Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd February 2009.
Bath is Britain's most expensive city for hotels – even the average cost of a room in London is less. Its historic, Austenesque associations tempt many of its hoteliers to adopt a sickly repro-with-chintz period style. I'd rather sprint up Bathwick Hill without stopping than face being trapped in some of its hotels' prissy, old-fashioned parlours.
Which brings me to the Kennard. In hands other than those of Giovanni and Mary Baiano, it would be yet another naff, cloying, draped and festooned address. At first glance, it still is. Bought four years ago by the Anglo-Italian couple, new to hotel-keeping, it came fully furnished, including every swagged pelmet, every chaise longue, every flowery picture and po-faced oil portrait with which the vendors ("two gentlemen, formerly interior designers") had stuffed their terraced Georgian b & b establishment.
My friend George, who was helping me research Bath's hotels, came across the Kennard first. "Not another one," he thought when he went in. "Smitten," he declared himself when he left.
The Kennard is a lesson in what makes a good independent hotel. It's not the furniture, it's not the gadgets and it's not having the plugs in the optimum position, which seems to be such a preoccupation of the AA and Visit Britain. It's simply the people. With the right people, that favourite pedagogic put-down "could do better" almost never comes to mind.
Mary and Giovanni, from Asti in Piedmont, do very well. They met in her home town of Middlesbrough, where he was studying English. Was it romantic? "Indeed," says Mary. "He proposed in a multi-storey car park and I still said yes." They decided to stay in England and, after a spell in industrial management, buy a hotel.
They chose the Kennard. Instead of sweeping away the old they have improved on what they found and, crucially, thrown in the sort of extras that Bath hoteliers are so adept at keeping back: complimentary parking permits, Wi-Fi and newspapers; Molton Brown toiletries and fluffy towels; no supplement for a cooked breakfast served on elegant china; personal greeting and bags carried willingly upstairs; advice on sightseeing and restaurants (sample menus provided).
If you don't like trellis patterns on your walls and fringed coronets over the best beds, don't stay here, but you will miss out on a perfect city-centre location, the recreation of a Georgian garden, delightful in summer, Giovanni's favourite Asti spumante, his Italian lesson on how to cook an English breakfast (with ingredients from a local farm) and Mary's lesson on how to serve it with a smile in a memorable, gloriously jet-green dining room. Most importantly, you will be completely unaware that Bath has the most expensive hotels in Britain.
11 Henrietta Street (01225 310472; www.kennard.co.uk) Doubles from £98 to £118 per night, including breakfast. Not suitable for guests with disabilities.