Blakes – the very name conjures up a whole era of modern London decadence. The first time I visited Anouska Hempel’s South Ken boutique hotel, it was to interview a famous film director who had decided to take a suite, with his glamorous girlfriend, for the filming of his new movie. The shoot ended up dragging on, unsurprisingly, for more than six months. I remember thinking what an indulgent gesture this was, but how he couldn’t have bettered his choice. From the moment you walk up the steps into reception (the subtle oriental decor sets the tone for the whole hotel), Blakes whispers seductively: prepare to be seriously spoiled.
Arriving for a weekend with my boyfriend, I tried not to dwell on the enticing scenario of a six-month check-in. The receptionist barely missed a beat when we owned up to a complete lack of luggage; he kept formalities to a minimum, handed over a reassuringly old-fashioned, clunky room key, and led us through a rabbit warren of corridors and stairways to our suite.
Simply put, the rooms at Blakes are the kind you never want to leave. Each has its own style, but all are inspired by various far-off lands: Russia, India, Turkey… The decor, while perhaps a little too redolent of the Eighties for some, is testament to Ms Hempel’s impeccable taste and astonishing attention to detail. You realise very quickly how Blakes earned its crown as the sexiest place in London to spend your wedding night (Patsy and Liam are just two of the hotel’s high-profile honeymooners).
Our room, in short, screamed hedonism. For a start, the walls were black: a colour guaranteed to conjure up a James Bond feel (there is actually a suite in the hotel called the 007). And then, there was the bed. What a bed. Four-postered, festooned with burnt-orange and black drapes, and set provocatively in its own darkened niche, it oozed sex appeal all on its own. The bathroom was equally lavish, a homage to black and gilt, complete with oriental-style blinds. So cocoon-like was the whole setting that we were never quite sure what time of day it was – what more can you ask from a naughty weekend away?
There are 52 rooms at Blakes, though the super-swift service and discreet atmosphere allow you to feel as though you are the only people staying there. With a visit to the dining room, on the lower-ground floor, we saw for ourselves that there were some other guests, not to mention chic diners from the outside world. Bamboo, walls of black mirror-glass and dramatic spotlighting set a rather theatrical scene for what was a delicious supper. The menu, as one might expect, has a strong Eastern influence, but there are Western dishes, too.
We opted for the Blakes blinis with caviar, and flirted with the excellent wine list before settling for a bottle of champagne. My one reservation is that women are still given an unpriced menu, which seems slightly out of touch, and could make the experience seem sleazy rather than romantic. The corner tables are intimate, but others are better placed for people-watching opportunities. The staircase down to the restaurant is a definite focal point; try as you may to concentrate on your food or, indeed, your date, it’s impossible not to wonder just who those slim Jimmy Choo-clad ankles could belong to. The dining room is also open for breakfast, but I advise the ‘in bed’ option. Nowhere have I tasted fresher orange juice or more expertly cooked scrambled eggs.
For those who can muster up the strength to escape from Blakes’ opulent clutches, there is plenty to do in the South Kensington area. The retail extravaganza of Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets is a 20-minute cab ride away, but the more villagey area closer to hand probably gives you more flash for your cash. The chic Brompton Cross area, where Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Joseph, Paul Smith and other designer boutiques cluster around elegant restaurants such as Daphne’s and Bibendum, is a 10-minute walk away, and Harrods and Harvey Nichols are just beyond that. We decided to go for a stroll in Kensington Gardens, and popped in to see the current exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, where there are free must-see shows all year round.
There is no lavish spa here, nor any business facilities of note but then, being healthy and businesslike just isn’t the point of a hotel like Blakes. If you want to feel like a film star for a weekend, though, or like a Bond girl/007 himself, then Blakes, with its superb suites and serious service, is the place for you. If there were ever a hotel for a lost weekend, then this, most definitely, is it.
Anonymously reviewed by Lucy Yeomans (Glossy queen)
Reviews of Blakes Hotel from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
I booked a Director's Room for our wedding anniversary and we were upgraded to a suite - lovely room, but the lighting was so dark it was hard to find light switches after the second bottle of wine! We had dinner and breakfast in the restaurant – not many tables, which suited us fine, and the food was good quality. The barman made the best Old Fashioned that I've had in a long while.
If I was being picky, the shower in the room could have been more powerful, but it was not a real issue.
David, BlackSmith stayed on 7 Sep 2013
Despite the location, the feeling of being in an oasis of calm, away from the hustle and bustle of the Kings Road, Fulham Road, and Kensington and Chelsea as a whole, is a joy to behold. Superb-looking hotel, and with so many amenities nearby, it's almost the perfect London hideaway.
I couldn't fault the hotel on this visit.
Steve, GoldSmith stayed on 26 Sep 2012
Gorgeous hotel and we were upgraded to the most beautiful suite. Very friendly and helpful staff. Great breakfast and room service menu (although pricey). Pretty, quiet location, very near King's Road and Gloucester Road tube. Very good cocktails in the intimate bar downstairs.
Kirsty, BlackSmith stayed on 5 Sep 2012
Our overnight stay at Blakes was extremely luxurious. Our room couldn't have been more delicious and the whole hotel encourages you to keep looking at it. It all came up to the expectations we had having read the Guestbook review. The terrace is pretty for afternoon tea or a chilled glass of something lovely. We were off to St. Pancras to catch an early Eurostar to Paris the next morning so didn't have too much time to luxuriate in the beautiful interiors of the hotel, but we had dinner there and can thoroughly recommend the restaurant. We were the first and only people down for breakfast at 7am, but everything was ready and staff were bright and cheerful. The hotel is in an excellent position for everything, and has easy access to the tube and buses if you're planning a trip away from the area. You won't want to leave the hotel I'm sure, but if you do, there is lovely shopping on the Fulham Road and a huge variety of restaurants and pubs around. We wished we'd had more time to enjoy Blakes, and I know we will go back soon.
The window blinds in our room. It was a hot day, and as we had a west-facing window the room was very warm. Hardly anything to complain about at all though.
Margaret, SilverSmith stayed on 9 Aug 2012
Staying at Blakes is a pure sensory indulgence, from the rich visual tapestry of its interiors, the exceptional culinary treats for a longing belly, to the warm yet slick service of its staff. This boutique South Ken gem is sure to satisfy and delight its guests. Either as a local wanting a stressfree city break or a visitor seeking the best of London, Blakes is the ultimate in accessible indulgence. While every aspect of our stay felt polished, it was also incredibly relaxing as the overwhelming impression is one of quiet confidence. Blakes is ostentatious, yes, but it doesn't take itself too seriously in the sense that you get the feeling this is a place to relax, unwind and have a little fun. Breakfast or an afternoon drink in the observatory is a must and, if you're lucky enough to chance a cloudless night in London, head to the roof terrace armed with a glass of red for some star or moon gazing. If you want to venture outside of the delightful enclave of Blakes, there is an abundance of exceptional restaurants in surrounding South Kensington or Chelsea. Skip a step further down to Cheyne Walk Brasserie for old world service, charm and exceptional steaks straight from the grill. A stay at Blakes will rejuvenate relax and ignite interior design envy in all those who stay there.
Emily, BlackSmith stayed on 30 Jun 2012
Just around the corner from Blakes in Old Brompton Road is
restaurant We have eaten here many times and the food is consistently excellent. Unless you a very experienced curry fan don't order any of the dishes described as hot. The restaurant was featured in the TV show A Place In France where the owner Raza and his very English friend Nigel opened an Indian restaurant in rural France without much success.
warren, SilverSmith stayed on 13 Jun 2012