Monday, 27 January 2014

The best hotel in the UK?

The Milestone Hotel, Kensington (photo supplied by hotel)

Last week The Milestone Hotel in London was voted the UK's No.1 hotel in the TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2014. I happened to be visiting the day after the announcement, attending a BritMums Family Travel Think Tank, so was in the perfect position to see if it lived up to this accolade.

If I'm really honest, when I browse the internet looking for hotels I do tend to skip over those which are a tad too chintzy, when an establishment looks as if it's been swagged and tailed to within an inch of its life. Clicking on The Milestone's gallery, one or two rooms looked so lavish and over-dressed I felt I should don a bustle and wear a hat at a jaunty angle.

But am I missing out on something? Should I be looking past the froth and the frills and see what really makes a top class hotel, where guests wish to return time after time?

It dawned on me in just a few hours during my time there, that the key to a successful hotel has to be exemplary customer service. But it's more than that. It's service provided with warmth and natural charm so that, rather than feeling you are stepping into a costume drama, you have an abiding sense of being welcomed into someone's home.

And this is the key to the success of the Milestone Hotel and why it, and the other hotels in the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, keep scooping up the awards. It is a family business with Founder and President, Bea Tollman, at its head and its heart. A true love story: the beautiful young South African woman who married Stanley, a young hotelier who always wore a red carnation in his lapel. Sharing a love of style, fine cuisine, architecture and hospitality, the newly-weds bought their first hotel together in the 1950s and continued to build on their success. They now have seventeen properties in five countries, each well-renowned for their high quality.

Bea Tollman still keeps a keen eye on the day-to-day business and in particular, guest comments. But it is now very much a family affair with her children and grandchildren involved in all aspects of the company from sales, marketing and interior design. It would seem all the employees feel part of this large, supportive family. This must surely make a difference. In the short time I was at The Milestone, every member of staff was cheerful, friendly and great fun too.

room in Milestone hotel, London
A bedroom in The Milestone Hotel - and, if I remember rightly,
 it was interconnecting, so ideal for families. 

The images online may suggest opulence but, in reality, most of the public rooms spoke of intimacy rather than grandeur, with roaring fires and squashy sofas. We were given a tour of some of the bedrooms and whilst some weren't quite to my taste, others were simply beautiful. There were double rooms, suites and apartments for longer stays: lots of options for a boutique hotel. Everywhere I looked there was an incredible selection of artwork. But it was the attention to detail that surprised me. Who would have thought to have a box on a bedroom desk which includes proper stationery items including scissors, a stapler and highlighter pen? And the delightful dressing table which had a small compartment which, when opened, housed a plethora of fluffy cotton wool balls. I laughed when I spotted an 'emergency box' in one of the apartments which contained, amongst other items, a packet of Pringles.

Extra treats for children's cupcake decorating session
Although I didn't stay the night, I did sample the food. Rather than a lunch, we were given the hotel's Afternoon Tea which, sensibly, they offer at set times during the day, including a 1pm slot. A generous 6 sandwiches and 6-7 cakes per person, this is well-worth considering for a special occasion. The patisserie was just heavenly, the Devonshire scones light as a feather and, best of all, unpretentious doggy bags (smart red boxes) were provided for those of us who couldn't handle the last white chocolate eclair. Children are given their own cakes and sandwiches and, with 24 hour's notice, spend some time creating their own cupcake decorations with the assistance of the pastry chefs.

Is The Milestone Hotel the best in the UK? I couldn't possibly say without sampling them all but from spending a short time in its warm embrace, I'd say it is doing everything right for its guests. The motto for the Red Carnation Hotel Collection is: No request is too large, no detail too small. TripAdvisor customers would seem to agree.

The Milestone Hotel is located at 1, Kensington Court, London W8 5DL, opposite Kensington Gardens so only a short hop from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's home in Kensington Palace. It's very close to High Street Kensington underground station so has excellent transport links.

Afternoon Tea was provided for our meeting, plus a tour of the hotel. All opinions are my own.


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25 comments:

  1. Ahh this looks lovely! I love reading hotel reviews :) xx

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    1. Thank you, Anna. Thanks for stopping by. It is indeed a lovely place :-)

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  2. That sounds like a very special place; poor customer service is a real bugbear of mine. I love it when a business goes the extra mile and offers little things above and beyond those expected. I think you can always tell when staff are happy in their work place.

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    1. One of the ways they know what their customers like is they have a form people can fill in when they book the hotel expressing preferences. So mum might be greeted at the door with her drink of choice or they may find a book by your favourite author and leave it in your room.
      Yes, the staff certainly looked like they wanted to be there.

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    2. That's a wonderful idea, it would make my holiday/short stay to be met at the door with my favourite drink - other hotels should take note!

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  3. This gives a really accurate impression of the hotel Trish. From what I saw the customer service seems amazing and I agree with you that this is key.

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    1. A hotel might be in the perfect location with great decor but it's how they treat their guests which moves them up a notch.

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  4. Those lollipops alone have sold it to my youngest son. If he had his own credit card he's be making the booking right now.

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    1. A Chupa Chup is such a good marketing tool!

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  5. Customer service, cleanliness and style are three essentials when staying at a place. It helps to have a good restaurant too. It's really up to the management to set the atmosphere. If they are grumpy and vulgar, there's no way a hotel will ever be excellent because their attitude will filter down to the rest of the staff. The Milestone people look to have it taped. Good for them.

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    1. You're right - the basics of service and cleanliness are vital and everyone has their own idea of style. Also, looking at Tripadvisor reports, so many customers can mark down a hotel on the tiniest of things - it must be quite hard to get to the top and stay there.

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  6. A bitter-sweet story for you: Chupa Chups originated here in Asturias. Although they shut their home operations a couple of years ago and relocated to Barcelona, making my next door neighbour redundant in the process :-( They're still a great addition to any hotel room though!

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    1. Oh no! Your poor neighbour. What a shame!

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  7. I get to stay in a good amount of lovely places but my heart will always belong to One Devonshire Gardens

    http://www.hotelduvin.com/locations/glasgow/?gclid=CJK_i8y7obwCFQ3ItAodUAQAog

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    1. I like the look of that one. It's gorgeous. Will keep in mind if we do a Glasgow trip x

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  8. This sounds so wonderful. You make it sound so tempting!

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    1. Just a few hours there but it left it's mark.

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  9. Gosh that looks amazing. I plan on staying in London with my two (and Mr R of course) later in the year (they might be English and both were born in London but know other countries capital cities better, I intend to rectify that!) and will add this to my list! :) x

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    1. Every time we go to London we find something different to do. What is it they say, when you tire of London you tire of life.

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  10. Fab hotel review, will look into the Milestone Hotel for my next London trip!
    Funnily enough, I have just found my new favourite hotel in Berlin... ;) xx

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    1. I was very envious of your breakfast in Berlin - so different from a usual buffet.

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  11. Cracked up over your last comment: "possibly say without sampling them all but from spending a short time in its warm embrace, I'd say it is doing everything right for its guests" isn't it wonderful being in the warm embrace of a good hotel, the best hug there it. That hotel looks so glam and comfortable

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    1. Glam and comfortable at the same time is ideal.

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  12. Hi there Trish, just read your article! Corker, i'm so happy for you
    "I was successful. Like Daniel Day Lewis preparing for his role as Lincoln, I lived the role of Mrs O in the following months."
    Good on your Daniella Day Lewis and all!

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    1. That's such a lovely compliment. Thank you xx

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