eclipse on the Old Brompton road, a few minutes' walk from the hotel. If it's classic, British pubs you're in search of, try the Drayton Arms and the Duke of Clarence, both next door, where you'll be able to get a pint and a good fish 'n' chips. The Thomas Cubitt,on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia, has the best of both worlds with a cosy bar, as well as a stylish dining room serving excellent dishes.
Blakes – the very name conjures up a whole era of modern London decadence. The first time I visited Anouska Hempel’s South Ken boutique hotel, it was to interview a famous film director who had decided to take a suite, with his glamorous girlfriend, for the filming of his new movie. The shoot ended up dragging on, unsurprisingly, for more than six months. I remember thinking what an indulgent gesture this was, but how he couldn’t have bettered his choice. From the moment you walk up the steps into reception (the subtle oriental decor sets the tone for the whole hotel), Blakes whispers seductively: prepare to be seriously spoiled.
Arriving for a weekend with my boyfriend, I tried not to dwell on the enticing scenario of a six-month check-in. The receptionist barely missed a beat when we owned up to a complete lack of luggage; he kept formalities to a minimum, handed over a reassuringly old-fashioned, clunky room key, and led us through a rabbit warren of corridors and stairways to our suite.
Simply put, the rooms at Blakes are the kind you never want to leave. Each has its own style, but all are inspired by various far-off lands: Russia, India, Turkey… The decor, while perhaps a little too redolent of the Eighties for some, is testament to Ms Hempel’s impeccable taste and astonishing attention to detail. You realise very quickly how Blakes earned its crown as the sexiest place in London to spend your wedding night (Patsy and Liam are just two of the hotel’s high-profile honeymooners).
Our room, in short, screamed hedonism. For a start, the walls were black: a colour guaranteed to conjure up a James Bond feel (there is actually a suite in the hotel called the 007). And then, there was the bed. What a bed. Four-postered, festooned with burnt-orange and black drapes, and set provocatively in its own darkened niche, it oozed sex appeal all on its own. The bathroom was equally lavish, a homage to black and gilt, complete with oriental-style blinds. So cocoon-like was the whole setting that we were never quite sure what time of day it was – what more can you ask from a naughty weekend away?
There are 52 rooms at Blakes, though the super-swift service and discreet atmosphere allow you to feel as though you are the only people staying there. With a visit to the dining room, on the lower-ground floor, we saw for ourselves that there were some other guests, not to mention chic diners from the outside world. Bamboo, walls of black mirror-glass and dramatic spotlighting set a rather theatrical scene for what was a delicious supper. The menu, as one might expect, has a strong Eastern influence, but there are Western dishes, too.
We opted for the Blakes blinis with caviar, and flirted with the excellent wine list before settling for a bottle of champagne. My one reservation is that women are still given an unpriced menu, which seems slightly out of touch, and could make the experience seem sleazy rather than romantic. The corner tables are intimate, but others are better placed for people-watching opportunities. The staircase down to the restaurant is a definite focal point; try as you may to concentrate on your food or, indeed, your date, it’s impossible not to wonder just who those slim Jimmy Choo-clad ankles could belong to. The dining room is also open for breakfast, but I advise the ‘in bed’ option. Nowhere have I tasted fresher orange juice or more expertly cooked scrambled eggs.
For those who can muster up the strength to escape from Blakes’ opulent clutches, there is plenty to do in the South Kensington area. The retail extravaganza of Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets is a 20-minute cab ride away, but the more villagey area closer to hand probably gives you more flash for your cash. The chic Brompton Cross area, where Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Joseph, Paul Smith and other designer boutiques cluster around elegant restaurants such as Daphne’s and Bibendum, is a 10-minute walk away, and Harrods and Harvey Nichols are just beyond that. We decided to go for a stroll in Kensington Gardens, and popped in to see the current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, where there are free must-see shows all year round.
There is no lavish spa here, nor any business facilities of note but then, being healthy and businesslike just isn’t the point of a hotel like Blakes. If you want to feel like a film star for a weekend, though, or like a Bond girl/007 himself, then Blakes, with its superb suites and serious service, is the place for you. If there were ever a hotel for a lost weekend, then this, most definitely, is it.