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Home Away From Home

The Other House South Kensington gets personal

Mash-ups of the seemingly incongruent have occasionally resulted in miraculous, delightful and otherwise unanticipated combinations. Country-rock music, salted caramels, the iPod-plus-the-mobile-phone: they combine the best of the two and eliminate the rest. Imagine, then, what accommodation away from home would be if you dream of the convenience and facilities of hotels, the regularity and security of a time-share, and the familiarity of a private members club. You want something more than a room or suite which lacks the personal touch.

Founded by Naomi Heaton, The Other House South Kensington treats guests like club members, while at the same time, the feel is that of a luxury hotel. Indeed, one hears the word “members” more often than “guests” within its walls. Even a detail as small as this nomenclature creates an immediate feeling of belonging, a sensation that private clubs exude but which hotels cannot achieve. And such details matter: everywhere you look are books to peruse, and every surface invites one’s touch, from walls covered in sustainable materials to cosseting sofas and chairs.

The Library is a warm, welcoming space, ideal for casual meetings or to host a small gathering.

Says Mark Farrant, in charge of The Other House’s membership, “Although this is a hotel, we don’t like to call it that (because we welcome) long-term stay residents. People get their apartments, they can live here one month, three months, six months, a year. We provide all of the basics you’d require if staying for longer than a week.” “Apartments” is the mot juste, the clue to the essence of the Other House.

There are 237 rooms which vary in size, layout and price, comprising six levels; all are self-catering and feature living, dining and sleeping areas. There is plenty of storage space, the sofas, chairs, and bed boasting charm missing from the industrial furniture of commercial hotels, the atmosphere devoid of corporate sameness. And as much of a non-sequitur as this seems, The Other House struck me as an alternative, too, to the demands of second-home ownership, especially for those who might use an additional property less than half-the year.

Left, Club Class Courtyard room. Right, Clube Class Atrium living room.

To describe even the smaller offerings as “suites” would not be hyperbolic. My one regret of a single night’s stay was that I barely exploited all it had to offer. More than that, it was as if the designers had read my mind: from the large screen TV to the kitchen appliances, the fittings in the showers – all were carefully considered, perfectly functional, comprehensive and (for those with even an iota of techno-fear) self-explanatory and user-friendly.

Farrant points out that short-term stays are offered as well, those that are two weeks and under. One can already see that The Other House fills the gap between a night or two at a hotel or club and the commitment to a second property or lease. “The benefit of staying with us is that you are considered a member, so you have access to all of the member areas and facilities. There’s a case of getting to know you as a person, your preferences and dislikes, your interests, what events you like to go to.”

With its dramatic interiors and indoor tree-top views, the Owl & Monkey Bar is a destination on its own right.

Farrant says he is growing the membership for non-residents, limited to 250. This has proven to be of particular appeal to locals who may not wish to entertain at home, as it provides access to The Other House’s offerings to those who might need on a more occasional basis. Members’ privileges include a gym, the swimming pool, a steam room, sauna, various lounges, conference spaces, bars and restaurants.

Again, these create a sense of a delightful hybrid, recalling accommodation as disparate Tokyo’s modernist Four Seasons, Geneva’s La Reserve and SoHo House New York, but without any sense of an imminent time limit. Alas, time only allowed me to sample the sharing plates at the Owl & Monkey, and (my hotel litmus test in place of the ubiquitous, “usual suspect” club sandwich) a full English breakfast. It begs the question why one would eat in the restaurants when there is a kitchen in the apartment, but there are times when one doesn’t want to cook.

A few of the delicious sharing plates offered at the Owl & Monkey, which is open daily from 6pm till late.

Here was more hybridisation, this time The Other House’s dining facilities warranting the application of criteria employed for stand-alone catering. The full English breakfast was as close to perfect as I have tasted – I even ate the black pudding – while the five plates shared with a friend were enough to serve as a full meal. Were I to reside for any length of time at The Other House, I would find it hard to resist the Pulled BBQ Short-Rib Beef Sliders. As for the Classic Sausage Roll, it is – like The Other House itself – a complete rethink of a known phenomenon.

Restaurant, hotel, spa, club, it is all those and more. As corny as this might seem, as they sang in the theme to Cheers, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” Welcome to The Other House.

The Other House South Kensington will be joined by The Other House Covent Garden in 2024-5. For further information, please visit: www.otherhouse.com

Words: Ken Kessler

Pictures: Jack Hardy

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