Vibrant colours, statement furniture and unusual art greets guests as they sweep into the lobby of the swanky Knightsbridge Hotel. Part of Firmdale Hotels, this smart London townhouse sits on a lovely tree-lined street with a crisp-yet-quirky English accent, thanks to owner-designer Kit Kemp's whimsical interiors. Other Firmdale hallmarks are in evidence too, from Soholistic spa treatments to the handsome, art-lined drawing room and library. Relaxation never looked so good…
Forty-four, including the Knightsbridge Suite and eight Junior Suites.
Noon, but later check-out may be available on request. Check-in is from 3pm.
Double rooms from £262.50, including tax at 5 per cent.
Breakfast isn't always included (it's £18 for Continental, £19 for full English), but special breakfast-inclusive rates are often available – check when booking.
At the hotel
Library, DVD selection, free WiFi throughout, valet parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, DAB Tivoli radio with iPod dock, minibar, free bottled water, Kit Kemp's range of Rik Rak bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Knightsbridge Suite is the hotel’s showpiece, with a vast raised bed (complete with sumptuous upholstered headboard) – all topped with a massive wrought-iron chandelier that hangs in front of the fireplace. Deluxe Double 209 looks out over the rooftops of Knightsbridge and the iconic (but inexplicable) Harrods chimney. As you’d expect from Kit Kemp, all rooms are individually and lavishly designed, with running themes including tailor’s dummies, oversized headboards and artworks of Peter Clark’s West Highland Terrier (a nod to nearby Harrods).
Bring a credit card with plenty of headroom and a bag with space to stash – Knightsbridge is the motherland of luxury shopping. Actually, forget the bag, Mulberry’s at the end of the street.
The cosy, colourful sofas in the library are the ideal places to curl up with a chunky novel and a self-made cocktail.
Dandies and dames.
Knightsbridge Hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, but, being located beside the culinary heart of London, it doesn’t need one. Most guests take breakfast in their rooms, but dining in the living room and the library can provide a cosy and sociable start to the day.
There’s no formal bar, but the in-room minibars are superbly stocked and there’s a huge and gleaming honesty bar beside the library, packed with full fridges, row upon row of premium spirits and everything a show-off mixologist might need.
You can plunder the honesty bar day and night.
There’s a 24 hour à la carte menu available, which includes three-course meals.
London Heathrow is 15 miles from the hotel. If you're not too luggage-laden, catch the Heathrow Express to London Paddington and then take the Tube to nearby Knightsbridge or South Kensington.
Victoria, Paddington and Waterloo are all less than a 10-minute cab ride away, and from here you'll be able to reach most of the UK. Walking to both Knightsbridge and South Kensington Tube stations will take less than five minutes.
Metered parking is available on Beaufort Gardens and there is a public car park on Brompton Place. Valet parking is also available on request.
Take an appetite-honing stroll to Chelsea’s hugely impressive Ambassade de L’Ile on Old Brompton Road (+44 (0)20 7373 7774) – the second outpost of masterful Michelin-starred French chef Jean-Cristophe Ansanay-Alex. If the exclusively-priced à la carte dinner menu is a deterrent, the set lunch menus (two courses, £25; three courses, £35) are good value. Lovers of Japanese cuisine should put Zuma on Raphael Street (+44 (0)20 7584 1010) top of their list – and remember to book ahead.Head to the super-trendy gourmet Brazilian Mocotó (+44 (0)20 7225 2300), where beautiful people sip caipirinha cocktails upstairs, then fuel up on nuevo latino fare. Other good options not far from Knightsbridge Hotel include the bistros at The Pelham or The Gore, French restaurant Aubaine at 262 Brompton Road (+44 (0)20 7052 0100), and for excellent Iberian tapas, Casa Brindisa at 7–9 Exhibition Road, (+44 (0)20 7590 0008).
Kumo on neighbouring Beauchamp Place is a stylish Japanese cocktail bar that serves up sushi by expert chefs from Zuma and Nobu.
