It has been several years since I last stayed in London for Christmas. Either I’ve been in the countryside with the OH’s family or in the Philippines with mine. But with so much having happened this year, from my father’s death to the birth of my baby boy – and everything else in between – I decided that I wanted to stay locally and keep it low key. The OH and I also wanted to focus on being together with our baby boy for his first Christmas, which we were so excited about.

An opportunity came up through work which meant that we could stay at The Kensington Hotel from Christmas Eve until Boxing Day and which also meant I could introduce the OH to a few local traditions …

The Kensington Hotel - Christmas… such as Christmas Carols at the Brompton Oratory where baby boy was christened.

Kensington - Brompton OratoryChristmas in Kensington and Chelsea is always a treat. I guess because it is so quiet. It’s great to be able to walk around the area, feeling like you have the whole place to yourself.

Christmas in South KensingtonThe highlights of our Christmas stay were easily the food and drink at the hotel. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered from The Kensington Hotel’s cocktail menu and on Christmas Eve I came across a true gem, which you will love if you’re as much of a fan of the Dirty Martini as I am.

This cocktail is called the Smoky-Tini and includes Bombay Sapphire gin, Martini Extra Dry, Lapsang Souchong tea leaves with smoked salmon. I love savoury cocktails and this was divine.

Kensington - Smoky-Tini CocktailThe Christmas lunch also felt like a real treat. For starter I had the langoustine cocktail, which was not only tasty but was also satisfying in bite and texture.

The Kensington Hotel - Langoustine CocktailFor main, it felt great to not have to have turkey. I know it’s tradition but I’m really not a fan of this bird. So instead, I opted for the beef fillet with foie gras and an extra side of veggies which really hit the spot. Accompanied by a bottle of Malbec, this was exactly the Christmas lunch I wanted.

The Kensington Hotel - Christmas lunchAnd for dessert, I opted for the chocolate tart with clementines in Madeira. The flavour of the alcohol tasted subtle and complimented the citrus fruit perfectly. It was a fantastic end to a great meal.

The Kensington HotelThe best thing about doing a staycation is waking up on the morning of checking out …

The Kensington Hotel… and not having to go far to be back home. In fact, we didn’t even jump into a taxi. We took a stroll through the streets of Kensington and Chelsea and before we knew it, we were through our front door. I would definitely do a staycation again.

Disclaimer: The Kensington Hotel is a business client and our room was complimentary. But we did pay for the food and drinks – the Christmas lunch at a discounted price – and this did not affect any of my opinions. 

The Abingdon is by far my favourite pub for cocktails. Every now and again I try other pubs for martinis but somehow they always prove to be a disappointment. As a general rule, based on experience, cocktails and pubs don’t seem to mix. Only the exceptional places can get away with it and The Abingdon is definitely one of them.

This evening, we popped in as we were heading back to Chelsea. It was a spontaneous decison and we managed to grab a table. The place was busy on a Monday night.

I skipped starters and for main, I ordered the lobster lasagne with a second dirty martini:

For dessert, the bf and I shared a chocolate cheesecake and OMG, see below:

Note the very thin base at the top of the image. For the most part, the cheesecake had a mousse-like texture. It was divine.

The Abingdon was the venue for my first date with the bf, four years ago, and for other reasons it will always be a special place. But I have to admit, this isn’t the type of place to go to if you’re in a hurry. The restaurant area is relaxed and that includes the service. And if you don’t mind the pace, you’ll be in for a real treat!

There used to be a time when the Indian restaurant on everyone’s lips was Star of India but as I walked past it the other night and noticed how quiet it was, I wondered why.

Then I stepped into Noor Jahan and found it was busy; so busy that I noticed a couple sitting at the bar later in the evening and leaving. They couldn’t wait any longer. We had luckily arrived when there were just a couple of tables free; sometimes we’re not so lucky.

That night I ordered my favourite dish for my main: the Salli Boti, which consists of lamb cooked with onions and spices, sweetened with apricots and topped with crunchy straw potatoes.

So why do I like Noor Jahan so much? Because it’s just such a pleasure to dine here. There’s always a good atmosphere and the owner is really friendly. A great sign about this place is the amount of regulars that hang out here. You can spot them as they’re greeted almost like friends when they take their seats.

The restaurant isn’t fussy and the food is good. What more can you ask for?

This afternoon I had a meeting at The Troubador and given how muggy it was I suggested that we sat in the garden. It’s been a while since I’ve sat in that garden and it reminded me of the times I used to hang out there when I lived around the corner on Redcliffe Square; drinking jugs of Pimm’s at a time.

I love The Troubador. It’s a place full of character.