Christmas shopping in London: the best hotels

The Ampersand brings fun to Kensington

Christmas shopping in London, published in telegraph

Christmas shopping in London can be hell. But if you take your time, book a base in the city for a
night or two, and alternate shopping with a show, a dinner, a museum or a skating session, a trip to
the capital can become a Christmas highlight.

Here is our selection of the capital’s most welcoming winter hotels – bright, cheerful, cosy bolt-
holes to provide respite from the crowded streets. For more reviews and to book, see our London hotels page.

Hazlitt’s, Soho

Set in Frith Street, just off Soho Square, this is the former home of that master of English prose,
William Hazlitt.

It’s still a popular haunt of literary folk, who traditionally leave signed copies of their works when
they depart. Rooms occupy three adjoining town houses and the building behind, which houses a sitting room with honesty bar. Inside, the sloping, creaking floorboards have been retained (it can be an uphill walk to your bed) and the rooms are decorated with antiques, busts and prints.

Delightfully different from bedrooms in most London hotels, each is individually furnished, with free-standing bathtubs and Victorian fittings in the bathrooms. In my luxurious junior suite, Mrs Teresa Cornelys, maroon-painted panelling, heavy damask curtains, an ornate French bed and romantic period portrait set the scene. A gilt-framed mirror hides the plasma television; a panelled wall springs open to reveal a frothy gold and white dressing table and mirror. Service is efficient and unobtrusive; light meals and an excellent breakfast are served in your room – and some of London’s best restaurants are on your doorstep.

Double rooms from £198
Close to: Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden

Read the full review: Hazlitt’s, Soho

 

Hazlitt's bedroom

Portobello Hotel, Notting Hill

The hotel sits in the middle of a quiet terrace of houses that back on to Stanley Gardens. Guests can
enjoy views of the pretty gardens but unfortunately have no access to them. Westbourne Grove and
Portobello Road are very close.

Inside, the place is a delight with charming furniture, including many Victorian baths, historical
paint colours on the walls and new curtains and carpets. Rooms range from tiny but beautifully
coloured attic rooms to No  16, where Kate Moss and Johnny Depp filled the Victorian bath with
champagne, and No 13, with its enormous four-poster bed that requires a set of steps to reach. The
friendly staff are orchestrated by David Smith, the warm and chatty general manager, and are very
helpful. The hotel offers drinks and snacks around the clock as well as organising takeaways for
hungry guests.

Double rooms from £240
Close to: the independent shops of Westbourne Grove and surrounding streets, Portobello Road market, Westfield shopping centre

Read the full review: The Portobello hotel, Notting Hill

 

The Portobello hotel bedroom

The Dorset Square Hotel, Marylebone

This occupies two Regency town houses, within sight of Marylebone station, on a fairly busy side of
leafy Dorset Square – the site of the first Lord’s Cricket Ground. Dorset Square was one of London’s
earliest intimate boutique town house hotels, designed by Kit Kemp when the country house look was at its height. Its mild cricketing theme has remained in place, but swags and drapes have given way to more modern, ultra-stylish decor combining vibrant colour and contrasting, unusual fabric. Though a couple of rooms verge on the odd, generally style is mixed with wit and enhanced by lots of modern art. And in the bedrooms, no-nonsense comfort is underpinned by good old common sense. The cheaper rooms are very small and if you are keen on a bath, the mainly shower-only bathrooms will not be for you. There’s a sophisticated drawing room with equally sophisticated honesty bar and the surprisingly light and airy basement Potting Shed restaurant serves excellent, spot-on modern British food.

Double rooms from £199
Close to: the chic shops of Marylebone and Oxford Street stores
Read the full review: The Dorset Square Hotel, Marylebone 

The Dorest Square Hotel seating area

Shoreditch Rooms, Shoreditch House

A former biscuit factory in trendy, ethnically mixed, media-centric Shoreditch, enlivened by graffiti
and street art (look out for the octopus with a black cat on its head, painted by São Paulo street
artist Flip, in Ebor Street). There’s a laid-back, creative, expansive atmosphere. The sixth-floor
rooftop pool, lounge and restaurant, and garden, has had a revamp, as well as the fifth-floor Square
Bar, Games Room, Snug and Sitting Room (no mobiles allowed, plenty of Apple Mac computers in sight).

There’s also a gym, sauna, mini Cowshed spa and bowling alley. Staff give excellent service at
reception and dinner; less good at breakfast, which is served either in your room or informally
throughout the club. Rooms are small (they are classed “Tiny”, “Small” and “Small+”) but cosy, with
humorous touches and a New England-style charm. Everything you need you will find, high quality but never showy. There’s a short, straightforward menu in the main communal dining space with burgers, salads, pizza, wood oven and chargrilled dishes.

