I can’t imagine that you could ever be down in this gilded property. It is just that everything goes so much more “up” when I am shown to my second-floor room.
My allotted junior suite at the Baglioni Hotel in Kensington is beautifully styled, there is a great view over Kensington Park and my roomie appears to be Sophia Loren. What more could a chap wish for?
And the sun has come out. All inclusive, too.
I look out over Lycra-clad sweat-balls as they jog through the park. The sensible souls are lying under trees, licking ice creams purchased from the café just off the leafy Broad Walk. London is magical on days like this and an Italian hotel backdrop adds to the feel-good factor.
Sophs, sadly, is represented in pictorial form, in a black and white portrait hanging on the wall, rather than in the flesh. But you can’t have it all.
This small, five-star hotel has just 67 rooms, the majority of which are suites, and the manageable scale enhances the atmosphere of intimacy. It’s not snooty, I can report; and this makes me happy, too.
The Baglioni group’s London outpost, which opened nine years ago, was its first foray outside Italy and France, where there are eight hotels and a residence. There are some very fine properties in very fine palazzos.
A stunning suite is opening on the top of the eight-storey Regina Hotel Baglioni Rome. The whopping Roman Penthouse is 560m-sq, including 290m-sq of private outdoor terraces. You can have dinner cooked by your private chef as you look out to the Colosseum. Apparently, they are dying for me to try it out…
The Kensington hotel, housed in a Victorian building, captures a less formal style without sacrificing luxury design. So the walls have gold leaf.
A central water feature in the lobby, which divides reception from the bar/lounge area and restaurant, hints at burbling fountains from the old country. The effect could be silly, but it isn’t.
There is a spa at the Baglioni but, to be honest, I am content to kick-back in my suite. Attractions like the Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Hall are within striking distance but the tourist trail can wait.
I have stayed in more expansive, palatial accommodation, but some of those places are not always terribly easy to relax in. This suite is, and I rather love it.
From the living area, double doors open into the bedroom. There is an internal hallway leading to the chrome-decked bathroom, so the place really does feel like your own private living quarters rather than a room with a loo and a bath tagged on. You can tell it is Italian designed – there are mirrors everywhere in the bathroom. There’s no hiding place.
(Anorak note on the bathroom lighting: there is subdued, ground-level blue night-lighting that means you can stumble out to powder your nose during darkness without (1) stubbing your toes; (2) blinding yourself by turning on the bathroom light, thereby waking yourself up for several hours.)
I arrive for aperitifs just in time to catch the last rays of the day, the sun dipping down over Kensington High Street. One of the Italian waiters tells me it is the first time he has seen the sun in six months.
A plate of antipasti, Italian cheeses (salty and sweet varieties) and breads arrive with a fruity French martini. I’d be quite content to sit here for several hours, drinking and nibbling, but feel obliged to try the Brunello Restaurant. A chap needs to do a bit of research in the field. It turns out to be a far from arduous task.
It is a Sunday evening but there is a decent turn-out in the tastefully blingy dining room. The restaurant may be upscale, with big velvet armchairs, glass candelabras, golds and greens and a team of slick, effortlessly groomed waiters. But the food is approachable, big on flavour. The blurb suggests the chef, Claudio Milani, enjoys reworking classic Mediterranean cuisine and I am a fan of the unfussy concept.
There is one of those lunatic London wine lists to slobber over but there are reasonably priced wines by the glass for mortals. The sparkling Bellavista, from Franciacorta, is great for the price, which I can’t remember, because I am hopeless with numbers.
The hit of the dinner is a starter of delicious burrata cheese tortelli with burnt butter and hazelnut. It makes me wish I had also ordered the fettuccine with peas, broad beans and asparagus. I love pasta when it is like this.
There are some big mains, like beef tagliata with roast potatoes, and pistachio and marjoram crusted rack of lamb with mash. Such dishes are indicative of the generous approach to cooking here rather than the unnecessary refinement that blights too many five-star London hotel restaurants.
I follow the tortelli with pan-fried monkfish, served with a tomato, black olive and caper sauce, then a simple vanilla panna cotta with wild red berries. Frankly, I over-cooked it on the antipasti.
As I retire to bed, I bid goodnight to Sophs and close my eyes safe in the knowledge that I have found a new hotel to add to my growing list of places to recommend. It’s all rather bellissimo at the Baglioni.
Baglioni Hotel, 60 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5BB UK.
Tel: 0207 368 5700.
A junior executive suite is from £599 + VAT.
*Richard McComb stayed at the Baglioni Hotel, London, as a guest of Baglioni Hotels.