Contrary to the regular reviews that we enjoy around the world, we were invited to enjoy something a little different – the Ultimate Valentine’s Weekend at the Crowne Plaza London Kensington.
I duly accepted, because as my last ever Valentine’s Day as a fiancé, it was only apt to celebrate this momentous occasion in style before the wedding bells start to chime.
The Crowne Plaza London Kensington is a luxurious hotel located in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the wealthiest districts of the UK Capital. Sitting behind the welcoming Victorian stucco façade is a total of 162 bedrooms, and we stayed in one of the newly-renovated and nicely-appointed apartment-style duplex suites (classified as a top-tier King Club Room). Situated on the sixth floor of the hotel, we were fortunate enough to be able to witness far-reaching rear-facing views of the property’s magnificent one acre garden (amongst the most sizeable in the heart of London) and the architecturally-beautiful Victorian church of St Stephens. We were shown to our room by the very courteous concierge staff, and being a Valentine’s-themed package, we were subsequently greeted by a trio of Krispy Kreme doughnuts (‘A Little Love Box’), a bowl of strawberries surrounded by a generous portion of milk chocolate shavings, as well as a vase filled with red roses – the attention to detail was impressive.
Set across two floors separated by a smart wooden staircase, the lower area of the suite features a sofa, writing desk, a large flatscreen TV and a round dining table and chairs, all complemented by well-positioned ambient lighting designed to create a cosy home-from-home feel. On the mezzanine is a king-sized bed complete with a plethora of cushions and crisp white linen (this time decorated with rose petals), tea and coffee making facilities, another sizeable TV and an iPod radio docking station sitting on the bed side table. Occupants are also treated to a light, modern and airy bathroom furnished with a separate white and black-themed bath and walk-in shower, both lined with a full array of sweet-smelling luxury toiletries and body care products courtesy of Temple Spa. With the sleeping quarters being in the roof, electronically-controlled blinds give guests the option to expose or shut out as much light as they desire.
Aside from being able to relax in the room itself, there is also the private Club Lounge, which is located adjacent to the reception, and is reserved solely for guests residing in a King Club Room. Open from 7.30am for breakfast until around 10pm, it offers a quiet and comfortable seating area to retire in with the facility to read the day’s newspapers, make a hot drink, nibble on some nuts, crisps and fruit, whilst a selection of canapés are served between 6 to 8pm in the evening for visitors wanting something a bit more substantial.
To make this an extra special weekend for lovers, the Crowne Plaza London Kensington teamed up with the intimate Everyman cinema lying within the confines of the famous Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. We were therefore treated to a screening of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ as we laid back on the sofa-style seating with a glass of champagne in hand. If this wasn’t enough, prior to the movie, we were presented with a mystery gift which emerged as a selection of romantic accessories such as a scented candle and perfume.
After enjoying the highly-publicised film, it was then time for us to head back to the hotel to sample the mouth-watering four-course pre-set Valentine’s dinner menu at ‘Umami’, the Crowne Plaza London Kensington’s in-house eatery. The contemporary 80-cover restaurant serves pan-Asian cuisine which is essentially a fusion of Malay, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian dishes, and there is a comprehensive selection on offer in addition to a good choice of white and red wine. Any dietary requirements are very well catered for by the highly attentive team, and as we found out, any slight alteration to the line-up of dishes was never too much trouble for the chefs.
Our opening course was mango, paw paw, lavender and honey-infused duck and green leaf salad, whilst I had the vegetarian alternative – Toti (Indian bread) and lentils. Both were very much enjoyed, and lived up to the excellent and well-earned reputation of Umami.
The starter then proceeded with an Asian-style baby chicken soup with Enoki mushrooms, whilst for me, I had a specially-prepared soya-flavoured and spicy vegetarian soup made from baby asparagus, shredded green beans, mushrooms, baby sweetcorn and soft pieces of tofu.
The starter and main course was brilliantly interspersed by a refreshing mango ice cream and lychee before a Malaysian green curry and sides of steamed Jasmine rice, Thai asparagus and stir-fried Malaysian Bok Choy arrived. My dining partner sampled the equally inviting slow cooked chicken in a clay pot with a yellow bean and butternut squash. Both were extremely tasty and cooked to perfection.
Digesting the previous and more than ample-sized portions, my fiancée and I shared coconut pancakes, fresh mango, mango sorbet and warm Thai sticky sweet rice for dessert before retiring back to the comforts of our suite. As with all the other personnel that we had encountered during our stay, the service from start to finish was excellent and extremely attentive.
Starting the following morning with a glimpse of a romantic sunrise over the London skyline, we made our way back to the Club Lounge for a continental breakfast (diners can also opt for a similar spread in Umami), and this took the form of a small buffet laden with smoked salmon, cereals, hot dishes (namely hash browns, sausages and eggs), yoghurts, fresh fruit, cheeses, fresh bread and pastries – a perfect way to start the day.
Beyond the Valentine’s celebrations, the Crowne Plaza London Kensington really is the perfect haven for a romantic break or a weekend getaway, and in keeping with the theme of our stay, we absolutely loved it!
For more information, or to make a reservation, visit www.cplondonkensingtonhotel.co.uk and www.umamilondon.co.uk.