I arrived at the opulent Baglioni hotel on my folding bicycle. In the rain. The hotel sits directly opposite a multi-use path through Hyde Park, so I got a good view of its Italianate brick exterior as I pedalled through Kensington’s classiest puddles.
I folded the bike, sheathed it in a made-for-the-task bag and carried the (slightly dripping) package into the plush lobby.
An attentive doorman took the bag and hung it from a luggage trolley so I could check in without a dead weight over my shoulder. Moist, muddy bike? No sweat.
Similarly, the receptionist was sweetness and light. Yes, I know that’s their job, and you’d expect nothing less from the well-trained staff of a five-star hotel. Still, there’s a world of difference between genuine warmth and a now-smile smile.
I was checked into a deluxe room on the third floor. Deluxe is the standard room in the Baglioni hotel. The bike was delivered soon after I settled in, its arrival announced with a surprisingly loud electronic chime.
Carlton Reid spent a night at the opulent Baglioni Hotel London, which sits opposite the city’s Hyde Park
The hotel’s website describes the property – operated by the Italian Baglioni Hotels brand – as ‘your Italian home in London’. Above is the hotel’s Royal Suite
Carlton in the Baglioni lobby with his folding bicycle
Five minutes later, there was another buzz at the door — a maid delivering a plate of Baglioni biscuits. My kind of hotel.
I had previously stayed at the Baglioni hotel in Rome. This one is smaller – ‘your Italian home in London’, states the hotel website.
Unlike the Roman flagship, this wasn’t a royal residence in a former life, so it isn’t clad throughout with Sienna marble. Nevertheless, I suspect that staff training is the same throughout the group because the two hotels share the same ethos of friendly charm.
Baglioni is a small chain and — much like the classy hotels in the family-owned Rocco Forte group — the firm specialises in historic properties.
The hotel in Rome and this one both have a Brunello restaurant, and I reserved an early dinner. (Brunello is Italian for ‘brown,’ one of Baglioni’s signature colours.)
Carlton found that the hotel’s receptionist was ‘sweetness and light’. He writes: ‘There’s a world of difference between genuine warmth and a now-smile smile’
Early the next day I was to travel by train to Milan (where, incidentally, a new Baglioni hotel has just opened), and so for my main course, I chose a saffron-dashed Milanese risotto in a creamy parmesan sauce. Simple, but delicious.
Most of the menu is classically Italian, although for an American couple with young children on a nearby table, it clearly wasn’t a problem for the kitchen to rustle up burgers, fries, and — in dainty pots — some salsa di pomodoro, or tomato ketchup to you and I.
The double bed in my deluxe room was supremely comfortable, which should be no surprise because five-star hotels expend a lot of effort in the dreamtime department.
Carlton enjoyed an early dinner in the Brunello restaurant, above, where most of the menu is classically Italian
‘Bedrooms and bathrooms feature black marble floors with Moroccan brass sinks,’ Carlton reveals
A designer recently told me that the boss of the upscale Four Seasons hotel group gave him a list of his 15 hospitality priorities in order of importance. Topping the list, ahead of exemplary service, was the provision of a supremely comfortable bed.
A lobby’s ‘wow’ factor was third. The fourth was the view from a room.
And this is where my room lacked a little. The fittings were deluxe, but the views were not. My window overlooked bland brick walls. Pricier suites have views over to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, and while sweet vistas might not be a priority for everybody, they are for me.
When cycle touring I often travel without a tent, preferring stars above and luscious landscapes at dawn.
Carlton had previously stayed at the brand’s flagship hotel in Rome, the Baglioni Hotel Regina, pictured above
Pricier suites at the Baglioni Hotel London, such as the Presidential Suite (above), offer views over to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
The Baglioni Hotel London is housed in a three-part terrace that was built in the 1870s. Above is the bathroom in a Deluxe Suite
The bar in the Kensington Suite at the Baglioni Hotel London. ‘Mental note: next time, specify a room with a view,’ Carlton writes
I closed the curtains. Mental note: next time, specify a room with a view. (And the Baglioni does have them, but, of course, they’re costlier.)
The fifteenth priority from the Four Seasons boss is what the hotel looks like from the outside, and here the Baglioni is on firmer ground. It’s a three-part terrace built in the 1870s and converted into the posh De Vere hotel in the late 1890s when four terracotta winged lions by the sculptor Alfred Drury were added to corners.
Inside, the decor now majors on dark brown and gold. Bedrooms and bathrooms feature black marble floors with Moroccan brass sinks.
All rooms have Illy espresso coffee machines, which was perfect for my early start because, with the first Eurostar of the day to catch, I couldn’t make breakfast, sadly.
I walked my bike to the multi-use path and pushed off through the mist still enveloping Hyde Park, plane and horse chestnut trees whistling in the wind.
Baglioni Hotel London is at 60 Hyde Park Gate in South Kensington, close to the Royal Albert Hall, the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a brief walk to the shops of Kensington’s High Street and Church Street, or in the other direction, Knightsbridge’s famed department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods.
Baglioni Hotels is a group founded in Tuscany 49 years ago by Roberto Polito and film producer Carlo Ponti, husband of Sophia Loren. There are classy black-and-white photos of Loren dotted discreetly around the hotel.
Polito’s son Guido has been Baglioni’s CEO since 2011, although the chain was acquired last year by Mexico’s Palace Resorts, owned by the Chapur family.
As well as this 67-room hotel in London, there are Baglioni properties in Rome, Venice, the Maldives, and Sardinia, many of them in buildings of historical, cultural, or artistic merit.
A deluxe room for two in Baglioni Hotel London costs about £425 per night. The three-bedroom Royal suite — with a bijou balcony looking over to Hyde Park — costs a little under £6,000 per night. The signature suites come with butler service. In a nod to the hotel’s origins, one of the suites is known as the De Vere suite.
PROS: Beautiful rooms throughout. The staff are wonderfully attentive and friendly. The Royal suite has a balcony and the best views (squint and you’ll feel you can see Kensington Palace).
CONS: A video on the hotel’s website lingers on a balconied breakfast table overlooking Hyde Park, but this is from the expensive Royal suite, so unless you’re ponying up £6,000, you won’t get that view.
Rating out of five: *****
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