Blakes Hotel, Kensington and Chelsea, London, UK *****

Q: What is it? A: It opened when the Bee Gees were topping the charts with ”Night Fever” making it the world’s first boutique hotel. It’s also one of the best London hotels there is. Yes, one of the very best.

Blakes Hotel – the lobby – manning the front desk: Cynthia
As one of the very first boutique hotels, you’d expect the lobby to look a bit outdated by now. To be honest, it looks identical to when I stayed here in 2003 and in 2006. But no, it’s not outdated and it has Cynthia. Look closely and you’ll see her behind the front desk, smiling.

Blakes Hotel – the bedroom in suite #402
No, I didn’t pay for this, I got upgraded and I must confess that it’s one of the better upgrades I’ve ever had. As all rooms at the Blakes are different, ask for room #402 if you’d like to stay here. It’s in the “Luxury Suite” category in Blakes’ own book. I’d say the category fits the room.

Blakes Hotel – the bathroom in suite #402
A luxurious suite should come with a luxurious place for brushing teeth. This one did. Picture taken from the shower with a monsoon showerhead the size of a family pizza. And I want that orange light in my bathroom. I will have such an orange light in my bathroom, no matter the cost.

Blakes Hotel – the door to the living room of suite #402
See the door? See the door next to the door? With so few rooms on the top floor the terrace feels like your own. Sit outside on a warm night in late spring and you may spot the Airbus 380 making its final approach to London Heathrow. Even if you’re not into planes you’ll notice that the A380 is one big badass of an aircraft.

Blakes Hotel – the rooftop terrace
Neat detail: See the small, round table outside? It was equipped with a little widget with a button with the text “Room-service”. I’d like such widgets to appear everywhere. Or maybe they should come as an app in your cell phone? Heck, I think I’ve just invented a new mobile concept!

Hear this youngsters; it opened in 1978.
No, it’s not a typo. It opened in 1978, the year when folks watched ”The Deer Hunter” in theaters and blew approaching aliens to pieces in ”Space Invaders”. Blakes is the brainchild of Anouska Hempel, who arrived to the UK with £ 10 in her purse and soon got into acting. Career highlights includes being one of the ”Angels of Death” in the 007 movie ”On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and one of the crew members in the TV-series ”Space 1999”*. She was slightly more successful entering the hospitality industry, changing the perception of what a hotel could be. Blakes, referred to as a couture hotel, turned the small, exclusive accommodation into a destination. All of a sudden the image of the place where you slept mattered and supposedly spilled over on you.

Like entering a luxury ocean liner.
Tucked away on a South Kensington side street, it occupies several Victorian houses, the Blakes and the Benzies being the main ones. The style is by no means minimalistic. It’s a festival of dark and red wood, umbrellas, mirrors, framed black and white portraits and giant steamer trunks. It’s not designed to feel modern, nor glitzy but rather intimate and secluded. Think of it as a social scene where you won’t be in the limelight. If Kate Moss wanted to have an affair with Swiss Tony, this it the place she’d choose. The biggest contribution to the epithet ”boutique”, however, is the staff. They are truly world class, which Cynthia in the reception particularly standing out.

”I’m pleased to inform you that you’ve been upgraded…”
Instead of the fair-sized room I’ve booked, I’m getting a suite on the top floor. I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve it (maybe being a returning guest looking a little lost helped). I do know one thing, though; room #204 is way roomier than your regular London hotel room. It’s also next door to the roof terrace.
The hotel hasn’t been updated since I first stayed here in 2003. Maybe that means that it earned itself the title ‘timeless’. It underwent its last major renovation in 2010. In room #204 I even spot little dents in the paintwork here and there, but it since the place wasn’t designed to look like an art gallery, it gets away with them. To be honest the feeling I get is spelled ‘homey’. I’ll let the photos above to the talking.

The antidote of Shoreditch.
This is southwest London. People seem well-fed. SUVs and Porsches have new tires. The area is well-off, to say the least. And if you’re tired of looking at hordes of hipsters on their fixies sporting curled mustaches, you may appreciate a part of town where people don’t try very hard to look like clowns and those who sport curled mustaches probably fought on Juno or Sword.
Speaking of well-off; Blakes comes with a reputation of housing high-profile guests. However, such info may not be beneficial to the hotel. Google a little and you’ll find that Diana Ross likes to stay here (she is also a regular on the lists of the world’s worst hotel guests), Lindsay Lohan (who had a $46,000 unsettled bill at the Chateau Marmont) and the aforementioned Miss Moss. Google a little more and aaah… English gossip pages will gladly tell you that Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit celebrated the first night of their honeymoon here. Did they shag in my room? Thanks for letting me know.

Get taken care of.
Why not ignore the celebrity brouhaha? The main reason to stay here is the impeccable service. Requests like a table at the packed Tom’s Kitchen and access to Boujis were taken care of in three shakes of a lamb’s tail. Smiles seemed genuine (I’m certain they were). Staff in the Chinese Room and Blakes Bar are awesome and socially extremely competent people, especially if you’re traveling alone. Going to London? Not on a budget? Then I can’t but give Blakes my highest recommendations. Love the place. Love it. Yes, I do.

Blakes Hotel
33 Roland Gardens
London SW7 3PF
United Kingdom

+44 20 7370 6701

Click here to book the Blakes Hotel through!

*File under ”anectodal information”: Yes, Anouska Hempel also starred in the Russ Meyer movie ”Black Snake”. She can’t be too proud of her performance as she bought the UK distribution rights to the movie to keep it from being screened in her country. Why? Google Russ Meyer and you’ll understand. I’d like to stress the fact that this has nothing to do with the hotel.

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