The “luxury app” really gained traction when the pandemic hit and people couldn’t travel, while also helping fill empty rooms.
I’m a regular visitor to London, and welcome anything that can elevate a hotel stay, offer something different, and/or give you a better understanding of the local area including valuable recommendations. Among Staycation experiences in the city are a private chauffeured outing from the historic Venetian hotel Baglioni; cocktail-making at Covent Garden’s Henrietta Hotel; and “delights to be discovered at” The Portobello Hotel in Notting Hill.
I opt for the latter, not least because it is believed to be the location of Kate Moss and Johnny Depp's rumoured champagne bath story.
The Portobello Hotel is located on a residential street about five minutes’ walk from Notting Hill Gate Tube station, having originally opened in 1971 to remedy a shortage of luxury hotels in West London. It has since hosted a prestigious list of famous faces including Alice Cooper, U2, and the Rolling Stones. Guests are asked politely that if they spot a famous face they should not bother them.
Its Staycation offering provides you with a Portobello insider’s card, which recommends local shops, food and drink spots, and even spa/fitness venues, with discounts available at many of those on the list. One restaurant even offers free dim sum.
My first impression of the elegant property is that it feels more like a private home than a hotel, and I can see why it’s so popular with celebrities looking for a high-end, low-profile escape.
My stay is on a Monday night, and I am thrilled to be given the keys to the hallowed room 16 - scene of the apparent bath incident. The first thing I notice is the distinctive round bed that Robbie Williams apparently liked so much he tried to buy it. The sizeable but cosy room overlooks private residents’ gardens, and is home to antique furniture, complemented by wallpaper and soft furnishings in the same lemon yellow of the nearby St Peter's Church. Opposite the bed is the famous bathtub, a large and elegant but old-school contraption, and while the champagne story (a maid apparently drained the bath when Kate and Johnny went out) has never been confirmed, it feels decadent to be enjoying a soak where celebs have before me. There is also a (not quite so exciting) shower.
Budget or boutique
The whole Staycation concept turns up the boutique aspect of hotel stays, but with a discounted twist. As for The Portobello Hotel, it calls itself a “luxurious boutique bolthole”, every guestroom is different, and according to a book in the room titled Hotels of The Stars, Tina Turner apparently enjoyed her stay so much she bought a house nearby - a pretty good claim to fame.
Worth getting out of bed for
I go for a stroll through Notting Hill, past the many market stalls, and stopping off for a takeaway lunch from Ottolenghi, one of the cherrypicked local haunts.
Another name in the guide is chocolate shop Melt Chocolates, which offers a 10 per cent discount, and for legit journalistic research reasons (honest guv) I decide to sample its wares.
The same level of discount is available at Franklin’s Wine on Westbourne Grove just down the road from the hotel, and I make the most of this when I have an early dinner of a cheeseboard there. Hopefully also 10 per cent fewer calories too?
Had I had more time I could have got a day pass for a local, luxury fitness studio/pool.
Wining and Dining
The hotel does not have a restaurant but breakfast is served in the Sitting Room and includes a selection of fresh fruit juice, tea, coffee, cereal, pastries, yoghurt, meats, cheeses, toast, fresh fruit or a cooked breakfast, or in the room. For other meals, there is a wealth of choice nearby.
When you check in you’re given the option of breakfast in your room at no extra cost, and I cannot resist doing so in my luxurious surroundings. However, I do wonder if I’d done so downstairs, in a space also home to the Honesty Bar, I could have been eating in famous company.
To be honest, the Staycation concept had me at “originating in France”, but I’m down with its offering that sparkles welcome inspiration on the hotel stay experience and is worth checking out (and checking in).
Staycation London's average basket/offers are £200, always including the overnight stay, breakfast and an additional surprise, whether drinks, dinner, afternoon tea or an activity. For more information, see www.staycation.co/en/london.
The Portobello Hotel, 22 Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill, London, W11 2NG, (020 7727 2777, www.portobellohotel.com)