REVIEW: Celebrating Sundays at The Milestone Hotel
If early check-out times always grind your gears, then allow The Milestone to make your day - all of it
If there’s one major drawback to any hotel stay, no matter if it’s a business trip in the city or a bucolic countryside stay with the family, it’s the all-too-often frighteningly early checkout times. It is of course understandable that any in-demand establishment would want to shunt the guests from their chambers in order to tidy up and make space for the next set of patrons, but this knowledge does little to mask the fact that rising at 9am to wolf down a breakfast before finding yourself standing on a street corner an hour later with 10 hours to go until your flight home can really put a dampener on the end of an otherwise memorable trip.
At the same time, few - if any - hotels across the world have used the unprecedented social and financial landscape afforded by the Covid-19 pandemic to rethink this system, such as using the opportunity posed by ebbing foot traffic to enact a scheme in which guests can remain checked into their rooms for the entire day following an overnight stay. But down in glamorous Kensington, The Milestone Hotel is blazing a trail that others are sure to follow.
The Milestone, operated by the Red Carnation Hotels Group, this summer introduced the so-called Celebrate Sundays package, allowing patrons who check in on Sunday to occupy their selected quarters until 5pm the following day, in an attempt to ease them back into the work week in style. The package includes early check-in allowing a full day to explore the city, a lavish Sunday afternoon tea for two (with champagne if you so please), a full English breakfast in the morning and - most importantly - the option to WFH (‘work from hotel’) on the Monday with a late checkout and free tea and coffee throughout the day. And so, with a laptop under my arm and a spring in my step, I headed to the hotel to see how this intriguing scheme worked.
The Milestone is, quite simply, a thrilling, charming timewarp. Upon entering its lobby, bedecked in rich mahogany and deep green carpets, guests are in effect transported back to the 1920s - decade of the now Grade II listed establishment’s opening. Atmospheric lamplight permeates every corner of the space and the staff shuffle back and forth with purpose and diligence, the men kitted out in either bowties or top hats and tails.
Aware I had turned up early to make the most of my first day at the hotel, the reception staff breezed through check-in and ushered me up to my room, the identity of which I had been eager to finally discover; each suite and studio at the Milestone has a distinct theme wildly different to the others, which not only adds a somewhat thrilling element of chance to proceedings, but also negates the possibility of the dreaded sterile monotony that so many cut-and-paste hotels fall into. These spacious rooms, by contrast, are filled with curated artworks and decorative flourishes which represent the suites’ namesakes, be it the sleek Art Deco of the The Noel Coward Suite, the black and chrome of the Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann Suite or the plush regal greens of the Hermes Suite. As the Red Carnation Group website puts it: “Every room is a masterpiece”.
I was shown to one of the hotel’s more niche offerings; the Erté Studio, named for the alias of Russian-French artist Romain de Tirtoff. We opened the door to the sight of gigantic bay windows overlooking Kensington Gardens and the palace beyond, before pivoting on the gorgeously angular black-and-white carpet to face a wall of fabulous sketches by the artist, replete with twisted torsos and meandering outlines.
I hopped onto the rather lofty bed, laptop in hand, ready to start the first of my two days Working From Hotel. I grabbed the TV remote for the aid of some background noise, and looked up to see… no TV. “Is this some sort of prank?” I thought to myself, before spotting a downward-pointing arrow on the remote; I pressed it and stared in baffled amusement as a gargantuan flatscreen TV folded into view from a trapdoor in the ceiling, turning itself on with a cheery chime as I collected my jaw off the floor.
The hours rolled by, my elegant surroundings helping me focus (though this may have been the five coffees ordered to my room throughout the day), before my workday came to a particularly pleasant close. It’s a peculiar feeling to shut off your laptop and already find yourself on holiday. There’s no frantic post-work packing, no traipsing across London, no laborious check-ins; it’s all done. And with a couple of hours until my scheduled afternoon tea, I headed to the basement bedecked in a fluffy white dressing gown to partake in the spa’s offerings.
The spa at The Milestone is an unusually peaceful affair. Guests are required to book exclusive slots, meaning I had the entire spa to myself for a good hour, which I spent alternating between the cozy sauna and the glass-panelled plunge pool. Furthermore, the latter of these two is equipped with a unique jet system which offers resistance when swimming against them, like a sort of aquatic treadmill for those looking to get a workout if the rowing machines and weights in the adjacent room look like too much hard work.
The afternoon tea, served in the opulent dining room, was about as gloriously traditional as these affairs get. Paired with a juicy rose champagne, the sandwiches popped with flavours of England, from succulent cucumber, to ham and mustard, to coronation chicken. The sweets, however, were a more extravagant expression of the hotel’s kitchen staff, with unique fruit, glace and chocolate pairings offering an intriguing spin on classic dessert dishes.
Having retired to bed with a cocktail (or two, or three) from the stunningly atmospheric Stables Bar, its varnished wooden embellishments shimmering by wonderful, dim lantern light, I arose the following morning fully refreshed and ready to partake in the second half of my Working From Hotel experience - but not before ordering a stonking Full English Breakfast to my room.
Tempted to call in sick and sleep off the food coma I subsequently put myself in, I soldiered on with the help of an oat milk flat white from the diligent room service staff, getting more done in one day than I had in the previous five combined; something about this unusual work set-up, at once both exhilarating and relaxing, lined up with with my routine perfectly, and even allowed me to sneak in a restorative power nap over my lunch break (apologies to my editor).
Even if the pandemic is someday a thankfully distant memory, it would be a shame to see Celebrate Sundays go the same way. For my money, this is the way forward. It’s all the benefits of a luxury hotel stay without any of the detractions we so often overlook when booking accommodation; a typical late check-in combined with an early check-out can mean we barely have more than 15 or 16 hours in the hotel, at least eight or nine of which we spend asleep. I trudged down the steps of the Milestone and back into the real world having spent almost 36 hours in the plush confines of my room - and loving every minute of it.