Though hardly a secret, it is surprising that more people are not raving about this handsome hotel set in Victorian buildings in elegant South Kensington. It’s quintessentially English, with excellent food and service; the bar, too, is impeccably sleek and takes its cocktails seriously. It has some of the most charming and comfortable public spaces (that sequence of sunlit sitting rooms along the Queen’s Gate side) of any small hotel in the city, and two of the loveliest suites, the Knightsbridge and the Brompton, which can be connected to become a single mega-apartment. Apart from which, what is there to recommend the place? Well, there is the endlessly diverting art on the walls, which displays an eclectic mixture not only of periods and genres but also of seriousness and whimsy. And then there are the camellia-motif carpets, extending in all directions once you ascend above the ground floor. These ought to be frightening but are, on the contrary, delightful, so perpetually spring-like they cannot but put a spring in your step. The Kensington was the first Doyle Collection property to launch in London (followed very closely by the Marylebone; the Bloomsbury, the most recent arrival, was also an instant hit). Yet it is, if not the best, then the warmest and cosiest, the most genial and the most versatile, of the lot. By Steve King
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Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton