An Inspector Calls: Boutique beauty, but at quite a price – a night at Blakes Hotel, an expensive London institution
- Blakes has been an accommodation delight in Chelsea for some 30 years
- It is the brainchild of the interior designer and actress Anoushka Hempel
- It has a chic vibe, but the cost – including for dinner – may not be ideal
Blakes is often called Britain’s original boutique hotel. Which is not a bad moniker to have. It’s been around some 30 years and until three years ago was owned by Lady Weinberg.
The new owners have kept things going along the same chic, bohemian lines as her ladyship, investing most recently in the refurbished dining room and slinky bar on the ground floor.
Blakes Hotel: Big on style, but the cost may leave you a little down in the wallet
Elsewhere it’s looking rough around the edges, while still commanding prices to make you think the world’s gone mad. You won’t bag a room here for much less than £250.
Lady W — also known as one-time Bond girl and B-movie actress Anouska Hempel — is still the main influence behind the hotel’s design.
From the dark grey exterior to the opium-den lobby where the scented candles provide the only real lighting, self-confidence wafts through the building — and the staff clearly have been hired based on their looks as much as their efficiency.
Our room (501) is out the back and down some stairs. It’s small and dark — fine at night, but dreary by day.
The TV is hidden behind oriental screens that stutter open at the press of a button.
Next to the hairdryer and shoe cleaning sponge is a small black pouch containing a Durex condom.
The bathroom is the best part. There’s a huge tub, wet-room style shower, two butler sinks and mirrors everywhere.
Emerging from our black bunker, we make for the bar and order margaritas, made with great gusto but disappointing.
The ricotta ravioli with black truffle starter comes recommended. It’s starchy and over-sauced.
Then I go for the ‘wild salmon’, which tastes like farmed salmon, while my wife has the slow-cooked lamb, a dish that fails to justify its £26 price tag.
Where we get into real difficulties is over the wine. We order a couple of glasses of the cheapest (£8) white and red. What arrives is a soupcon. Three or four sips and it’s gone.
‘This is absurd,’ I tell the waitress. I ask to see the manager. He, too, is sympathetic but says the decision was taken to serve 150 ml glasses as standard ‘because some of our guests might be pregnant’.
Then he insists that the 150ml worth of wine only looks so paltry in the bulbous and delicate glasses they use here. He goes as far as showing us what the same measure looks like in different glasses.
Breakfast is delicious, with light streaming through the dining room — although £4 for a cup of tea or coffee is harsh. Blakes clearly knows its market: it caters mainly for an international crowd who don’t know what a pint of milk costs.
Travel Facts: Plan your own stay
33 Roland Gdns
0207 3706 701
Doubles from £250 per night, room only.