The Ampersand Hotel is a boutique property, located a seven minute walk from the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science Museums.
The hotel brings a splash of colourful flamboyance to the heart of South Kensington, with Breaking Travel News reporter Alice McKeown here calling in for the night.
From the outside, The Ampersand looks both formidable and traditional.
Built in 1889, the hotel’s imposing and symmetrical Victorian exterior remains, though its once red-brick walls are now painted a cooler, muted grey.
A Union Jack flag juts proudly upwards into the sky, rippling slightly in the wind.
All very in keeping with the formal Kensington stereotypes, you might think.
Take a few steps inside, however, and you’re surrounded by fresh, exuberant, and lively modern design.
A great deal of thought has gone into developing the interior, incorporating the hotel’s five themes of botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy, all of which are inspired by the cultural powerhouses within the local area.
The Natural History, Science, V&A Museums are nearby, as is the Royal Albert Hall and Chelsea Physic Garden.
As you approach reception, you’re greeted by a splendid vertical light installation; an ornate silver beanstalk which bursts some 60 metres upwards uninterrupted, running up the entire height of the hotel.
Softly-lit bare bulbs have each been gifted a pair of white delicate wings, and the effect is that of a flock of bird-bulbs straining to take flight, rising up together through the staircase.
Taking the stairs has never been so tempting.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a few light bites or afternoon tea, then The Ampersand’s drawing rooms are well worth a visit.
The room itself is wonderfully bright and airy, but again it’s the interior design which really sets it apart, drawing heavily on the botanical and ornithological themes.
The drawing room setting has been brought to life with splashes of colour; aquatic green tendrils snake across the enormous rug at the centre of the room, and electric blues and reds being a modern twist to the leather seats.
Red peacocks and peafowls strut proudly across other chairs’ upholstery, and in one striking piece of art, a blackbird is nestled inside a teacup, gazing out aloofly across the room.
It’s a fantastic effect overall, and the traditional drawing room has been transformed with a child’s creativity, but polished finesse.
Rooms at The Ampersand start at £216 per night for a Double - not including breakfast - and rise to £474 for a Suite.
I stayed in a Deluxe Double, which was furnished beautifully, complete with a deep-purple headboard which rose 8 feet tall.
The tall Victorian ceilings give the rooms a spacious and open feel, and on the wall was a faint etching of a bird-of-paradise in flight. On the bedside table was a copy of ‘Bird Sense’ - a book by Tim Birkhead, outlining ‘what it’s like to be a bird’. A nice touch.
Breakfast at The Ampersand was hearty and enjoyable.
I opted for the full English, which with five different types of meat - including both white and black pudding - wasn’t a disappointment.
I particularly liked the inclusion of the fried kidney, which was pink and rich and divine.
A perfect start to the day, provided nothing too energetic follows immediately after.
For guests looking to dine for lunch or dinner, The Ampersand caters well.
Apero - a restaurant serving modern Mediterranean dishes - is located in the cellar arches of the hotel, and a sharing menu there costs £32.
Directly adjacent to Apero, under the brick vaults of the hotel is The Wine Room.
A magnificent oak banqueting table sits pride of place, seating ten people - a great choice for an intimate dinner with friends.
Service at The Ampersand is attentive and intuitive, and throughout my all too-short stay there, I felt very well looked after.
The hotel offers a haven from the hustle-and-bustle of city life, and guests enjoy a taste of modern and cosmopolitan luxury, all within the pulsing heart of South Kensington.
For the interior design alone, The Ampersand is worth a visit.
For more information on The Ampersand Hotel please visit the official website.