The Rockwell

Kensington, London, United Kingdom Book from £70

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
Well-priced, well-placed hotel with smart décor and a quiet courtyard garden, set in the heart of popular Kensington
Among the bewildering array of accommodation options in London, The Rockwell stands out for its handy location, great-value rates and serene feel. Once 2 Victorian townhouses, then a budget hotel, it underwent a £9m refurbishment to become the sophisticated city haven it is today. Outside it may look like its residential neighbours, but step into the lobby and you're greeted by a striking combination of original floor tiles, deep sofas and contemporary lighting. It's impeccably smart yet totally relaxing.

The unpretentious elegance extends to the 40 bedrooms (big comfy beds, plush carpets and neutral colours, jazzed up with vibrant wallpaper or textiles), and the food - a short menu of classics, cooked well and served in the high-ceilinged dining room or via 24-hour room service. Out back is a courtyard where you can kick back with a G&T and soak up the evening sun, surrounded by olive trees in giant flowerpots that make you feel like Alice in Wonderland. And when it comes to exploring, you’re a short stroll from the Natural History Museum, Harrods and the restaurants of the King's Road, and only 5 minutes from Earl’s Court Tube.

Highs

  • The blend of Victorian features (mosaic floors, stone stairs) and modern additions (Philippe Starck tables, Neisha Crosland wallpaper)
  • Within walking distance of Kensington and Knightsbridge’s shops and museums, and an easy Tube ride from other sights
  • Excellent value for money considering its location
  • A 12pm check-out - perfect for weekend breaks (or recovering from a night on the town!)
  • A tranquil courtyard (a rarity in London), plus 2 Garden Rooms with private terraces

Lows

  • Some rooms face a main road; ask for one at the back if you're a light sleeper
  • The rooms are beginning to look a little dated, though they’re spotlessly clean
  • No bathtubs
  • The dining room lacks atmosphere on quieter days
  • It can get hot and stuffy at times, particularly on the upper floors of the Mezzanine Suites

Best time to go

London is a fantastic year-round destination. Spring is lovely because the parks are flowering; the British summer spirit is infectious and alfresco dining is suddenly everywhere; autumn is quieter, but the trees are a glorious red-gold; winter can be cold and wet, but if you come at Christmas time, the light displays are amazing.

Our top tips

Pack an umbrella - we got caught in a downpour on both days, and the hotel does not have any for guests' use.

Great for...

Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 40
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Garden Room

Rooms

Each of the 40 rooms is decorated differently but in a similar style, with neutral colours offset by colourful textiles or feature wallpaper (we loved the red and white fennel design by Osborne & Little). This lends a focal point to a space which might otherwise seem bland - it’s simple but very effective. Bathrooms are clad in beige tiling, with small but powerful showers (no tubs), fluffy bathrobes and White Company toiletries.

There are 6 categories, ranging from the bright but not terribly roomy Standard Singles and Doubles to the larger Deluxes. Our favourites were the 2 Garden Rooms: they’re set in the basement, but the payoff is a private terrace with a table, chairs and leafy pot plants. The top-of-the-range Mezzanine Suites are spacious split-level rooms, but bear in mind that the upstairs - containing either the sleeping area or a somewhat underused sofa and TV - has limited headroom and can get stuffy.

Rooms at the front overlook a main road but are surprisingly quiet; aided by blackout blinds and a very comfy bed, we slept like logs. That said, if you’re particularly sensitive to noise it’s worth requesting a room at the back.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Drinks and food are available via room service or in the open-plan dining room and bar - a bright, breezy space with cushioned banquettes and funky palm-print wallpaper. If the weather’s good, you can head out to the courtyard and eat in the shade of silvery olive trees.

The menu focuses on English classics with a twist, and everything we sampled was top-notch: scallops with crab and a lemon-caper dressing, a smooth liver paté with a refreshing apple chutney, and fresh salmon grilled to perfection and served with a white-wine sauce. We finished by splitting a mixed-berry cheesecake (creamy and decadent) and a bill which was comparatively inexpensive for central London.

Breakfast is equally good. The continental buffet is more imaginative than most, with smoked salmon, organic yoghurts and home-made granola in addition to the usual pastries, fruit and cheeses. As for the English, 'Full' is the word: we were almost bursting after working our way through eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, black pudding, fried bread, mushrooms and some excellent coffee.

There are numerous restaurants within walking distance if you’d prefer to eat out; staff are happy to book tables.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Indulge in some serious retail therapy: South Kensington is the place to splurge in London, with the likes of Joseph, Harvey Nichols and The Conran Shop at Brompton Cross; high-street heaven is just a stroll away on the King's Road; and there's some serious opulence on show in Harrods
  • Visit the Natural History Museum. No matter how many times you go, you'll find something amazing to look at, whether it's the ever-present dinosaur exhibition or the yearly Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition
  • Check out 3,000 years' worth of priceless ceramics, furniture, jewellery and paintings at the V&A Museum
  • Stroll round nearby Hyde Park, one of London's most beautiful public spaces and the old hunting ground of Henry VIII
  • Take in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, home of the summer Proms, or at Earl's Court, just 5 minutes from the hotel
  • Hop on the Tube and explore: head east to Waterloo and ride the London Eye, then stroll along the buzzy South Bank; head north to bohemian Covent Garden and watch buskers and street performers; or go to Charing Cross and walk across Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Theatre and live music

Kids

Children are welcome, and there are lots of child-friendly things to do in the area.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Mezzanine Suites have a double sofabed and so can sleep up to 4. Baby cots can be provided for free.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • The Natural History Museum
  • The Science Museum
  • Boating lake at Hyde Park
  • Kensington Gardens (Peter Pan statue and the Diana memorial fountain to splash in)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
7/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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Rates for The Rockwell