I am a big-city girl but I like my hotels small and intimate, especially when travelling solo.
I can wander around a city happily for days on my own, but feel better and safer coming back to a hotel where I'm known. That is less likely to happen in a big hotel with hundreds of guests, however well-trained the staff.
And, at the risk of over-sharing, I am never entirely comfortable fronting the bar or dining solo in a grand hotel, but, equally, I don't want to eat a BLT in my room with CNN for company every night.
Hence, my love of boutique hotels. I have found that what they lack in the way of whiz-bang amenities, which experience tells me I rarely use, is outweighed by the feeling you are known and looked out for.
The Egerton House Hotel, a jewel box in Knightsbridge, gets the boutique business just right.
The name gives the game away. The hotel is two Victorian mansion houses joined together. It still feels like a house, which meant I felt at home within minutes of arriving.
I might not have remembered the individual staff members when I came back from a hard day's work reacquainting myself with London's shops after an absence of four years, but they knew me. There was no asking for ID or looking up details, just "Welcome back, Ms O'Sullivan" - reassuring for a solo female traveller.
The Egerton has 28 rooms, five of which are suites, a sitting room and adjoining bar, a breakfast room, which is on what the English quaintly refer to as "garden" level, a foyer, a business centre, and that is all, folks. There is no gym or spa, although the hotel has a partnership with a local gym a jog away and, this being the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, there are plenty of spa options the staff will recommend.
The Egerton is sumptuously decorated in a terribly, terribly English way, with deep sofas, thick curtains and rugs, throws, fireplaces and seriously good paintings and pen drawings. The daily papers are laid out in the sitting room, as is an impressive selection of books, glossy magazines and board games.
My bedroom was grand, with a four-poster, damask bedding and a marble bathroom. It was a room fit for a king, but one this would-be princess loved. On a more prosaic level, the lighting and electronics were so simple that even the most jet-lagged traveller could work them in the dark, something that is too rare in smart hotels.
As delightful as my room was, I didn't spend a lot of time in it, preferring the convivial atmosphere of the sitting room-bar. My reservations about dining alone were dispelled as soon as I settled onto the sofa in front of the fire with a steaming bowl of chicken soup made to a recipe by the hotel's owner, Bea Tollman.
I was equally as comfortable perched on a stool at the teensy bar, where head barman Antonio Pizzuto mixes what many say is the best martini in London. The locals seem to think so. There was a steady stream of smart young things dropping in to be shaken and stirred, before heading out on the town. Unfortunately, I missed Mr and Mrs Beckham, who have been known to pop in.
My stay was like being at a glamorous English house party, one at which I felt right at home.
17-19 Egerton Terrace, Knightsbridge, London.
Rooms from $NZ595 a night.
My only gripe is it's too close to Harrods and Harvey Nichols to take a cab so you have to walk. Ten minutes is all it takes though.
- Sydney Morning Herald