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After a few road trips all over the UK, finally London is calling once again and it’s always a “pinch me” moment as I call London my home. When you are caught up in a fast pace lifestyle, always on the phone, with the view restricted to the pavement while texting to someone, or a constant check-up on Instagram, it’s far too easy to forget to look up and see the beauty of the buildings, or even the sky. I never really have the time to embrace everything around me – as if I’m wearing blinkers, just like a racehorse!
So, this is a welcome turnaround, having the opportunity to stay at three of the Firmdale Hotels – London Townhouse and I am looking forward to discovering more about the property itself – and London too. Every time I get to explore places I have not seen before, I have to ask myself “Where have I been all this time?” but then I remind myself how huge London is, even though I have lived in this fantastic city for 10 years!
I get such a buzz when I am invited to stay and explore one of the London hotels and get a better understanding of my own city – it’s as if I am visiting a totally new destination. Firmdale Hotels has been a long-standing favourite, having visited their hotel’s lots of times for tea breaks, business meetings, cocktails and dinners with friends, but until now I have never had an opportunity to stay over. It has always left me curious to find out what it would be like.
“Hotels should be living things, not stuffy institutions” maintain Tim and Kit Kemp, owners of Firmdale Hotels. There are eight boutique hotels in London and two in New York. The high standards of excellence and unique townhouse style of decoration have, over the years, added up to a winning combination. Kit Kemp has designed the interiors of each hotel in her unique personal way, reflecting a fresh, modern English style. She was named the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year in 2008 and has gone on to win many more accolades. Firmdale Hotels has received the Queens Award for Enterprise in 2000, 2006 and 2009, in recognition of its outstanding achievement to international trade.
The door awaits and I will be showcasing three of the Firmdale Hotels – London Townhouse, starting in the leafy neighbourhood of South Kensington, on to Dorset Square of Marylebone and finally the affluent postcode of Knightsbridge – three same brands, but each with its own character, location, lifestyle attractions and an individual dining experience at each property.
Number Sixteen is located on a quiet side street off Old Brompton Road, just moments from both South Kensington tube and the museums around Exhibition Road. On a bright sunny day, all of the Victorian white stucco-fronted townhouses gleam splendidly alongside the cherry trees, already beginning to blossom, a sure sign that Spring is here.
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This hotel was designed as a hideout location, away from the bustle of Exhibition Road, with its three iconic museums – the Victoria and Albert, Science and Natural History Museum. As soon as you enter the property, you immediately feel very much at home, which is quite comforting. The interior is bright and lively, filled with many colourful artworks. It could only be a Firmdale hotel, stamped with Kit Kemp’s inimitable blend of classic and contemporary decoration, with both comfort and colour (and modern decorative art) at the fore.
The drawing room has a beautiful driftwood chandelier along with pastel pink, flowered plush fabrics, and the newly redecorated library is a striking combination of black and white, purple and sunshine yellow with a hint of lime. There is also the newly landscaped, tree-filled private garden, a soothing space for drinks or dining and an unusual plus for a London hotel.
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There are 41 rooms and many have recently been redecorated, mixing deep comfort with a sensible approach to fixtures and fittings and great style. All are different and all delightful. The bedroom shown is a sort of powder blue with a hint of raspberry and a floral touch with fresh, modern English styling and a view of the stunning Townhouses.
And now it’s time to head for lunch at The Orangery Restaurant, with a perfect view of its own tree-filled private garden. The all-day menu looks mouth-watering – salmon fishcakes, club sandwiches, risotto primavera etc. as well as imaginative afternoon teas and breakfasts, featuring dishes such as ‘doorstop’ bacon sandwiches and toasted bagels with smoked salmon and avocado. Doesn’t this sound truly delish? I can also imagine how wonderful the garden will look during the summer when all the blooms are out, whilst sipping champagne outside. I will be back for a perfect hideaway in a lively neighbourhood of South Kensington.
This was the first hotel that Firmdale owners, Tim and Kit Kemp, opened, back in 1985. They sold it in 2002, and in 2012 they bought it back, completely refurbishing it in the process. The hotel stands within sight of Marylebone Station on a fairly busy side of leafy Dorset Square, which was the site of the first ever cricket ground and home to the Marylebone Cricket Club – the MCC. The hotel is proud of its cricket memorabilia, which includes an artistic arrangement of antique bats, and is situated a stone’s throw away from Marylebone Train Station and Baker Street Tube Station. And, with just a 10-minute walk, you will find yourself in Regents Park, the perfect retreat on a warm sunny day.
