South Kensington is a vibrant, active neighborhood ideally suited for London tourism. Nightlife, shopping and culture are all within walking distance and the location has some lovely hotels and inns that are much more reasonably priced than those in Knightsbridge, for example, or Mayfair. The area surrounding the crossroads of Brompton Road and Gloucester Road is filled with these hotels, everything from a Radisson Edwardian to a Holiday Inn.
Bailey's, once known as a sprawling tourist-class staple, was acquired by the Millennium-Copthorne Group in 1998, refurbished, and branded Millennium Bailey's Hotel. Millennium, a British brand, offers 32 hotels in major cities around the world, each supposedly four or five-star properties. Although I am leary of staying in a neighborhood known almost entirely as a haven for tourists, I was looking forward to staying at Bailey's. It's old, it has a history, and it's a refurbished four-star Millennium, so I thought it would be fun.|
My overnight flight was arriving at Gatwick Airport very early, so I had arranged for an early check-in. I grabbed a cab at Victoria Station after taking the Gatwick Express train into town. The hotel's bellman assisted with my bags as I paid the cab driver.
The lobby is small and would be dark except for the huge windows at the front of the building. A circular marble table with a large floral arrangement sits near the entrance, an iron-railed staircase curves gracefully on the right. The lounge area is defined by a couple of high-back upholstered chairs, a coffee table and a plaid sofa. With the color scheme and design, the theme seemed to be Ralph Lauren meets John Turner.
The Club Room that I had reserved was not yet ready (it was very early; barely 9 a.m.) so the charming woman at reception gave me the key to a standard room in which I could wait.
What I really wanted was a bath and a nap, but I didn't feel comfortable messing up the bathroom and the bed and then having to move. I made myself a cup of coffee from the in-room coffee-making facilities, sat on the chair, and watched the news on CNN International.
Although very small, the standard room was quite pleasant, with the exception of a really ugly bedspread; striped with big blocks of mauve and green, it reminded me of an old pair of men's pajamas.
This room had a nice bathroom with tub, minimal bath amenities consisting of a small bottle of shampoo, small bottle of shower gel, a shower cap and a small soap, nice fluffy towels. In the room itself was a television, a coffee and tea-making tray (instant coffee and tea bags provided), a desk area and a closet with iron and ironing board. Except for the fact that it was quite small and would become claustrophobia-inducing over a long period, the room was nicely outfitted.
When I finally got cleared to move to my larger (and substantially more expensive) room, I gathered my belongings and went to the end of the corridor where a butler met me with my keys. I entered a small vestibule, beyond which was a large studio-style guestroom with a king bed, a small sofa, coffee table, large credenza with the television and coffee/tea set up, an armchair in a corner, two very tall windows, and a gigantic bathroom.
The room was definitely spacious and offered a lot of area to spread out. The bathroom sparkled with white tile, and the bathtub beckoned. I had to laugh, however, when I saw the promised "upgraded bath amenities" that the brochure and Website tout for the Club Rooms.
Standard Bath Amenities
Club Bath Amenities
The difference was precisely one little bottle of lotion.
This room, while large, just didn't seem to "work." Things were placed in ways that made it impossible to have a good flow. The bedlamp, for example, on one side of the bed, was actually on the desk and beyond reach if you wanted to turn it off. The lamp on the other side of the bed was somehow tied to the entry foyer light, so if you had that lamp on to read, you also had the big overhead light on. Certain switches and plugs were in odd places, too... the knob to turn on the heated towel rack was behind the credenza that held the TV, but there was nothing indicating where it was to be found.
I surely didn't need a heated towel rack during my visit, I needed air conditioning. It was mid-September, and while not blisteringly hot, it was still quite warm out. I was on a corner on the top floor and the sun on the roof made my room very, very warm. The air conditioner wasn't functioning and there was no cross-breeze from the open windows so it was really uncomfortable. Had I been staying longer than the one night, I would have asked to go back to the cool standard guestroom.
This "bedside" lamp can't be
reached from the bed.
One of the things that I really did like about the rooms was that there were books placed on the desks. Old books, interesting books. Even if they aren't read, it was a nice personal touch that I appreciated.
The bedspread in the Club Room had the same mauve and green as in the standard room, but looked less like men's PJs. Still, the furnishings seemed tired, the king bed sagged in the middle (although it was quite comfortable,) and the chair and little sofa were kind of ragged and stained. One side of the bedskirt had been left tucked up under the mattress, which showed a lack of care on the part of housekeeping.
Club rooms come with bathrobe and slippers, another nice bonus, as well as an iron and ironing board, coffee/tea-maker, and satellite television. A lovely buffet breakfast is included in the Club Room rate, as is access to the special lounge located at Millennium Gloucester Hotel just down the street.
Millennium Bailey's was OK, just. I don't think it lives up to its four-star billing, although it does have some interesting historical features. The location is terrific for tourism, with a shopping center right across the street, fun and funky restaurants, pubs and coffee houses (including Starbuck's) surrounding it, and the Gloucester Road tube stop literally steps from its door.
Check the rates: If they are comparable to other hotels in the area and you enjoy historic buildings, you might enjoy staying here, as well.
BOOK MILLENNIUM BAILEY'S