Star rating: ★★★★★
Adventure has been severely lacking in our family over the past 18 months – an unavoidable by-product of only being allowed to leave the house when strictly necessary, and even then, only for local journeys. I don’t know about you, but we’ve done the nearby woods and parks to death.
A night in a luxurious hotel on the doorstep of London’s best museums, with a backpack full of tools to help best explore them, and a fabulous setting to make the whole family feel like they’ve snuck onto the set of Bridgerton – now that is the makings of a proper adventure.
The Little Explorers’ package at Kensington’s 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel offers a springboard location for venues like the Natural History and Science Museums, plus a rucksack full of colouring pencils, notepads and a microscope to document all the strange and exciting discoveries on display.
And now it has been enhanced by some ‘After Bedtime’ extras, so the fun doesn’t have to stop when you get back to your room, either. Staying up late to have dinner in a restaurant with mum and dad, before evening treats like popcorn and hot chocolate delivered to your own bedroom while you watch a film in bed – this is the stuff of most kids’ dreams, isn’t it?
Where will I sleep?
Our plan was to drive to the hotel in the morning, drop off our bags, and head out into the city for a full day of exploration. Part of the package is an early 10am check-in time (and a late check-out at 4pm), which means you have as much time as you need for a weekend in the city, and really maximises what you can get out of a one-night stay.
The staff on the reception desk were very welcoming, particularly to the kids, making them feel just as important as the adults. After receiving some information on the hotel layout and restaurant locations, we had our bags carried up to our top floor room, which was lovely and quiet (at least until we arrived).
As standard you get a two-bedroom interconnecting family room, although when availability allows this is upgraded to a duplex suite with a second, connected room, which is what we had. And it was stunning.
The kid’s bedroom was a generous size and smartly appointed, with its own shower room, large television and a double bed each. Plus, as part of the Little Explorers’ package, a Toniebox with stories to listen to.
Next door was the main room, constructed over two levels with a living room and bar, mezzanine balcony, huge bedroom and second bathroom with a full-sized bath. Both rooms had their own air conditioning controls and coffee machines, kettles for tea, irons and boards, plus mini bars filled with chocolate, crisps and drinks.
A sliding door can be used to partition the two rooms off, although it can’t be locked unless you’ve got a key – a relief given our youngest’s habit of accidentally locking herself in places.
Our first impression was just how peaceful the large and airy duplex felt – scented with a welcoming aroma and with quiet classical music playing throughout. The kids also quickly discovered (and demolished) a tray of fresh fruit and cakes that had been left on the table in the lounge area.
In terms of styling the rooms mixed classical architecture with modern design using a blue and copper palette, with marble and tile bathrooms stocked with Floris of London amenities. The bedrooms felt warmer with wood panelling and soft lighting, while the lounge made a feature of its lovely old fireplace and exploration equipment lining the bookshelves. A throwback to the hotel’s original owner, Victorian aristocrat and explorer William Alexander.
The main bedroom had a sloping roofline with skylights, which made it feel tucked away and enveloping – a cosy hideaway that isolates you from the bustling city outside.
Mostly though my family was in disbelief at staying in a hotel room with its own staircase.
What’s included in the Little Explorers 'After Bedtime' Package?
Waiting for the kids on their beds when we arrived was a Little Explorers adventure backpack each, containing everything they needed for a day exploring London, including colouring pencils, a notepad, and an aluminium water bottle from the hotel, plus a microscope and dinosaur construction kit from the Natural History Museum, which is where we spent the afternoon.
You have to book tickets now rather than just turning up (although it looked like you could queue for admission), but this did at least mean we got in quickly enough after barely a ten-minute walk from the hotel. Both kids brought their Little Explorer backpacks, and we told our eldest he was on an important mission to document as many of the museum’s artefacts as possible with drawings in his notepad. My daughter just charged around the place because she’s three-years-old and frankly, that’s what they do.
Staying in London meant we could take as long as we wanted seeing all the exhibits – we’ve never made it round the entirety of the Natural History Museum before because of the need to quell rumbling tummies and mentally prepare for the long drive home. Knowing we had just a short walk to dinner and some evening luxuries (more on these later) meant we could enjoy our time together in the museum to the fullest.
What is there to eat?
On returning to the hotel, we had just enough time to get changed before our pre-booked dinner in the ESQ bar. Normally you’d be in the W/A restaurant but during our stay it had a temporary closing time of 5pm. This likely not the case anymore, but if possible, I’d recommend asking whether you can do the same – Rocco the bar manager made us all feel incredibly welcome and the whole team made a huge fuss of us, telling the kids what important guests they were and how nice it was to be able to look after a family with young children. This put us all at ease, as although the setting was more casual - in the context of the hotel - it was still very smart and more formal than what we’re all used to.
