Nestled on Kensington Court, the property is merely a throw’s stone away from Kensington Palace, and many of its rooms overlook the beautiful Kensington Park. It borrows its name from the old cast iron milestone (which stands in its original position), and was first built as a house—Kensington House—in 1689. Its debut occupant was Foot Onslow, a Commissioner of Excise under William III. By the mid-19th century, the Russian ambassador to London, Count Peter Grigorevich Chernyshev, moved in; his daughter, who lived to age 96, served as the inspiration for the countess in the famed Russian author Alexander Pushkin’s Queen of Spades.
In 1922, The Milestone became a hotel. But in 1986, a mysterious fire damaged it, and the property was sold to another owner. It was restored to its original architecture in 1999.
Nowadays, it’s a five-star Red Carnation accommodation—the London flagship for the collection. But although it is undoubtedly steeped in luxury, there’s a casual, almost homey Victorian-style feel to it. A bit like an eccentric uncle’s private mansion. There is no grand lobby, just many corners to explore—a cozy bar, and several dining rooms of various designs, including the memorable Cheneston’s restaurant.
There is an old-fashioned, attentive style of service here that is quintessentially English, and attention is paid to the small details. Consider this: when new guests come to stay, they are asked to fill in a preference card that helps the hotel ensure the right kind of pillows and blankets are in the room, and that there’s a ready-and-waiting welcome drink, whether that’s coffee, tea, or bubbly.
The boutique nature of the hotel shines when it comes to its 44 rooms, 12 suites, and six long-stay apartments. Each room is uniquely adorned with antique furnishings, fresh flowers, and beautiful fabrics, as well as unusual and even rare artwork. But, as one of the hotel’s staff is quick to caution: “It’s not a museum—this is your home now.”
Even the layout in each room can be different. For example, you might discover that a small staircase leads to a sitting area with a couch, table, and television set—almost like a secret nook. Undoubtedly the decor, with its rich fabrics and antiques, strays towards the ornate and luxurious, and it’s understandable why one might mix it up with a museum. But The Milestone also welcomes touches of modernity with high-speed wireless internet (complimentary), TV screens, contemporary washroom amenities, and little turndown treats: instead of the usual chocolate on your pillow, you might get a few healthy figs, or caramels. In the end, it’s the little touches that you tend to remember the most.
And, living to true to its name, The Milestone is known for going the extra mile—sometimes literally. When one guest was feeling too weary to take the long train journey home, the hotel’s chauffeur grabbed some car keys; little did he know that the guest lived all the way in North Yorkshire. Nonetheless, he drove for 500 miles to get the guest home. In a Bentley. When another guest wondered if there was a way to get tickets to the sold-out Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at The National Gallery, the concierge took it upon himself to queue for five hours, on a snowy winter’s day, in case there was a returned ticket (there was). And when a famous entertainer called The Milestone asking if a grand piano could be placed in-suite, the hotel’s staff made sure it happened before check-in.
The Milestone has stood for many years, and its walls have witnessed a lot as it transformed with the times. Clearly, it has many more stories to observe yet. That’s one constant in an ever-changing world.
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