London’s hotel scene is hotting up, with a year of amazing openings already this year and major luxury names still to come. But sometimes, it’s good to return to the familiar and the discreet – such as The Milestone Hotel & Residences, a classic choice in Kensington.
Someone recently asked me what I look for in a good hotel, what is it that I think makes one such? It’s potentially a very long answer, but equally often a simple one: people.
The person asking me recalled how, upon arriving at a hotel still wearing her wedding dress on the day of her nuptials in London, staff barely batted an eyelid to show her any special courtesy or well, anything at all, really. How bizarre – the chance to make a guest for life ignored?
You’d rather not be there, but it could be the worst-looking hotel in the world yet with great staff and you’d probably forgive it. The same can’t be said for the other way around. Humans. We’re a funny bunch, aren’t we – but when it comes to hotels, you need the nice, helpful variety, ones that actually want to be there.
That was immediately how I felt when I arrived at The Milestone Hotel & Residences on a hot, busy Sunday in Kensington. Four human interactions into my arrival, and I felt like one of the family, happy to be there; and so were they, it seemed. It makes sense when you realise the hotel is part of a family-run company; The Milestone is in the Red Carnation luxury hotel portfolio of The Travel Corporation, a global enterprise run by the Tollman family, which also includes such household names as Insight Vacations and Uniworld.
Back at The Milestone, the staff certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me: friendly, comfortable, efficient. One of the team briefed me on the hotel as we made our way to my room. Lounge with afternoon tea in full flow, check. Restaurant, intimate, delicious, yes. Quirky bars – tick. And to top it off, pool and fitness in the basement (pre-booking required). And then she opened the door to what was actually the glorious Hermes Suite, and asked if I would like a welcome drink… go on, then.
No sooner had I opened one of the doors to a little patio after she’d left me than a colleague was back with a chilled glass of Lanson Rosé and another genuine smile. My bags soon also arrived and the doorman was keen to share his knowledge of the suite too – its Hermes collection of scarves, some of the hotel’s history, and news that the hotel’s other 43 deluxe guest rooms and 12 suites were equally as unique, one even featuring an original Picasso. There is also a three-bedroom and five two-bedroom private residences available, which – as well as featuring a range of home amenities – include a complimentary one-way chauffeur service.
In the suite, there were 12 framed Hermes scarves adorning the walls, and the vast high-ceilinged room had a really gracious art deco feel to it, including a glorious vanity area with elegant lighting on a glass-topped table and books reflecting Hermes and other themes in the room. I felt like a 1950s Grace Kelly-esque icon, or maybe that should be more like Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who lives over the road in Kensington Palace?
The rich green decor within the suite seems to channel the green of the surrounding park, with giant cream drapes piped with green and a sumptuous green bedspread over the squishy four-poster. The room was tech-savvy though too, as all curtains and blinds can be operated at the touch of a button. And at the foot of that giant bed frame is a fancy TV that buzzes up at the touch of a button, and has two screens either side so you can watch from the bed or the sofa. Looks – and talent, it seems.
I loved the continued art deco vibe in the large wardrobes and as well as having several sets of patio doors onto the park, there is also a little private corner terrace that would be perfect for a breakfast as the day gets going.
Also within the five-star Grade II Listed building is Cheneston’s Restaurant, a two AA Rosette dining experience where I luckily had some more Lanson, a crunchy nugget of coated camembert, mouth-watering bread selection, salad of heirloom tomatoes – and a joyous pithivier, with the best pastry encasing a rich mushroom medley.
As it was a Sunday, the restaurant was quiet, but I enjoyed hearing the party-of-three behind me happily sampling most of the menu together as sharing plates. The hotel also has the Park Lounge for afternoon tea (and breakfast), The Oratory for private dining, and The Conservatory and Stables Bar. Meanwhile, the basement holds a resistance plunge pool, spa treatment room, fitness studio and sauna, while a yoga instructor is also available.
After dinner, I returned to the room to find a little candle flickering on the side of the bath, and as a turndown gift, a little primer on the works of Jane Austen – complete with a little book light for reading – had been placed on the pillow.
All these touches really make the difference – and would surely have been appreciated by my friend who was once so sadly ignored by the staff at that hotel she’d stayed at for her wedding night. The simple things count. Especially these days when so many of us have so often been starved of gestures and human contact.
Far from resting on its laurels, Red Carnation Hotels has created some interesting packages to try to encourage local and staycation business.
A new Sunday night package aims to attract those looking for a late weekend getaway but add on some Monday morning working with a difference. Celebrate Sundays includes early check-in on the Sunday, afternoon tea, dinner for two and even a Martini masterclass and breakfast in bed, followed by the option to work from the hotel on the Monday for a few hours, available across six Red Carnation Hotels throughout London.
Meanwhile, The Art of Bond is a special evening running on 25 September at The Milestone to celebrate the release of the 25th James Bond film, finally happening in October. The evening includes a Bond-themed dinner and champagne reception, alongside themed masterclasses, including an introduction to diamonds, Martinis, baccarat and roulette.
Or for anyone who wants to try something different, the hotel is working with Totally Wild UK to bring a professional forager to the hotel to help guests discover the range of wild edibles apparently all around us.
The forager will take the guests to a special location to discover wild foods and edible species growing nearby and also offer an opportunity to sample wild food tasters, from pickles and jams to chutneys, syrups, flavoured salts and alcohol infusions. Back at The Milestone, executive chef Daniel Putz will create a personalised dinner and cocktails using the produce gathered during the foraging, from wild tapenade to elderflower cheesecake.
What’s more, this element is a Make Travel Matter Experience, part of Red Carnation Hotels’ pledge to have a positive impact on communities they exist in, advancing the United Nations Global Goal 12 “responsible consumption and production” objectives.
Prices start from £500 per night at The Milestone. Additionally, Introduction to Foraging starts from £250 for two people including chauffeur transfers, three-hour introduction and foraging with experienced guide (accredited by Association of Foragers) and a printed foraging guide. Add a two-course lunch using foraged ingredients, cookbook and a Totally Wild tote bag from £380 for two people. To boost Sunday business in London, the group is offering the Celebrate Sundays package from £295 per room, which includes early check-in, dining experiences from afternoon tea to a dinner for two, a Martini masterclass, breakfast in bed and the option to work from the hotel on the Monday.