Before I begin, I have a confession to make. Mr Smith and I are not coming to the Knightsbridge Hotel in London as wide-eyed tourists, easily impressed by all the style flourishes on display. We live in the city, not far from this boutique beauty; and this townhouse hotel, built in the early 1800s, is going to have to work hard to impress us.
The hotel has retained a classic feel, despite its contemporary English conception, and when we walk into the small main lobby, the first thing I notice is the immaculate level of tidiness and freshness. The place feels as though it has been completely redecorated the previous day. I find myself wanting to run off with the clever ‘Scottish dogs’ artwork that hangs among the custom-designed furnishings – all selected with designer Kit Kemp’s usual gifted eye for detail. I adore her African-style chairs, made from authentic Malian fabrics (in fact, I love them so much, I buy one).
As you’ve probably guessed from Ms Kemp’s involvement, the Knightsbridge Hotel is part of the illustrious Firmdale Group – synonymous with a refreshingly bold design aesthetic. As we walk through to the drawing room, where light jazz tinkles in the background, I am immediately drawn to the roaring fire. Warming my hands above its cosy glow, I’m struck by what a cute and welcoming spot this would be for an afternoon tea or a rummage through the papers. I make a mental note to drag Mr Smith back here later for scones and Sunday supplements.
Compared to some of the other hotels in the Firmdale portfolio, the Knightsbridge Hotel, with its 44 rooms, is on the large side. This doesn’t mean that the group’s policy of redesigning rooms on a rollover basis is ignored here, though. If the carpet gets snagged or the drapes start to stick, then they immediately get replaced. In fact, why not do as I do when staying at Firmdale property, and always request a newly refurbished room?
This time, Mr Smith and I are in Room 202 – and it proves to be something of a favourite. Initially, I was a little worried about how noisy it would be (the hotel sits just off the busy Old Brompton Road), but the soundproofing was clearly well done and we sleep like rocks in our fine-sheeted, perfectly firm bed.
The next morning, we order up room service, which arrives within 15 minutes of me replacing the receiver on the bedside phone. Mr Smith and I (both exiles from the US) are delighted to find some seriously great American-style pancakes served as part of the fresh and well-presented breakfast. Also incorporating made-to-order smoothies, fresh juices and several different types of yoghurt, the menu is clearly aimed at a health-conscious crowd.
The Knightsbridge is not a spa hotel, but it may as well be for all the serenity it offers. The strangest thing, though, is that its relaxing ambience and laid-back interiors lie just minutes from the bustling shop floors of Harrods, Harvey Nichols and all those other crowded, credit card-melting emporia. Much as we love to shop, Mr Smith and I eschew our usual retail pursuits in favour of a morning browsing the antiquities at the V&A, and looking at dinosaurs and giant whales at the Natural History Museum – both equally close by.
There may be no restaurant at the hotel, but this hardly matters when so many shining lights of London’s culinary scene are within a mile of your front door. We indulge in some high-end but refreshingly low-fat contemporary Japanese cuisine – miso-marinated foie gras for Mr Smith, crispy fried lemon sole with spicy ponzu sauce and green onions for me – at the wonderful Zuma on Raphael Street, before escaping the din of passing cars on Kensington High Street in the peaceful environs of Hyde Park. It’s a beautiful day, and we find ourselves wishing we’d bought some provisions so we could have a picnic on the grass.
All in all, we loved our stay at the Knightsbridge Hotel. Are there any areas for improvement? Well, as there’s no gym or spa, and I’d love it if they gave guests passes to the nearby Peak Health Club (which has both). But it’s a pretty minor complaint really. I’d happily come back here to hole up if I wanted to escape from the many duties of ‘home’ in South Kensington. And I’ll also tell friends visiting from abroad to stay here – especially if, like me, they love picking up interesting things on their travels. Where else could you check into in London and leave with an authentic Malian chair? It’s beyond our Ken.