Contributor/ Alexander Larman
Best Known For
Since it opened a couple of years ago, The Ampersand – which I’ll resist the temptation to refer to as the & Hotel – hasn’t quite attracted the attention of some of its larger Knightsbridge neighbours. Which I suspect suits this low-key and intelligently designed place admirably. With a concept that divides the rooms into themes inspired by local landmarks – so botany (Chelsea Physic Garden), music (Royal Albert Hall), ornithology (Natural History Museum), astronomy (Science Museum) and geometry (your guess is as good as mine – the V & A?) – it’s clever without being gimmicky and great fun to spend some time at.
The Good Stuff
Staying in one of the ‘ornithology’ rooms is a pleasure; the theme isn’t overworked but the wallpaper is suitably stylish and quirky and there is a handy guide to the world’s birds next to the bed, which certainly beats a Gideon’s Bible. But there’s lots of other more appealing details as well, such as the free soft drinks in the minibar, the enormous beds, the on-demand film selection and the welcome feeling of calm in one of the busiest parts of London.
There are a couple of complimentary Macs for public use in the basement, and they sum the place up perfectly. Sleek, minimalist, modern and extremely stylish, with a clientele dressed to match. Imagine sophisticated Europeans in Hugo Boss glasses and Ralph Lauren polo necks and you’re getting there.
Inside the Hotel – 9/10
The basement restaurant Apero doesn’t get the attention that it ought to for some mystifying reason, which is a pity as it’s seriously good (and decent value too). A ‘sharing menu’ for two at £32 a head included burrata with heritage tomatoes, crab salad, an entire cote de boeuf and a cheese course, amongst other things; several places roundabouts would charge that amount for the beef alone. Great cocktails too, and breakfast the next day is well worth going down for. We didn’t venture to the fitness centre, but many might wish to.
Outside the Hotel – 10/10
If you have no interest in museums, architecture, the French ex-pat scene or bars and restaurants, then staying here might be something of a missed opportunity. Others will find it one of the best-situated spots in town, literally two minutes’ walk from South Kensington station. Our tip for drinks – head to The Sampler wine shop round the corner, buy a bottle and drink it downstairs for £7.50 corkage.