We started off with some cocktails from the enormous menu – and if your usual favourite is missing the team will make it for you, but I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be. The kids enjoyed watching their own drinks (a mix of tropical fruits with a dried pineapple garnish) being shaken behind the bar while Emma and I picked from the bar’s signature range, costing £13.50 each.
We ended up with a Smoked Nozzer and a Floriography – mine was a spiced rum and walnut syrup concoction that arrived in a light bulb and tasted like Christmas cake and campfire, while Emma’s was a floral, fruity number in a more conventional glass. Both were delicious and luxuriously long.
The children’s menu has been specially put together by the hotel’s culinary team and costs £13 for two courses and £17 for three. My two picked the crudites with hummus and melon with berry compote starters, a burger and fries and penne with tomato sauce mains, and two huge bowls of gelato for pudding. It’s familiar food with a seriously upmarket presentation – perfectly pitched for a lavish family break.
The adult menu meanwhile is classic with a contemporary twist, and we shared a British charcuterie plate starter (£13) before moving on to wonderfully crisp Japanese tempura cod and chips (Emma, £19) and a generous and well-seasoned beef fillet with red wine jus (£23, me) plus a big bowl of chips (£7) which hummed with truffle and parmesan. Desert was a strawberry cheesecake each (£6), although I could have happily eaten both.
If you’re wincing at the accumulating cost, included in the package is a £50 hotel food and drink voucher, and under-fives eat for free with paying adults, so while our bill should have been around £140, it ended up closer to £70 – which ended up feeling like fantastic value given the fact we had three courses and cocktails, the food was out of this world delicious, and the setting and service were absolutely flawless.
Rocco made me and Emma an espresso martini each as a good night treat (the best I’ve tasted to date) and said he’d been working on a salted caramel version that we should come back and try. Which we absolutely will be doing.
We returned to our room and got the kids ready for bed – the After Dark package also includes a glittery bath bomb each and Little Explorer dressing gowns and slippers (plus a matching hotel teddy!), before streaming a film from my phone onto one of the room’s enormous televisions.
The final and perhaps most exciting element of the trip were four vouchers that can be exchanged for popcorn and a hot chocolate each - technically supposed to be redeemed in the restaurant but here’s a hack: you can order them as room service and enjoy them in bed. The kids both said this was their favourite part of the trip, and a perfect end to a really special day.
After a peaceful night’s sleep (we were all exhausted and full up) we visited the W/A Restaurant for breakfast – included in the package is a continental breakfast in your room or a full English downstairs, and we picked the latter. There’s a huge buffet too and additional options like waffles and pancakes to order, so we had a bit of a mixture. It was impossible to pick a favourite, really.
The restaurant itself is beautifully appointed and we sat at a large table with a great view of the various hustles and bustles on the street outside as London came to life. Sadly this was the end of our trip as we had plans that afternoon, but you could easily fit another museum trip into the second day.
Where is 100 Queen’s Gate and what is there to do?
Queen’s Gate intersects Cromwell Road (where the Natural History Museum is located) and leads North into Kensington Palace and Hyde Park. We drove there and that meant parking in London, which is never cheap. The nearby KCP is about a two-minute walk and the hotel offers a 20% discount, meaning we paid £40 for our 24-hour stay.
Finding a cheaper car park further away from the city and getting a tube is probably a better bet, and the hotel is situated pretty much in the middle of both Gloucester Road and South Kensington stations.
Budget ten minutes to walk to the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and V&A Museum if you’ve got young children, and between 10-20 minutes to reach the Diana Memorial Playground, Serpentine Boating Lake, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace.
How much does it cost to visit?
The Little Explorers Package is available from £365 per night for 2 adults and up to 2 children, in a Two-Bedroom Interconnecting Family Room, with a complimentary upgrade to a Duplex Suite Interconnecting Family Room (subject to availability).
Taken at face value, £365 for a night’s stay in London might seem a bit steep, but I came away from the experience with plans to make it a regular break. Not every year admittedly, but not once in a lifetime either.
The location (a very posh part of London), the extras included with the package, and how special a treat it felt made it feel very much worth that cost alone, and that’s before you factor in the museum and sightseeing trips it enabled us to do, without having to get up super early or drive home very late.
You’ve also got to consider the sky-high cost of going away in the UK right now. Weighed up against five days in less salubrious accommodation (at which point one or both of my kids usually get bored and fed up) versus a much more memorable two-day trip, the latter begins to look a lot more compelling. Especially as my kids haven’t stopped talking about it since.
In short, I’m a big fan of the espresso holiday – a more concentrated experience that you don’t get to enjoy for as long but delivers much more bang for your buck. In reality it probably won’t replace the annual week away, but as a special treat after a pretty rubbish couple of years, the Little Explorers package at 100 Queen’s Gate delivered on all fronts.
For more information and to book your own stay at 100 Queen's Gate, go to 100queensgate.com