London is home to some of the most luxurious buildings in the world. Period mansions neighbour stucco-fronted terraced houses in the capital’s most prestigious postcodes, and most of us walk by wondering just what it would be like to live on some of these streets. While we all dream of a life nestled in paradise, it will always come with a hefty price tag, so why not try a more affordable option when it comes to soaking up the local atmosphere?
The Kensington Hotel in SW7 is the perfect place to escape to if you are in the one of London’s finest boroughs and want to step off the street and rest your feet. We popped in for the afternoon tea on a sunny Sunday, taking the opportunity to explore the hotel and then sit down over a three-hour meal that would satisfy any sweet tooth.
The hotel itself is fairly inconspicuous, blending in effortlessly with its surroundings. I do enjoy the theatre of staying at a palatial hotel, but there is something equally satisfying about choosing a boutique option that doesn’t scream “tourist” so loudly. The balance here is perfect; attentive staff and a beautiful interior which has the feeling of a home rather than a hotel. Within minutes, we were seated at our table in the period-style drawing room with hungry stomachs ready for what lay ahead.
The menu itself is fairly traditional but each course was packed full of flavour. In my futile attempt to keep the occasion remotely healthy, I chose the “Healthy Tea” and opted for gluten-free alternatives. In the first course, the Wiltshire ham with tarragon mustard and pea shoots certainly gave a new meaning to a ham sandwich, and the braised salt beef was a personal favourite. A cucumber sandwich may be the staple, but you cannot beat a serving of meat sandwiched between two pieces of bread, even if it is gluten-free.
Next up were the scones, and nothing but the best would do. Even though mine were gluten-free, I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference between what sat on my plate and what sat on Katie’s. Admittedly, the side order of Devonshire clotted cream with strawberry jam was heavenly when liberally spooned on any type of dough.
For dessert, a gluten-free carrot cake masqueraded well as it’s “unhealthy” alternative and the dark chocolate & cherry panacotta with sea salt caramel was divine. I’m not a connoisseur of Britain’s favourite pastime by any means, but I do find that any good afternoon tea incorporates lighter tastes and textures to offset all of the sugar and caffeine. The Kensington did this very well, and we left the afternoon tea feeling satisfied but not at all guilty.
On our way out, we couldn’t help but be tempted by the pop-up Wimbledon-inspired bar. Rose champagne was served with strawberries, along with a similarly-themed dessert. You know that feeling when you’re completely full but have space for anything else that’s sweet? Guilty as charged. After another hour basking in the sun on the lovely hotel porch, it was finally time to leave. As we left the homeliness of the hotel behind us, we walked among the stucco-fronted houses and were tourists once again.