It’s the combination of history, hospitality and a superb location in the heart of South Kensington that makes Cranley Hotel the ideal home away from home in London. Explore the neighbourhood with ANDREA SEIFERT
There are few hotels that make you feel instantly at home from the moment you set foot through the door, but The Cranley is one such place. Tucked away on Bina Gardens, a quiet side street in elegant, historic South Kensington, it is an intimate hotel more akin to a friend’s grand home. It is perfectly placed for exploring the myriad of charming shops, legendary auction houses and world-class museums that the area has to offer.
Distinctly British, with the nostalgia of yesteryear evident in the classic fit-out of antiques, grand oil paintings and gilded mirrors, The Cranley is comprised of three intimate Victorian townhouses that date back to 1869.
Each of the 39 well-appointed bedrooms is comfortable. The focal point of mine? A Beaudesert four poster canopied bed with handstitched Irish linen – certainly a decadent cocoon to slip into at night. Modern amenities are not forgotten – a contemporary limestone bathroom houses Penhaligon’s toiletries and all rooms boast LCD flat screens and complimentary WiFi.
The inviting sitting room with its Regency blue palette is a relaxed setting to indulge in the champagne and canapés that the hotel serves each evening. During winter, sink into an armchair and enjoy the roaring fire. The terrace is heated, but I had the luxury of languorous mornings in the sunshine with numerous cups of tea and freshly baked pastries.
The Cranley is well-served by Gloucester Road station just a few blocks away, and the shopping areas of Knightsbridge and Kings Road are also close by. But for those who would like to really feel like a local resident, the staff can let you in on the gems that are but a few steps away.
You really don’t have to venture far to enjoy the riches of London; you’ll find a vibrant neighbourhood teeming with things to do, right on your doorstep. Read on to explore some of the highlights
EVOLVE WELLNESS CENTRE
I try to maintain a consistent yoga practice whilst on the road, and a brisk eight-minute walk to a dear little leafy mews off Old Brompton Road brought me to Evolve Wellness Centre. A vine-clad façade opens up into a tranquil haven from the busy London streets. Evolve offers not only superlative walk-in yoga classes and Pilates instruction, but also integrative holistic medical therapies. Acupuncture, massage, craniosacral therapy and osteopathy by well-regarded practitioners are heaven-sent for weary travellers.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Science and Nature
Take in nature’s wonders at this impressive free museum: there are over 70 million specimens to view from botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The Diplodocus dinosaur model and colossal 1,300-year-old sequoia tree are worth the visit alone, but one should also explore The Vault, home to extraordinary treasures, gemstones and meteorites.
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Car buffs will enjoy a visit to this fine showroom, exhibiting vintage racers and roadsters. Established in 1963, Hexagon has a storied 50-year history in car dealership, having traded just about every type of fine motor. They also deal in historic racecars and truly exotic models such as the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, DB3S Coupé and the Ogle-designed Aston Martin DBS V8. Hexagon can source rare models, restore them and ship internationally.
AUX MERVEILLEUX DE FRED
Frédéric Vaucamps’ London outpost of this decadent homage to the meringue is a veritable parlour of sugary sin. His creations come in six flavours and three sizes, beautifully displayed underneath a gleaming counter. The eponymously named Merveilleux consists of a marvelously more-ish meringue base, encapsulated in lightas– air chocolate whipped cream and hand-rolled in shavings of dark chocolate. Enjoy your treats alongside a cup of coffee or tea. So simple and yet so divine.
Peter Sidell is the owner of this luxury multilabel menswear boutique. He has an exacting eye for selecting edgy threads, and this is a good thing for the fashion-forward gentleman customer. Expect heavy weights like Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent Paris and Lanvin alongside cult labels Carol Christian Poell, LGB, The Label Under Construction, Lost and Found, Lumen et Umbra and many others. They also carry a selection of accessories, shoes and books, and a small women’s range.
STAR OF INDIA
Feast like a Maharaja at this world-renowned Indian stalwart. The family-owned restaurant has been going strong since 1954, attracting a loyal following of locals and visitors alike who come for their favourite dishes from all around India. Light and crispy poppadums, tangy chutneys, fiery curries and sizzling tandooris are on the menu alongside a good wine list. The ambience is cosy with an Italian-style frescoed ceiling complementing an otherwise simple décor in slate grey and earthy, muted beige.
The rustic environs of Bumpkin channel country-chic, with the open-plan kitchen adding a convivial and relaxed atmosphere to the Brit-centric eatery. Their seasonal menus use only the freshest of UK produce sourced directly from farmers to ensure sustainability and quality. Enjoy quintessentially British dishes like lightly spiced cured Highland venison with beetroot relish and foraged leaves, british beef pie, award winning English cheeses and sticky toffee pudding. Beverages are similarly patriotic – try Bumpkin’s house ale brewed in Kent.
With the advent of the digital age, bookshops large and small have been under pressure. That makes a place like the Slightly Foxed bookstore even more special. Luckily there are enough bibliophiles that agree. What could be better than browsing the shelves of antiquarian, out-of-print and secondhand tomes for hours on end? There is also a curated selection of new reads, and “The Sly Fox”, their resident bookworm and literary advisor is available to answer all your bookish questions. Email him at [email protected]
Founded in 1766 by James Christie, the world renowned private sales and auction house has enjoyed an illustrious reputation for dealing in all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles and wine. Over 450 auctions in more than 80 categories are held here annually. Prices range from a prosaic $200 to a cool $100 million. Don’t let that put you off though. Browse the lovely South Kensington showroom for a slice of history and you just might see a thing or two you’d like to bid on…
This mainstay of the South Kensington bar scene is not the newest kid on the block – far from it – but it has maintained its reputation as a happening spot. The bijou, dimly lit art deco setting is perfect for pre- or post-dinner sips from a stellar cocktail list. Later, adjourn to their subterranean club for a gander on the dance floor. It also happens to be right opposite The Cranley; very handy for stumbling home.