Double rooms from £125
Close to: Columbia Road, Brick Lane and Spitalfields markets
Read the full review: Shoreditch Rooms, Shoreditch House

Shoreditch Rooms bedroom

The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington

This new hotel is directly beside South Kensington Tube station and close to the Science, V & A and Natural History museums, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and several prime shopping areas. The interior is fresh and welcoming, and defies Kensington stereotypes by being fun and exuberant rather than formal and old-fashioned. The small, entry-level double rooms are rather cramped; larger rooms are beautifully finished with thoughtful touches such as well-stocked bookshelves – and are immediately relaxing. From first-floor, street-facing rooms you might notice the occasional rumble of a Tube train or the screech of a siren, so request a room that’s higher up or towards the back if that’s likely to disturb you. Mediterranean restaurant Apero is excellent value, serving unpretentious and delicious dishes. Afternoon tea is served in The Drawing Rooms, a cosy, vividly coloured den.

Double rooms from £162
Close to: Knightsbridge, Fulham Road, King’s Road and Sloane Street

Read the full review: The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington

The Ampersand Hotel seating

The Goring, Victoria

This traditional, family-owned hotel near Victoria station hit the headlines in 2011 when the Middleton family stayed here the night before the Royal wedding. The style here is exceedingly English, but with a twinkle; a statue of the ebullient Otto Goring has a daily fresh buttonhole. The decor is fresh and traditional and there is the rare bonus of a garden. Service is decorous and discreet; the staff are smartly uniformed and used to royalty. New guests are telephoned before they arrive to ascertain preferences (tea, newspaper); old guests don’t need to be asked. There has been a recent refurbishment of the 69 rooms and bathrooms and even smaller rooms are respectably sized, with handmade furniture and soft furnishings by English craftsmen, as well as flat-screen televisions, Roberts radios and iPod docks. The bathrooms are duller but spacious. Food, served in the formal dining room, is traditional British with a leavening of modernity – a fluffy lobster omelette, for example, or Romney Marsh lamb with three-cornered garlic. Puddings and breakfasts are very good.

Double rooms from £269
Close to: Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Sloane Square are all a short bus or taxi ride away

Read the full review: The Goring, Victoria

The Goring bedroom

One Aldwych, Covent Garden

As its name suggests, this is on the Aldwych itself, a stone’s throw from Somerset House (with its lovely ice rink), theatreland and (just over the river) the South Bank. There are 300 contemporary artworks on the walls and the Lobby Bar always bubbles with conversation and bonhomie. Don’t miss the dark blue, rectangular basement pool, excellent spa/health club and screening room. Service is five star and almost scarily alert: when in doubt, ring reception and all will be well. Thoughtful touches such as warnings about transport strikes or airline packing regulations are a speciality. Rooms are large for London. Mary Fox Linton’s original design throws in curves to relieve the eye. Calm is the overriding impression, thanks to clam-tight triple glazing and pared-down decor. Ingenious exterior boxes for newspapers keep the corridors clear. All rooms have Hypnos mattresses, free Wi-Fi, Wii consoles and Nespresso machines. Food (formal modern British style) is served in Axis, or head for Indigo – located at the lobby mezzanine – for people-watching and casual eating (try the soft-shell crab tempura). Pre and post-theatre menus cost from £18.75 in both and bite-sized modern English tea is served daily in the cheerful Lobby Bar.

Doubles from £220
Close to: Covent Garden

Read the full review: One Aldwych, Covent Garden

One Aldwych lobby

Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair

If you are looking for a historic and luxurious address in the centre of town (just off Piccadilly), but one without the pomp of, say, Claridge’s or the Savoy; if you are a fan of modern hotels but like the idea of staying in a place founded 175 years ago by Lord Byron’s butler, where Rudyard Kipling completed The Jungle Book and Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever phone call, then Brown’s fits the bill.

The entrance is low-key, but the doormen and receptionists are the business. Perhaps because it lacks the flashiness and glamour of some of its rivals (though it does have a subterranean spa), this is a hotel that throws in notable perks for its guests. The ground floor is full of chatter and buzz and remains highly popular for its afternoon teas.

Bedrooms are stylish and sophisticated, with cream carpets, cosy sleigh beds, antique dressers and modern lighting. Rooms awaiting children are equipped with new toys, mini bathrobes and slippers, and gingerbread men with the child’s name.

It’s not perfect; our food in the Hix Mayfair restaurant didn’t live up to expectation, for instance. But one of the hotel’s great attributes is that it feels right for many different types of people, including the well known, the unknown, the old and the young; and families are particularly well looked after.

Double rooms from £355
Close to: Regent Street, Piccadilly and Bond Street

Read the full review: Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair

Brown's Hotel seating area

 

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