Is It A Club? Is It A Flat? Anthea Gerrie Discovers The Other House Is Intended As An Uber-Sustainable Home Away From Home.
How far will today’s hospitality providers go in the name of sustainability? In the case of The Other House, as far as substituting juice from imported limes with – er – rocket and sorrel juice (homegrown) to make a thoroughly right-on take on a margarita.
This extreme move by bar manager Flavio was sanctioned because “sustainability underpins every decision we make”, according to Naomi Heaton, CEO and co-owner of the first of a new breed of hybrid lodging aiming to disrupt the London hotel market with a truly unique offering, sustainable down to the last non-plastic bar straw.
Was my Club Flat in what is essentially a South Kensington hotel actually a club or a flat? Both, given it was an actual flat in a building with a private club section only members – for which read residents – can access. But its real aim is to be a home from home – the “other” house you look for when travelling so you can live as you most likely do at home, cooking in some of the time, having a takeaway delivered on other nights or popping out to the kind of neighbourhood eatery South Ken is packed with.
“It’s why we have a big post room out of view,” explains Ms Heaton, acknowledging many guests will want to treat themselves to a Deliveroo during their stay, which arrives through a different door than the entrance to the luxurious lobby dressed in rich Regency colours, which along with a menagerie of gilded jungle animals are signature to the design of the public areas.
You don’t have to pay a membership fee to join what looks like a very expensive club; membership comes automatically whether you check in for a night or, as management hopes, a week, a month or even longer. That’s why every guest gets a flat with a self-catering kitchen as well as a bedroom and bathroom, and most get a separate living/dining room too.
There are many different specs to these flats, depending on how much space you need, how important it is for you to have dining and/or working areas and whether you require a view. A long row of adjoining townhouses on Harrington Gardens, a stone’s throw from Gloucester Road station and an eight-minute stroll from South Kensington, has been modernised with an extensive new build behind the original properties, creating a section with limited light and without the views available from the front or overlooking inner courtyards and atriums.
Sans view, beyond a brick wall, my predominantly dark green bedroom felt a little claustrophobic, although it was designed strictly for sleeping and hanging clothes, with a separate living-room-cum-kitchen in which to relax on the sofa, watch the giant TV, and brew a Nespresso; a full fridge, sink, crockery and oven would have made it possible, if not exactly cosy, to eat a full meal here too. Warmer-feeling was my travelling companion’s smaller and more feminine teal-blue flat next door, with only a screen dividing the bed from the living and relaxing space and a galley kitchen connecting it with the bathroom.
What I did appreciate was the iron and ironing board in the wardrobe, a comfortable king bed dressed in good linens and a plethora of conveniently-located plugs. Ditto the hooks on the back of the door of the decent-sized bathroom, an amenity too often overlooked, and a walk-in shower with giant rainfall head.
Large, refillable bottles of toiletries may have been sustainable but would need shelves in the shower to make them usable; these are apparently coming, as the hotel, which opened in July 2022, was still in soft opening mode during my visit. What will not be coming are in-room phones, as all guests are expected to have a mobile with which to activate an app which will do everything from checking them in, to streaming entertainment to the TV to ordering whatever they require(Amazon deliveries can be received at The Other House too).
Sans the app, we could not request the shower caps, vanity kits, Kleenex or face flannels one would expect at this price point, although we learned too late, the day after, that they would have been available on demand. We did get bathrobes, however, for which we had asked in person when noticing on arrival they were not hanging in the wardrobes. Presumably unsolicited bathrobes risk creating too much unsustainable laundry, although for this guest they are as essential as a face flannel for a comfortable stay.
The Other House is unusual not only in offering self-catering facilities for all but restricting dinner options to bar food at the handsome Owl & Monkey cocktail bar, colourfully dressed with its own signature wallpaper. Some of these small plates were very good, notably freshly-cooked Padron peppers atop a bowl of whipped feta, and mint-flavoured minced lamb kebabs tastily dressed and served within a wrap.
We also tried shredded short rib toasties – tiny but tasty – and a trio of vegetarian dips, not so good, but with great grilled sourdough triangles perfect for scooping up the feta. No desserts, but there are sweet, digestif-type cocktails perfect for retiring with after dinner in the warmer and more dimly-lit club area downstairs which has a fireplace to relax in front of and three tiny private snugs with curtains to screen them off from the outside world.
There is also a screening room for those who might want to invite a crowd of friends to join for the evening, perhaps following a chef-cooked dinner served in one of the private dining rooms. A somewhat less cosy club area beneath an atrium leads to a spa, gym and indoor pool; a wellbeing programme featuring yoga and meditation is in development.
More substantial catering surfaced the next day when we tried both breakfast and lunch in The Other Kitchen, open to locals as well as residents. Eggs served on avocado toast were properly poached but a little lukewarm, and there was also a decent-looking pastry and yoghurt station, good juice and smoothies.
Lunch was tastier, with excellent salads on offer and a freshly made soup of the day. Eventually, there will be pop-up chefs cooking dinner, but right now perhaps the most welcoming public space is a cosy library stocked with books for guests to borrow as well as comfy armchairs and a chessboard; it looks made for enjoying afternoon tea.
I leave feeling very well cared-for – staff are friendly and omnipresent – but with nagging doubts about how far sustainability can be taken without raising the risk of hypocrisy. There are no bananas on the menu for the same reason as no limes in the bar – they come with too large a carbon footprint.
Even the bar straws are made from tequila waste, but there Is at least one cocktail on the menu featuring freshly squeezed pineapple juice. It is apparently an ingredient no respecting mixologist can manage without, and like the tea and coffee served at The Other House, an imported item for which an exception presumably has had to be made in order to satisfy everyday expectations.
Tell Me More About The Other House
The Other House 15-17 Harrington Gardens, London SW7 4JJ
T: +44 0203 846 6000
Rooms at The Other House from £350 per night