The Milestone Hotel, London - an elegant solution
- Credit: The Red Carnation Hotel Collection
With trips abroad problematic this summer, editor Richard Young experiences a stay at The Milestone Hotel in Kensington for a city break in beautiful surroundings.
Greeted by a smiling doorman in top hat and tails, it’s the first sign that a visit to the historic Milestone is going to be a little different to your average hotel stay. Well perhaps not the first. The location is special before you even reach the steps of this elegant Victorian building, easy to spot thanks to its distinctive red brickwork with white bands. Originally three grand homes, it sits opposite Kensington Gardens in one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.
Here with my partner, we arrived at The Milestone Hotel on a Saturday afternoon on a scorching hot weekend in June, just a few weeks after hotels were able to open their doors again. After meeting friends for lunch, we had spent a few hours entertaining their young children on the south bank (a pop-up festival of entertainment and food if you’ve not been lately) while their parents watched a play at the National. Needless to say, we were hot, a little worn out, and much looking forward to being pampered.
Ushered out of the heat into a cool lobby – all dark wood, luxurious carpet and period paintings – was one of those stepping back in time moments. Part of the small but global portfolio of Red Carnation properties, The Milestone is a boutique hotel – 43 bedrooms, 13 suites and six residential apartments, with an intimate bar, conservatory, two restaurants and small gym and spa. The family-run company declares an absolute focus on quality and making guests feel welcome. The welcome was indeed warm, from all the staff we met, and as for the quality we’ll come on to that.
A surprise was that our room had been upgraded. Booked into an already impressive Deluxe King, we were instead taken, via a wooden panelled lift, to one of the hotel’s artfully curated suites, a signature of Red Carnation hotels. Behind an unassuming door lay an indulgence in Art Deco – the Ruhlmann suite, inspired by the acclaimed French furniture designer and interior decorator. All black, brass and exotic wood this is reimagined 1930s opulence. Balustraded steps take you, film star like, down into the room. An enormous bed is looked down on by a dancer etched into a reflective black glass wall while a stunning and equally enormous desk sits at the bed’s foot. A dining area, with fruit bowl and orchids, is next to a lounge area (with Art Deco sofas and chairs of course), while the en suite is an essay in marble. Finding the button to electrically open the curtains and lift the blinds (I enjoyed this so much I did it twice), Kensington Gardens was revealed four storeys below.
After complimentary drinks delivered by a white-suited bartender, I decided to try out the marble bath tub, while my partner – and I have rarely seen her so happy – kind of melted into the bed. After my early evening bath, (well why not?) and with dinner booked for 7.30 I took a turn lounging on the bed, picking at fruit, while my partner enjoyed the football team sized shower. I had the odd experience, purely by chance, of switching on the large wall-mounted TV to see a documentary about the royals, focussed on the period of Diana’s death. I looked out the leaded windows, over the horse chestnuts fringing the park, to Kensington Palace – the exact spot of the outpouring of grief being replayed. Americans must absolutely love this place.
Dressed for dinner, we headed to Cheneston’s Restaurant (an early spelling of Kensington, I’m told). This is a five-star hotel, so we were eager to try the food from the all-day dining menu - 25 dishes to choose from over four courses. My partner is gluten intolerant, which we had forewarned the restaurant about and our waitress, who looked after us throughout the meal, carefully went through the options (plentiful) with her. The selection of breads, always a sticking point for anyone gluten-intolerant, were declared ‘amazing’. And after trying my own bread basket I totally agreed. With the bread this good, what was the main event going to be like?
I kicked off with a monkfish scampi from the small plates menu, recommended as a favourite of our waitress. It was utterly fabulous. I followed with the smoked salmon (from H.Forman & Son, London’s oldest smokery) with herb crème fraiche, lemon, capers, cornichons and wholemeal toast for starter and British rib-eye steak with hand cut chips, green peppercorn butter and watercress for main. Both dishes were beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. For dessert, a light and delightful Mrs T’s baked vanilla cheesecake with poached peach, raspberry and toasted almonds. The Mrs T in question is Beatrice Tollman, president of Red Carnation. The creator of several of the dishes on the menu, she and her husband built the company from scratch. Her’s is a story well worth looking into for entrepreneurial inspiration.
Across the table, Sarah had the Nutbourne Farm heirloom tomato salad (‘incredibly fresh’), seared North Atlantic fillet of cod (‘perfectly cooked, amazing pea purée), and passionfruit and coconut Pavlova (‘refreshing and fun’).
Full to the brim (I also had two delicious glasses of Malbec), a starry walk exploring the Richard Curtis-esque little streets off Kensington High Street followed before bed. Sadly we didn't bump into Kate and Wills.
Sunday morning began with reading the papers on my tablet via the free in-house link before trying the enormous walk-in shower and heading down to the Park Lounge for breakfast. Looking much like a members’ club with armchairs and ancient volumes on the floor to ceiling bookshelves, this is also where the award-winning afternoon tea is served. The old paintings of tennis at Wimbledon and the boat race all add to the Englishness. Mixing the continental menu with the cooked, I had the granola, yoghurt and mixed berry bowl followed by eggs benedict. Abundant toast and jam, fresh juices, and coffee and tea (poured for us from elegant metal pots into fine china), was of course a bit piggy, but over a leisurely hour not insurmountable. It was how breakfast definitely should be done and a real treat.
A Sunday morning walk in the park opposite took us up to the palace (a fairly big queue to see an exhibition of Diana’s wedding dress), and around the lake, to scenes of children’s birthday parties, exercising, sun bathing and, like us, just moseying.
Checking out of the hotel at midday we asked if we could leave our luggage while we took in a bit of culture. This is of course is London’s museum quarter and a short walk took us to Cromwell Road and a toss-up between the V&A and the Natural History Museum opposite. We plumped for the cool stone galleries of the NHM and awoke childhood wonder at our incredible planet.
Returning to collect our things from The Milestone we were given a very kind send off. We had only been away a night but felt relaxed, and, as we had hoped, completely spoilt. As the difficulties over travel abroad this summer continue, a weekend stay in the capital, somewhere like this characterful one-off hotel, could do you wonders.