They say London is a city of villages, and I fully agree. South Kensington, where I have been a resident all of four months, certainly has the look and feel of a village. There are many French here, something I noticed during our move-in when a parade of little girls marched by on their way to school dressed exactly like the storybook character Madeline! The Lycée Français is located around the corner, as are so many lush gardens, cobblestone mews, world-class museums, elegant hotels, and foreign embassies.
Flat hunting in London was a challenge with our two dogs in tow. My incredulous pleas “but they’re tiny Yorkshire terriers – they belong here!” didn’t help any in our initial search in the East; newer-construction head leases rendered dog-friendly inventory null. Our real estate agents suggested we look West, where we’d find older Victorian flats we could rent directly from the owners who might be more amenable to dogs. Our dilemma was a total blessing in disguise because it led us directly to South Kensington – a friendly, well kept, and historical neighborhood where we are finding it quite easy to live. Let me show you around.
Neighborhood scenes just off Gloucester Rd.
Central London, west of Hyde Park
“A fine place to exercise your dogs,” my neighbor informed me. Nearly every morning we start along the flower walk (a sure squirrel sighting, and my favorite for its perfumed air and quiet). We traverse up through the orangerie to the round pond where Gus and Lola chase geese and sometimes cool off in the water. Evenings and weekends all four of us will visit with a picnic.
Gus and the Kensington Gardens flower walk.
Canopy overhead during a picnic in the lush Kensington Gardens orangerie.
Kynance Mews and Veterinary Clinic
8 Kynance Mews
Gus and Lola’s caring vet is located just inside the mews gates off Gloucester Rd. It is a cobblestone stretch of mews homes (which used to be horse stables that served the nearby Victorian mansions). Kynance neighbors plant potted flowers and vegetables, and the short passage is lush and glorious.
Kynance Mews Veterinary Clinic, the esteemed practice of Dr. Keith Butt and team.
Queen’s Gate Gardens
Located at the intersection of Queen’s Gate Gardens and Gloucester Rd
This is the private garden located just in front of our flat. Families bring their young children here to play and read, picnic and enjoy nature. We feel so lucky to have easy access to this beautiful plot.
Queen’s Gate Gardens, the private Victorian-style garden square that I call home.
Brompton Food Market
33 Thurloe Pl
When I’m not in a rush, I’ll visit Brompton to stock up on special pantry items, organic fresh produce from local farms, high-quality cheese and carefully selected alcohol & wine. In the back there is a secret garden (as advertised on the blue sign out front) with many tables and chairs set up for noshing on fare from the take-away deli counter.
Brompton Food Market, a high quality provisioner with fresh produce, pantry items, and a secret garden.
Fernandez and Wells
8 Exhibition Road
Purveyors of small bites and coffee; F&W is so boutiquey feeling that you would never guess it’s a chain. This morning I ordered their “stumpy,” which is a flat white but with less milk – my new favorite thing. Head here for a tapas-style dinner knocked back with a glass of Montillado sherry.
Fernandez & Wells: go for the flat white or stumpy, and stay for the small plates.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Cromwell Road (just east of Exhibition Road)
“Interesting, beautiful, free.” I especially appreciate the view of the crowned top that you can see from further west on Cromwell road. Their museum store is well known, and they are neighbors with the Brompton Oratory church.
Recognizable by its architectural crown, V&A is “interesting, beautiful, and free.”
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Rd (due east of Queen’s Gate)
Wonderful for both children and adults, this playful museum is massive and has a west-facing garden. Walking by, you notice the slate and sand colored brick facade which glows most beautifully at sunset.
View of the NHM via the garden.
The Ampersand Hotel
10 Harrington Rd
Although I have not spent a night here myself, the Ampersand comes highly recommended and I can attest that its restaurant Apero is a great spot for brunch.
Looking for a place to rest your head and heart in south kens? Ampersand boutique hotel is it.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred
88 Old Brompton Rd
“The marvelous things that Fred makes…” Inside this bakery are many pieces of heaven. The classic merveilleux are tiny cakelike confections made of layers of merengue, but I go for the chocolat cramiques which are essentially brioche with flecks of dark chocolate. I panicked when they closed for 2 weeks in August (how French!) but thankfully it was only for summer holiday. I have to be careful else I would eat here every day, they’re completely addicting.
Peeking into the marvellous French bakery. Is that Fred?!
The chocolat cramiques (soft brioche) are irresistable.
La Bottega Italian Delicaffè
97 Old Brompton Road
My favorite place to bring the dogs and sit outdoors for a cappuccino and a quick sandwich. Indoors the main staple is a giant deli counter with prepared foods and ready-to-grill sandwiches (prosciutto + arugula, mozzarella + tomato, etc.) Meanwhile you will enjoy fabulous people watching (so international!)
La Bottega, a delicaffe run by Italians who do breakfast and lunch right.
The Hereford Arms
127 Gloucester Road
Our local watering hole, with “five star ales.” According to the pub, Sir James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, lived a few doors down on Gloucester Road.
The Hereford Arms.