The Irish are natural hoteliers. The national character is gregarious, loquacious, epicurean, and it has been our fortune to have witnessed all these traits while enjoying stays at several of the hotels in the family-run, Dublin-based, Doyle Collection.

We had already sampled two of Doyle’s luxury London hotels, The Bloomsbury (elegant) and the Marylebone (buzzing), so now we turned our attention to the third sister, The Kensington on Queen’s Gate in South Kensington, situated conveniently in museum land with the Natural History, Science and V&A just a short walk away.

Great British Life: No detail is left untouched. No detail is left untouched. (Image: The Doyle Collection)

We arrived outside The Kensington’s wide (it occupies five townhouses which date back to the 1770s), grand, white stucco façade drenched and chilled to the bone, having been caught in a downpour while towing our suitcases from the tube station. But as we walked up the steps into the large columned porch the warmth of the welcome from doorman, concierge, and then Michael at reception, soon thawed us out and we quickly began to relish the pleasures of a warm establishment whose ambience lies somewhere between a country house hotel and a gentleman’s club.

The hotel has 126 rooms and 24 suites, ranging from the Cozy Rooms - designed for single travelers - up to the signature Knightsbridge and Kensington suites. Our haven for the next two nights was a Luxury Studio Suite on the second floor which had a splendid view out over busy Queen’s Gate but was remarkably quiet because of the double (or triple) glazing.

Great British Life: Room 217 provided a stylish and comfortable stay. Room 217 provided a stylish and comfortable stay. (Image: The Doyle Collection)

This was a very stylish room, with guest manager Thomas quick to highlight the design of the beautiful wallpaper (with matching cushions and curtains) which depicted delightful scenes probably from Chinese rural life in centuries past, featuring temples, boats, cottages and birds. ‘I feel it transports you to another world,’ Thomas remarked, and we could definitely see what he meant.

The world we now found ourselves in, in Room 217, was a supremely comfortable one. Overhead there was a magnificent 1930s Murano glass chandelier, and the room was equipped with a superb king-sized bed, an armchair and footstool, and a long wooden table at the back with large plasma TV on the wall. Special mention for the spacious walk-in closet which housed two wardrobes, and also for the reading lights on either side of the bed (so many five star hotels fail to provide them).

The stylish marbled bathroom had all the amenities you would require, with the highlight being a large shower space with an invigorating waterfall shower that was easy to operate (quite a few seem to delight in confusing you with their controls).

Great British Life: Enjoy drinks in the elegantly furnished drawing room. Enjoy drinks in the elegantly furnished drawing room. (Image: The Doyle Collection)

Back downstairs in reception we touched the impressive metal sculpture of an elephant for luck (a hotel custom) before exploring the range of rooms, including the elegantly furnished drawing room and the White Room. A friend joined us for an evening cocktail in the former, the real hub of the hotel, whose walls are adorned with a stunning, eclectic collection of paintings – some seascapes, some abstracts, some portraiture, some impressionist work, all of the highest quality.

Our drinks had come from the K Bar opposite, a dark, seductive oak-paneled room of period glamour, with subdued lighting and deep-buttoned, velvet-upholstered stools at the bar and comfortable wingback chairs and burgundy sofas by the walls. Only the eagle-eyed will spot the slice of history here with the bullet holes in the K Bar’s huge brass doors – inflicted by British soldiers, for the doors come from Dublin’s General Post Office, scene of the famous 1916 Easter Rising by Irish Republicans.

Great British Life: The K Bar is a dark, seductive oak-paneled room of period glamour. The K Bar is a dark, seductive oak-paneled room of period glamour. (Image: The Doyle Collection)

We had breakfast and also took a dinner in the Town House, the hotel’s impressive sprawling restaurant venue, which consists of three interconnecting rooms all displaying evidence of the Regency townhouse in which they were once housed, featuring bay windows, working fireplaces, parquet floors and more original art. Breakfast was brought to the table, the highlights of which were the homemade Guinness bread and a top-class Eggs Benedict.

There were plenty of customers and a good atmosphere at dinner, where we enjoyed fillet of black cod, allied unusually but effectively with miso glaze, pak choy and jasmine rice, along with a more traditional wild mushroom risotto with black truffle. We had been left the most delicious complimentary bottle of white wine in our room – a fruity New Zealand Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc – and liked it so much that we requested it again with our meal.

Great British Life: The Town House, is the hotel's restaurant consisting of three interconnecting rooms all displaying evidence of the Regency townhouse. The Town House, is the hotel's restaurant consisting of three interconnecting rooms all displaying evidence of the Regency townhouse. (Image: The Doyle Collection)

Relaxed grandeur is probably the best way to describe the feel of The Kensington. Because of its location the hotel often links up with the nearby museums and the Royal Albert Hall to provide special deals for guests, and we were the beneficiaries of one of those, the Gabrielle Chanel exhibition at the V&A. While this exhibition has closed the hotel continues to partner with the V&A and from June 22 to March 20, 2025 there is a Naomi Campbell exhibition, Naomi: In Fashion, the first of its kind looking at the extraordinary career of the supermodel, tickets to which can be included in your package. And of course should you wish to explore the city further the concierge can get tickets for most things - theatre, opera, ballet, tennis etc with no extra charge.

Such was the unpretentiousness of The Kensington, it had felt more like a stay at a small boutique hotel rather than a large more formal five-star establishment. Long may The Kensington continue to provide a warm Irish welcome.

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