Blakes, London

Contributor/ Imran Hussain

Best Known For

Being the first boutique hotel in London, in a time before the current incarnation of famous members clubs or superstar stark designers, Blakes sat beautifully as the 1978 instant classic that helped define a new era of traveller and hotels they’d soon sleep in. Sadly we’re in a time where most boutique hotels don’t quite understand how to convey heritage, much less cultural significance, but rest assured, Blakes certainly is not one of them.

The Good Stuff

It’s a five star hotel, for whatever the star rating is worth these days – perhaps a more representative description might be, you won’t want for anything when you stay at Blakes. With a bed count of 45, a stunning new destination restaurant, downstairs bar and designs courtesy of the legendary and celebrated Anouska Hempel. This is a hotel that strives to achieve an unrivalled guest experience time after time and without compromise. I’m prepared to admit that perhaps it’s my age, though it could just be a matter of time and place – this hotel is for grown ups looking for a little quiet or something far more lively and public but confined to the four walls. Blakes make their privacy very public, it is widely regarded as the first London hotel to truly keep the secrets of their guests. It is a welcome reprieve in this over sharing digital age. Blakes is a hotel that started in a much simpler time, and certain moments during our stay reminded us of that – from the key cabinet behind the front desk to how the doors lock with actual keys. With a design that is timeless and yet takes you on a journey every time you walk through the doors, to call it immersive design is a discredit to the designer. Hempel made her return to the hotel to design the destination restaurant last year, she opted for a design narrative that evokes a sense of a steam liner charging up the Bosphorus.

The Vibe

Evocative, provocative the vibe captures you, and with dim lit lighting throughout the building – this helps create a character and mood that invites playfulness, abandon and a distinctive charm. The greatest thing about Blakes is that it doesn’t quite belong to any one era or country. The hotel’s design narrative started out as a series of travel pieces that were bound together by Hempel’s own unique narrative. From the Corfu suite to the French Provençal suite, Blakes’ play on esoteric luxury is a welcomed one and still special even today. And it is this sentiment that dictates the pace – a place for the moments that span from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Inside the hotel – 9/10

Bar, restaurant, a cosy number of bedrooms followed by a discreet basement bar – Blakes Below. The menus are a treat and as globally influenced and the design itself. And with Williamson’s outdoor terrace it is easy to see why Blakes has stood the test of time – a culturally attuned brand that knows the place and legacy it holds – and indeed what it started all those years ago. And breakfast in bed? We’d recommend the pancakes, because you haven’t ever eaten one, unless you’ve eaten one at Blakes. 

Outside the hotel – 9/10

If you don’t know Chelsea it is easy to think that Blakes is out of the way – it isn’t, it is actually perfectly located, close King’s Road and South Kensington – both a mere 10 minute walk from the hotel. And if you’ve never wondered around Chelsea’s quiet roads, shops and bars – then you’re truly missing something special. The hotel is located on a long stretch of Victorian townhouses – which you might think makes it easy to miss. Anouska considered that and thought to paint the bricks black, making it unmistakably Blakes. And today, whilst many hotels don’t understand how to convey heritage and cultural significance, rest assured Blakes does, and today it does it better than ever.

Image courtesy of Blakes