I’ve heard of dream hotels, but this is ridiculous.
After visiting the sumptuous Milestone Hotel in Kensington, touring the richly designed rooms and eating its delectable high tea, I actually dreamed about it.
In my dream, I was wandering the hotel, slipping into unoccupied rooms and discovering arresting views, gorgeous artwork, and furnishings that make you want to pledge your undying love. At the end, a friend presented me with a box of strange and lovely items, inspired by the woman who owned the hotel, each a treasure that I examined with delicacy.
With the real Milestone, the owner Bea Tollman is the glamorous presence everywhere. She’s selected the furniture for each of the individually decorated rooms, she’s chosen the gorgeous and interesting art on the walls (forget what you know about hotel room art; you’ll want to stage a heist to smuggle it out) and she (or at least her people) hosts families in high style.
In addition to making my list of mouthwatering hotels, the Milestone’s has won TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards, which named it the best hotel in the UK. Other kudos include Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best 500 Hotels and a Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Award.
I’m always looking for family-friendly hotels to recommend to American friends that embody “Britishness”. You come all this way as a Yank, and it’s nice to check into a hotel with an air of the Empire about it.
Of course, to many Brits, a “traditional hotel” evokes images of threadbare floral carpet, indifferent service and grey roast beef, wheeled at intervals round a staid dining room. Dire. Well, banish the thought. The Milestone Hotel captures the best of British style and quirkiness, with service to suit a queen. Here, the top 6 reasons I’d recommend a stay at the Milestone:
1. A fabulous location in Kensington
The Milestone recently hosted BritMums family travel bloggers, where we got the grand tour. The location couldn’t be better. It’s on Kensington High Street and its glut of shops, while just across the road is Kensington Gardens, which beckons with easy outings to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Kensington Palace, the Serpentine and the wonderful Diana Memorial Playground.
2. A real family welcome
Lots of hotels are paying attention to how they greet younger guests. At the Milestone itself, nice touches for children are designed to ensure the time spent at the hotel itself is enjoyable. There’s a welcome drink on arrival for adults and children (you fill out a form in advance to tell them what you like), and welcome packs for kids (the picture shows what’s included, from colouring books and a Milestone Bear to mini flannels). There are Wiis and Playstations naturally and also a programme where kids get issued hotel “passports” that get stamped at various locations around the hotel.
3. Guest lounges with personality
A cool and also welcoming space in which to hang out without begin on top of each other is essential after touring London. You could book one of the capacious rooms with a comfortable sitting area or even a kitchentte. But you also have your disposal the hotel’s common (if not commoner) areas, each with their own personality. The traditional sitting area (book a seat here for tea) has Laura Ashley-style fabrics and a fireplace. The Stables Bar is full-on equestrian, with enough race paintings and jockey silks to satisfy every Ascot lover. The Conservatory is brilliant black and white, like Capote’s ball. And Cheneston’s Restaurant has got to be one of the most intimate, inviting luxury hotel restaurants I’ve ever seen.
4. A pool
It’s not big or grand, but the basement pool at the Milestone is the kind of perk that makes a stay that much more fun for kids. Instead of restrictive family hours, the pool allows children in with an adult any time during opening hours.
5. A hands-on children’s teatime activity
In addition to the Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea (see below), the hotel also lets children don a chef’s hat and apron and supplies them with a piping bag and buffet of toppings to decorate cakes. This is ideal for 4- to 12-year-olds and is an activity the younger ones can do with their parents or older kids can do on their own while Mum and Dad have a drink in the nearby lounge (#justsaying). It’s organised by prior arrangement at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm, is complimentary (!). You don’t even have to be a hotel guest to take advantage.
6. One of the best afternoon teas in London
And speaking of cakes, think afternoon tea but modern, updated — with old favourites and new twists. We started our tastings with Earl Grey marshmallows covered with chocolate and a strawberry lychee shot. Fabrizio Russo, the food and beverage manager, talked excitedly to us about the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea pegged to Father’s Day, with a whiskey or beer and ale flight.
The nibbles in the tea are gorgeous and inventive: carrot cake with pistachio cream, baked vanilla cheesecake with fresh mango and edible gold leaf, a chocolate torte decorated with chocolate-covered space dust, the list goes on. Each month the hotel features guest scones, such as lavender or bacon and black truffle. Traditional tea is £36.50, a Champagne tea is £45; each features six to seven cakes and six sandwiches. The Princes’ and Princess’ Afternoon Tea features simpler cakes and hot chocolate for £13.50.
The details: I was a guest for afternoon tea at the hotel, along with a group of BritMums family travel bloggers. Traditional tea is £36.50, a Champagne tea is £45; each features six to seven cakes and six sandwiches. The Princes’ and Princess’ Afternoon Tea features simpler cakes and hot chocolate for £13.50.
The Milestone Hotel
1 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL