The Royal Garden Hotel review: Overhearing Kensington locals at lunch
New bedrooms paying homage to nature, inspired by Kensington Gardens, inspired Adam Bloodworth to check into the Royal Garden Hotel
From my breakfast table at the Royal Garden Hotel I overlook the private entrance to Kensington Palace formerly used daily by Kate and Wills. It’s so close I can almost smell the petrol fumes. So close that when the couple visited the hotel in 2014 Kate told staff she’d always wondered what it was like inside this building she’d spent years driving past but never ventured in.
Opened in 1965, the hotel built a reputation as one of the best places to go to let off steam. To give an idea of how the hotel was seen back then, the World Cup 1966 celebrations were officially held at the hotel, and in the same era, The Monkees, Chuck Berry and The Beatles came here to drink.
These days the hotel still attracts famous musicians and actors, but the real pull are the Kensington locals, who wander here from their local townhouses to admire the Kensington Gardens views from the quietly brilliant rooftop restaurant, Min Jiang. There is understated but brilliant Chinese food, and possibly London’s most excellent people-watching. On the table next to me, a lady in her eighties or nineties with an expensive perm was lamenting how advances in publishing had become so much worse. “£60,000 was a lot in my day,” she said. Imagine finding that sort of money disappointing.
The design of the restaurant hardly panders to restaurant trends, but that makes it even better. There’s a comforting and familiar feeling that good restaurants often have, the type of feeling that’s more humble than the food on the plate suggests. There are brightly coloured cocktails but they aren’t ostentatious for the sake of it. Go at lunchtime to see the views properly. A proper in-the-know Londoners’ hideaway.
I was staying in one of the hotel’s newly designed bedrooms, aiming to celebrate the nature outside in the vast park viewable from my window. There was an unusual design which split the typically-sized room into two areas, a sort of upper-level work and living space with pale wooden features, and a seating area for enjoying the park views, and a more traditional bedroom space next to it.
Min Jiang has been there for over ten years but the more newly-opened restaurant Origin is next to the dramatic lobby, which is set in heavy stone and has a wonderful throwback feel to it. The newer restaurant has lighter décor and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the park and, yes, that private Kensington Palace driveway leading into the royal quarters that lie 100 metres beyond the hotel. There’s food by chefs that serve the palace, including Midlands butcher Aubrey Allan. There’s something about eating the steak served to Prince William within a stone’s throw of his old home.
The Royal Garden Hotel, in its grand design, is a throwback to the grand hotels of London’s past. It stands in proud opposition to the trendy new boutique hotels popping up. It is stylish and comfortable, but honestly, a real window into how Kensington locals live their lives. Book lunch on the rooftop and let me know which supremely interesting conversation you overhear.
Rooms at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington start from £252 and you can book online
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