The Harrington Road venue was originally built in 1888 but was purchased by a new group of private investors last year for an undisclosed sum. The group then embarked on a refurb programme costing approximately £13m to modernise the building including adding air conditioning.
The renovation of the Victorian venue has increased the amount of bedrooms to 111 and extended a grand staircase in the centre of the building. Other areas of the hotel which had not been used, or used fully, have also been brought back to life or used to expand existing bedrooms and add suites.
The food and beverage offering for the venue will include The Drawing Rooms, previously a bar area, which will be a coffee and patisserie lounge in the day and a champagne bar at night. Apero, a 55-cover space, will have an all-day small plate Mediterranean offer as well as catering for the hotel’s breakfast serving.
Containing individually-styled rooms and ‘splashes of contemporary art’, The Ampersand will join a growing number of boutique hotels in the capital. In September 2011 BigHospitality reported the sector was expected to double in size over two years, adding more than 2,500 rooms.
“In terms of being able to absorb additional supply in the market, in my view there is still opportunity,” Roberto Pajares, general manager for the hotel, told BigHospitality. Pajares, who is also project manager leading up to the opening, believes the hotel is not very large relatively and will serve existing demand despite the boom in the boutique hotel sector.
Occupancy levels of around 70 per cent are expected within the first year and Pajares said he believes there is room to grow beyond that with a good amount of demand in the South Kensington area in particular.
The local area has also served as the motivation for the refurbishment and the branding of the hotel just minutes from South Kensington station. Architectural firm Dexter Moren Associates worked with branding consultancy Goosebumps on the two-year project which has taken inspiration from the history of the area as a cultural district and the home of institutions such as the Natural History Museum.
It is the thought process behind the brand that has driven choices from the name of the hotel to the use of the ‘ampersand’ icon in the decoration and marketing materials as well as in the styling of rooms on themes including music and ornithology. This, Pajares argues, marks the hotel out from others in the sector and gives it a unique selling point.
“It is a slightly different approach maybe than other hotels have taken. The whole concept is very much around our locale and being in the cultural district,” he said.
Small Luxury Hotels
Pajares, who has worked previously on the development of the Marriott St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel and was the general manager of The Trafalgar Hotel for a number of years, revealed the hotel was also now a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) group.
“When you work as an independent it is absolutely key you work with an alliance or a partnership with somebody like SLH. It is a completely new brand that is coming into the market so in terms of those first years of getting the awareness out there it is absolutely key we work with other partners as well,” he said.
The hotel is planning a soft launch to possibly take advantage of some of the Olympic trade with full bookings being taken from 31 August currently to avoid being unable to deliver before the business is ready.