New? Unbeknownst to most Londoners, The Bailey’s Hotel has actually resided in the heart of Kensington for 140 years. It has recently gone under renovation, but only for the sake of an update – its original features and Victorian charm remains.
Where? 140 Gloucester Road, South Kensington, SW7 4QH www.olivesrestaurant.co.uk
On the Menu: You can expect to find all of your Italian favorites such as lasagna, bruschetta and ravioli along with other authentic, fresh tastes of Italy. The pasta is handmade by the head chef, Davide Di Croce, who hails from Northern Italy. And if you happen to not be in the mood for pasta, there are more than enough dishes for pesce o carne lovers, such as pan-roasted duck, tuna steak or steamed salmon.
First Impressions: Bailey’s Hotel is located right next to the Gloucester Road underground station, within walking distance from Hyde Park, The Natural History Museum and the V&A – great for days out. The boutique hotel is iconic, offering a unique fusion of contemporary British charm with Victorian elegance. There are four different varieties of guest rooms and suites, furnished in a number of different styles and all inspired by a unique theme. From the corridors lined with old photographs to the carpeted winding staircase to the warmth of the rooms, Bailey’s feels much more like a holiday home than a hotel. This ambiance spills over into the bar and restaurant area, which is characterised by splashes of rich colour, plush seating and floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition, all staff members were incredibly obliging and kind, making the experience all the more enjoyable.
The Look: Olives is evenly split by a brick-walled fireplace between the bar area and the dining area. Guests enter first through the bar, made cosy through the dark wood panelling, leather sofas and ornate ceiling work. The dining area has a much more open, spacious feel to it due to the white walls, high ceilings and light streaming in. As with the rest of the hotel, Olives remains true to its century-old roots as the crown moulding, the vast mural overlooking the bar and the miniature chandeliers lining the dining area are all original features.
What We Ate: We dined on a set menu that was representative of the vast array of dishes regularly presented on Olives’ daily menu. For the appetiser course, we were presented with a cured salmon and fennel, radish, and pea salad with a citrus glaze along with red pepper and courgette doughnuts with Mediterranean aioli. The salmon was an incredibly light, fresh start to the meal while the courgette doughnuts were much more rich, but equally delicious.
Our first main dish was a homemade ricotta and saffron gnocchi with spiced duck ragoût. The gnocchi was cooked perfectly so that it melted in your mouth—no chewy consistency here and by far the favourite of the table. Following the gnocchi, we were served a lighter dish of pan-roasted sea bass with potatoes, artichokes, and pancetta casserole drizzled with Salsa Verde. A wonderful dish that was also a lighter option. However, while the bed of potatoes, artichokes and thick pancetta was rich in flavour, the sea bass fell a bit flat in this regard. Still wonderful, but a simple lemon on the side would have been a welcome addition.
We finished off with the chef’s Sicilian take on tiramisu with pistachio cream and Marsala-soaked biscuits as well as poached peach with milk custard and chocolate crumble. The tiramisu was remarkable and is worth a visit in itself. The poached peach was, again, a nice lighter option but could not hold a candle to the airy, creamy dessert accompanying it. We did, however, acknowledge the fact that the restaurant includes these lighter options to accompany the richer pasta dishes on the menu.
What We Drank: Wine, because after all, no Italian meal is complete without our favourite vino. We were served Nuragus di Cagliari (a light white wine from Sardinia) to complement to our starter dishes and as we moved into the main courses, the Pinot nero Colterenzio, a smooth red wine from Northern Italy. The white was delicious and smooth, while the red was much more dry and tart. Not a personal favourite, but of course wine really boils down to personal preference. Our tiramisu and custard were enjoyed with the Moscato d’Asti Moncucco, a deliciously sweet dessert wine. We capped off dinner with a flight of authentic Italian grappa, traditionally enjoyed after dinner and grapes to cleanse the palate between the tastings.
Go With: While the restaurant is located inside a hotel, it could easily be a go-to for an upscale date night or if you are looking to impress clients or friends visiting London.
Final Word: If you value good food, a warm atmosphere and delightful service, this is definitely the place for you.