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Each of the 38 bedrooms at the Dorset Square Hotel has been designed by Kit Kemp in a fresh, vibrant and quintessentially British style. There are a few special rooms, such as the Marylebone Room, which has a tailored feel with its grey wool suiting walls and library. Many rooms have charming views of the leafy Dorset Square opposite, including quaint attic rooms complete with sloping rooftops. The combination of scintillating design with uncomplicated, gadget light comfort, brings a touch of luxury.
Hidden in the basement is The Potting Shed bar and restaurant, an airy, spacious room providing the perfect setting for dinner. An erudite lighting installation by Martha Freud delights diners with its constantly changing, luminous words of wisdom, and the modern British menu (liver, bacon, mash, caper sauce; beer battered Pollock and hand cut chips) is very well executed. Don’t forget to check out their signature cocktails, which are to die for. Would you excuse me while I dig into these mouth-watering dishes? No need for you to wait – just come along and join us!
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This discrete and smart townhouse hotel is tucked away in a quiet, tree-lined street in a prime part of central London and adjacent to the city’s most upmarket shopping streets. The third member of the Firmdale Hotel group, it has a contemporary, “unstuffy” atmosphere with an emphasis on modern design and in-room service. This is Beaufort Gardens and, in terms of smart London addresses, it’s hard to beat – well-placed for Harrods and Harvey Nichols, plus the big Kensington museums, Hyde Park and the Albert Hall. Could I please pretend that this is my palatial home for the next few days?
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This grand 1860s townhouse which is, in fact, three adjacent houses linked together, has a pillared and porticoed entrance and the air of a private hotel. Standards are extremely high and masterminded by designer and owner, the talented Kit Kemp. Expect modern English design reflected in a busy mix of striking, bold-coloured wallpapers and eclectic, contemporary furnishings. There are traditional touches too, including a small library of leather bound volumes (Punch, Encyclopaedia Britannica, National Geographic) and antique prints, plus a dash of humour with quirky dog-themed cushions in the lounge – simply adorable, right?
There are 44 rooms, all different, on several floors, with views of tall London plane trees in leafy Beaufort Gardens to the front and a small lane of mews houses, next to the Harrods car park, at the back. Room 102 has three floor-to-ceiling sash windows, admitting plenty of morning light, with long blinds for privacy, plus outside terrace seating over the entrance portico. For such a city centre location, rooms are surprisingly quiet. I’m staying at the stylish Junior Suite with its cotton coral wall-covering and mix’n’match striking fabrics. The rooms are all rather large but the atmosphere feels quite intimate, so you won’t feel your room is too big if you are travelling solo.
Don’t you always feel quite peckish during the afternoon? So now, it’s time for afternoon tea, the best companion you could ask for. Knightsbridge Hotel offers a picturesque drawing room, a relaxed and sophisticated place for Afternoon Tea, whether it be with friends or family – perfect for those who seek an intimate special gathering, such as a birthday or an anniversary. Their traditional Afternoon Tea features classic delights such as scones with clotted cream and preserves, a selection of traditional cakes and an assortment of dainty sandwiches, accompanied by a choice of teas or perhaps a glass of bubbly, as a special treat.
The lack of space downstairs will not accommodate a full-size restaurant, but snacks (hot drinks, fruit, pastries) and an honesty bar are provided in the lounge. You are encouraged to take breakfast in your room to make the most of your stay right up to the last minute before your departure.
After a wonderful hour-long afternoon tea, I think it’s time to go for a walk and shop till I drop in Harrods, this is my workout, right? All these three beautiful Firmdale Hotels – London Townhouse bring a special touch for all who are fortunate enough to stay there and they will remain stamped in your memory when you leave. You can click on individual links for each property or why not treat yourself to a visit like I did – the more who stay with Firmdale Hotels, the better! At least, pop over for a “tipple” some time, or take an afternoon tea to remember!
Photos by Diana Martin Photography