Blakes Hotel – the very name conjures up a whole era of modern decadence. Each room at Anouska Hempel's South Ken boutique hotel has its own style, but all are inspired by various far-off lands: Russia, India, Turkey… The decor is testament to Ms Hempel's impeccable taste and astonishing attention to detail.
Anouska Hempel's ultra-sexy boutique hotel
Discreet South Kensington address; star-studded guestbook
Romantic haute cuisine restaurant
A bottle of Sommelier's choice wine in your room and breakfast for two throughout your stay
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The Matthew Williamson-designed garden is a real urban grotto: there are Moroccan-esque tiles on the floor, flowerbeds packed with brightly-coloured blooms and little round tables dotted here and there. It's open daily from 8am–8pm, for breakfast, lunch and pre-dinner drinks. The star of the show is a huge, glass, bird cage-like structure, filled with a table, lined with benches and strewn with patterned cushions. Guests who bag this spot will have the added reassurance of a glass roof to protect from the elements – always a worry in London…
You're in the heart of Chelsea, so some designer labels (to fit in with the locals) wouldn't go amiss. That being said, Blakes prides itself on making every guest feel at home, so whether you teeter in stilettos or traipse in flip-flops, no one will bat an eyelid.
Sheer glamour: this is the 'couture' hotel, after all. However, if you'd rather go casual, a good pair of jeans and a white shirt is a London style classic.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
Blakes – the very name conjures up a whole era of modern London decadence. The first time I visited Anouska Hempel’s South Ken boutique hotel, it was to interview a famous film director who had decided to take a suite, with his glamorous girlfriend, for the filming of his new movie. The shoot ended up dragging on, unsurprisingly, for more than six months. I remember thinking what an indulgent gesture this was, but how he couldn’t have bettered his choice. From the moment you walk up the steps into reception (the subtle oriental decor sets the tone for the whole hotel), Blakes whispers seductively: prepare to be seriously spoiled.
Arriving for a weekend with my boyfriend, I tried not to dwell on the enticing scenario of a six-month check-in. The receptionist barely missed a beat when we owned up to a complete lack of luggage; he kept formalities to a minimum, handed over a reassuringly old-fashioned, clunky room key, and led us through a rabbit warren of corridors and stairways to our suite.
Simply put, the rooms at Blakes are the kind you never want to leave. Each has its own style, but all are inspired by various far-off lands: Russia, India, Turkey… The decor, while perhaps a little too redolent of the Eighties for some, is testament to Ms Hempel’s impeccable taste and astonishing attention to detail. You realise very quickly how Blakes earned its crown as the sexiest place in London to spend your wedding night (Patsy and Liam are just two of the hotel’s high-profile honeymooners).
Our room, in short, screamed hedonism. For a start, the walls were black: a colour guaranteed to conjure up a James Bond feel (there is actually a suite in the hotel called the 007). And then, there was the bed. What a bed. Four-postered, festooned with burnt-orange and black drapes, and set provocatively in its own darkened niche, it oozed sex appeal all on its own. The bathroom was equally lavish, a homage to black and gilt, complete with oriental-style blinds. So cocoon-like was the whole setting that we were never quite sure what time of day it was – what more can you ask from a naughty weekend away?
There are 52 rooms at Blakes, though the super-swift service and discreet atmosphere allow you to feel as though you are the only people staying there. With a visit to the dining room, on the lower-ground floor, we saw for ourselves that there were some other guests, not to mention chic diners from the outside world. Bamboo, walls of black mirror-glass and dramatic spotlighting set a rather theatrical scene for what was a delicious supper. The menu, as one might expect, has a strong Eastern influence, but there are Western dishes, too.
We opted for the Blakes blinis with caviar, and flirted with the excellent wine list before settling for a bottle of champagne. My one reservation is that women are still given an unpriced menu, which seems slightly out of touch, and could make the experience seem sleazy rather than romantic. The corner tables are intimate, but others are better placed for people-watching opportunities. The staircase down to the restaurant is a definite focal point; try as you may to concentrate on your food or, indeed, your date, it’s impossible not to wonder just who those slim Jimmy Choo-clad ankles could belong to. The dining room is also open for breakfast, but I advise the ‘in bed’ option. Nowhere have I tasted fresher orange juice or more expertly cooked scrambled eggs.
For those who can muster up the strength to escape from Blakes’ opulent clutches, there is plenty to do in the South Kensington area. The retail extravaganza of Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets is a 20-minute cab ride away, but the more villagey area closer to hand probably gives you more flash for your cash. The chic Brompton Cross area, where Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Joseph, Paul Smith and other designer boutiques cluster around elegant restaurants such as Daphne’s and Bibendum, is a 10-minute walk away, and Harrods and Harvey Nichols are just beyond that. We decided to go for a stroll in Kensington Gardens, and popped in to see the current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, where there are free must-see shows all year round.
There is no lavish spa here, nor any business facilities of note but then, being healthy and businesslike just isn’t the point of a hotel like Blakes. If you want to feel like a film star for a weekend, though, or like a Bond girl/007 himself, then Blakes, with its superb suites and serious service, is the place for you. If there were ever a hotel for a lost weekend, then this, most definitely, is it.
33 Roland Gardens, London, South Kensington SW7 3PF, United Kingdom
Knightsbridge and Chelsea
2.5 mi / 4.0 km from city centre
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
All meals are served in the Anouska Hempel-designed eatery on the ground floor. It's sleekly outfitted in black and gold, in keeping with the designer's theatrical suites, and an organic Mediterranean menu is served. Our top picks? The soft-shell crab and black cod are so good you'll be tempted to order double.
Table 11, tucked away at the back of the restaurant. That said, all the tables are good.
11pm in the restaurant. Blakes Below is open Wednesday–Saturday, but is sometimes closed for private hire.
Order anything from breakfast to late-night dessert and drinks from the room service menu any time of the day or night. Please note, a reduced menu is served from 3am.
A grand central bar ties together the hotel's restaurant, where guests can order from a list of handpicked wines and cocktails. Try a Chai Tea Martini or an Amalfi lemon-infused Love Pancakes cocktail. Downstairs is Blakes Below, a sexy bar just right for nighttime tipples and couples' assignations. There's live music on a Thursday, too.