FINDING a hotel in London shouldn’t be a problem – there are hundreds to choose from, after all. But finding one that’s affordable, in a great location, with clean, comfortable and spacious rooms, helpful staff and a fab restaurant can be.
Which is where The Rockwell comes in. An independent townhouse hotel in the heart of Kensington, the Rockwell provides a welcoming haven of understated contemporary style.
Its 40 bedrooms have been designed to create a relaxed atmosphere, and an added bonus is its secluded, south-facing garden, ideal for coffee in the morning or taking the evening air with a nightcap after dinner.
East Coast trains deliver you straight from Edinburgh to King’s Cross in four and a half hours (with a splendid at-your-table brunch of chicken tikka pie washed down with sauvignon blanc), then jump on a Tube to Earls Court, after which the hotel is a five-minute meander. What’s stopping you?
Unnervingly, our room was 101, but rather than being subjected to our worst nightmares as in George Orwell’s 1984, we enjoyed spotless, airy and quiet quarters to the rear of the hotel, overlooking the garden. The bed was large, with pocket-sprung mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets, feather pillows and Merino wool blankets, while the power-shower room was stocked with White Company toiletries, soft white towels and fluffy robes. There was also a minibar, satellite TV and free wi-fi, but sadly no tea or coffee making facility.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Lots of boutique touches, but prices almost come into budget territory for London. The elegantly tiled reception area of the converted townhouse building is cool and welcoming, and feels a world away from the bustling streets outside. This certainly isn’t your run of the mill chain hotel, but rather a bijou home from home. Prices start at £140 a night for a double room, £100 for a single.
WINING AND DINING
We ate in the Rockwell Dining Room and had the place to ourselves, bar a solitary diner, but thoroughly enjoyed our starters of Rockwell salad (chicken, bacon, baby gem, asparagus, blue cheese, avocado and cherry tomatoes, £10.50) and duck breast carpaccio with pistachio crust and polenta (£8), and our awesome main courses of rack of lamb served with couscous, beetroot and carrots (£18) and beer-battered cod with chips, pea puree and tartar sauce (£13). The cheesecake with ice-cream (£8) my wife chose for dessert also hit the spot. However, my cheeseboard selection (£12) was slightly farcical, comprising a handful of cream crackers, a couple of Babybels and those odd sausage-shaped tubes of Austrian smoked plastic. I have a feeling chef had disappeared before we ordered dessert, which resulted in the panicked waitress making a hasty trip to the local minimart. The South African chenin blanc (£16) was just the ticket though.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Many of the city’s best attractions are on the hotel’s doorstep, including Earls Court, the Royal Albert Hall plus shopping in Knightsbridge. We visited when the Chelsea Flower Show was on just a couple of Tube stops away, and spent a glorious evening experiencing horticultural heaven (www.rhs.org.uk). Beforehand, we fortified ourselves with a glass of champagne and banoffee cupcakes at Peggy Porschen’s sublime Belgravia parlour (www.peggyporschen.com). On our last morning, we strolled for 20 minutes to visit the mind-blowing Natural History Museum, and if we’d had more time could have taken in the Science Museum or the Victoria and Albert, both of which are in the locale. Further afield is the Beefeater Gin Tour in Kennington (www.beefeaterdistillery.com).
The Sleep Spray pillow mist was a nice touch, and the free bottles of mineral water were welcome after a dehydrating day of sightseeing.
A heartily recommended base for exploring London, and one you’ll want to come back to again.
The Rockwell, 181 Cromwell Road, London, SW5 0SF, (0)207 244 2000, www.therockwell.com
East Coast trains run from Scotland’s major cities and towns to London King’s Cross. Edinburgh-London returns, booked at www.eastcoast.co.uk (08457 225225), start from £48 standard class or £95 first class