The Pelham

“South Kensington boutique hotel with a clever idea about shopping”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd March 2009.

Luxury hotels don't like compromising; they fear it cheapens their image. But in times like these, the savvy ones subtly adapt by offering tempting special deals and packages.

When I read the Pelham's current offer – Ooh La La Vintage – I was hooked: luxury bed and breakfast, plus an in-the-know trail of vintage shops around London, with a "vintage tea" and champagne to round off the day.

The Pelham is an early example of that subsequently overdone concept, the boutique hotel. It consists of three town houses knocked together to make a confusing array of staircases and corridors and it stands in an exposed, traffic clogged, and far from peaceful spot opposite South Ken Tube. Though recently sold by its long-time owners, Firmdale, to the owners of the nearby Gore hotel, it remains, down to the last oversized headboard and eye-catching artwork, a classic example of the design style and flair of Firmdale's supremo, Kit Kemp. Love them or hate them (and I love them), the traditional-English-with-a-dramatic-twist-and-no-fear-of-colour interiors are perfect for shopping then flopping, kitten heels kicked off, champagne in hand.

The staff are warmly welcoming, creating a pleasing atmosphere in the two plump sitting rooms. As we arrived, a waiter was being dispatched to queue for tickets on behalf of a guest, while Jamie, the concierge, imparted his new-found knowledge of vintage shops and markets, culled from expert Tara Munro who has opened her address book, written down her tips and marked up maps for participating guests.

Many of the addresses, of course, are around Portobello Road. God daughter Lottie (fashion queen) and I had a blissful time trawling the area, dipping into one little den after another and emerging with an assortment of treasures, not least (faux) vintage undies from What Katy Did in Portobello Green.

Back at the Pelham, our room, with magnificently dressed ceiling-to-floor windows, overlooked the reassuringly familiar sight of Dino's Italian restaurant. Half a century ago, my mother would drive us up to town for a treat, and the prominent, curving façade of Dino's, as we drove toward it, would trigger my excitement. Delightfully, it is still there, unchanged.

We tucked into our vintage tea: just perfect, served on pink vintage plates, with warm scones and clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches and Victoria sponge.

Dinner, later, in the hotel's vibrantly decorated, airy yet cosy Bistro 15 was equally enjoyable, though it doesn't sufficiently shrug off its hotel feel to be the local meeting place to which it aspires.

I slept like a baby, though Lottie was sure she could hear the rumble of the Tube beneath us. I meant to breakfast in Dino's since, unaccountably, I have never been inside, but instead we indulged in another in-room feast brought to us on trays. Fancy saving for a girls' outing? Ooh la la.

15 Cromwell Place, SW7 (020 7589 8288; www.pelhamhotel.co.uk). Double b & b from £180; vintage package £118 per person. Ground floor rooms for guests with disabilities.

The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
4 out of 5

Lovely; pretty and imaginative. busy location detracts.

Service
5 out of 5

Charming staff who remember names; smart black and red uniforms.

Character
3 out of 5

City feel, on the girlie side.

Food and drink
4 out of 5

"european with a french twist"; not cheap. great tea.

Value for money
4 out of 5

Fair for the high standards; vintage package worth it for the fun; also on offer: 3 nights for 2.

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