If you’re American you’ll love this hotel. It’s so steeped in character. It’s fabulously located just opposite Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana once lived and where all the flowers were strewn in her memory. Kensington Palace is also where Prince William and Kate now live when they’re in London. The Milestone has excellent views across Kensington Gardens and is perfect for a bracing walk in Hyde Park. From it, you can stroll to the Royal Albert Hall or take a black taxi to either Notting Hill or Knightsbridge.
The Milestone is perfect as somewhere to return from meetings or sightseeing to total peace and quiet and characterful luxury. Named after the old milestone on the street outside this late 17th-century house opened as a hotel in the 1920s. It’s now part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection named after its founder Stanley Tollman who always wore the flower in his lapel. And it was from his wife Beatrice’s South African travels that the hotel is awash with her love of rich colors.
I’ve lived close by this wonderful hotel for forty years and never knew more than its red-and-white brick façade. So discreet is the entrance. The top-hatted and tails-wearing doorman was warm and welcoming like all the staff. He ushered me through the unfolding curtains, as it were, and then the show began. It’s like a treasure trove with every nook and cranny both stylish and different. It really is a hidden gem with its own unique stamp.
The lobby is furnished with rich mahogany and deep green carpets. Orchids flourish in various niches as does the signature bowl of red carnations. The chequered marble-tiled corridor leads to public rooms. They are designed for differing delights be it for high tea or a nightcap. The hotel’s stamp is the highly patterned fabrics of the window drapes, wall coverings, and bed covers. Chandeliers shine down from their decorated ceilings upon stunning cornices and leaded windows. No expense is spared on the soft furnishings, with their lavish swags, drapes, and tassels.
None of the 44 guest rooms and 13 suites on five floors (starting from $450 a night) are alike. They all have distinct characters in both shape, size, theme, and design. Mine had a four-poster bed, leopard skin fabrics, an ornate gilt mirror, and mahogany furnishings. The bed linen was top quality and my bathroom was decked in marble with an indulgently deep tub and toiletries from Floris.
Cheneston’s Restaurant is named after an early spelling of Kensington. It’s an intimate dining room with rich mahogany furniture, wood paneling, and broad daylight from the Victorian leaded windows. It’s a world of sophistication and luxury exemplified by the framed caricatures of old-fashioned English gentlemen. Its small confident menu of British cuisine. I chose successfully the Scottish salmon followed by the chicken pot pie and then the sticky toffee pudding.
Who doesn’t love a warm, glowing fire? The book-lined Park Lounge, it’s super-snug with tiered cake stands offering Afternoon Tea. How quintessentially British. As for somewhere to retire to, the Stables Bar, which once housed the building’s horses, is now a cozy hideaway. It has green carpets evoking the green turf of racecourses, tartan-fabric walls, and green leather banquettes. It’s next to the Conservatory, a bright and airy glass house with a marble floor, a Murano chandelier, mirrored cabinets, zebra patterned cushions, and modern pictures. It’s all highly contemporary and stylishly black and white.
All hotels these days have their own special party trick: be it initialed slippers or your image grafted onto your cappuccino. In one niche downstairs is the Oratory, the hotel’s original wood-paneled chapel which they still use for the most intimate of wedding ceremonies. I also learned the art of ‘sabrage’. A bit like a Japanese tea ceremony it’s a ritual where a bottle of Champagne is opened with a sabre by a man in a green uniform, which was popular in Napoleonic France. The blade travels up the neck of the bottle to break it away near the cork, leaving the bottle open and ready to pour. It’s all very theatrical.
Besides, the sauna and heated resistance pool are treatment rooms. In one of which I experienced a deep tissue massage which certainly ironed out all the creases. A proper pampering was performed by Nikos. His goal, he declares, is “to offer complete relaxation, working with the body to ensure you leave feeling calm and rejuvenated”. Mission accomplished.
The concierge also arranges private tours of Kensington Palace, an in-room yoga instructor, a grocery shopping service, and even the use of their chauffeur. At The Milestone, they certainly go the extra mile.