The Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel is a 4-star hotel in one of London’s most iconic of locations. It’s conveniently placed just a few yards from the River Thames with views over Battersea Park. This is an up-and-coming neighbourhood with stylish apartment blocks giving an air of affluent big-city life. The hotel offers easy access to key bus and train routes and is within walking distance, if the weather is good and you need the exercise, of Sloane Square and Victoria Station.
A cold Sunday afternoon found us at the reception of The Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel. It offered a warm welcome, with a striking Artur Bual mural behind the desk and more large canvasses by the same Portuguese artist in the lounge area. This is after all a Portuguese-run hotel and there are subtle nuances scattered throughout its accessible opulence. It’s a new hotel so it was as expected scuffless and pristine, but nevertheless the first impression is of polished comfort.
I never tire of hotel stays but not all hotels are created equal. Even some five-star hotels lack lustre and impact so I am always a bit wary of four-star lodgings. No need to worry about resting your weary head at Pestana. Our room was one that I would love to replicate in our own home. That isn’t my usual sentiment; it’s more often an appreciation of the grandeur of the drapes, gratitude for the complementary fluffy slippers, and admiration for the soon-to-be-stolen bathroom toiletries.
Well, Pestana has very acceptable bath products. OK, so I didn’t find any slippers and I can’t remember the curtains, but the room had contemporary and high-end impact writ large. Lamps and shades to covet, a bed-head of gargantuan proportions and a white chaise-longue that would not look out of place as an extra in a James Bond flick. The window onto the bathroom had a much-appreciated blind and those facilities were well appointed. A full bath as well as a walk-in shower tempted me to linger in steamy contentment.
This hotel ticks all the boxes for comfort but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I shared the bathroom with a tiara-toting bulldog. Not a real one but she (I guess it was a girl bulldog) was bidding visitors a very British “Hiya”. The red Routemaster bus in the bedroom prompted another wry smile from these two reviewers who are also the authors of a book about the aforementioned much-loved mode of London transport.
The ground-floor Atlantico restaurant beckoned for our evening meal. The manager, Stefano, isn’t exactly Portuguese but neither is the menu. It’s International cuisine and that phrase will send shudders through most food lovers. It revives memories of steak and chips, dry roast chicken and dubious egg mayo salad. Yes, Atlantico has an international menu but it’s based on fresh seasonal produce and imagination, and there are indeed a couple of Portuguese specialities.
The resident expert mixologist, Alex, concocted his famous Piri Piri spiced cocktail which I can recommend for those who enjoy robust flavours. It’s not searingly hot but rather aromatic and pleasantly warming. An unwinding tipple while we meandered through the bill of fare.
There is a Tapas table offering platters of cheeses and meats and salads. Roast dinners are also on offer, but we chose from the à la carte dishes. Carpaccio of octopus with Mache salad, breakfast radish and aged parmesan was my light starter. The seafood was delicate and the radish added a delightful peppery note. Cheese isn’t usual with octopus but it acted as a good and slightly tangy counterpoint to the other flavours.
Ham hock, Chorizo terrine, Saffron aioli and toasted walnut bread was my guest’s first dish. The meat was chunky and well-seasoned. The bread was full of the eponymous nuts and gave texture as well as flavour to the terrine.
Confit Bacalhau with crushed ratte potatoes, mussels and spicy salsa took the fancy of my companion and he was impressed. Bacalhau is salt cod and is usually found as thin and unappetising boards in trendy fishmongers. The Atlantico version is chunky and tender, and much more resembles its fresh sibling. It has a distinct flavour rather than being simply salty.
Franguinho Piri Piri is spatchcock Poussin in piri piri sauce served with Parmentier potatoes and wilted baby spinach, and is the menu’s nod to Portugal. The chicken was moist with a spice glaze that was vibrant with piri piri spice mirroring that I had already enjoyed in Alex’s cocktail. A simple dish but well worth ordering. The cubes of potatoes were crunchy around their chiselled edges but were soft and fluffy inside. My dessert was also Portuguese: Arroz Doce – vanilla rice pudding. Almost every culinary tradition seems to offer a rice pudding in some guise or other. The version at Atlantico was rice in its most creamy and comforting form. Old-fashioned and moreish.
We enjoyed a good night’s sleep in our classy room with views across the park. Revived, we were ready for breakfast. I was rather disappointed to find only a selection of pastries on show. Toast arrived and so did the juice and then we realised that the “real” brekkie goodies were in the adjoining wing of the restaurant. There were plates of fruit and bowls of yoghurt for those who treat their bodies as temples. Plenty of cold meats, cheese and a quiche for those like me who crave some savouries, and then there was the full-Monty station for those who have hollow legs that were not filled by the previous night’s substantial spread.
With 216 rooms, spa and Lifestyle centre, six meeting rooms to cater for events from 10 to 500 delegates, restaurant, bar and coffee shop and secure underground parking, Pestana is the hotel that suits every need. We had a marvellous city break but those delegates bringing their families to London will take advantage of its in-hotel facilities as well as its proximity to the centre of town. It might be a hotel that is technically only a four-star, but I would say it’s at the top end of that band.
The Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel
354 Queenstown Road, London SW8 4AE
Sat nav ref: SW8 4PP
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7062 8000
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7978 2430
Visit Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel here
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018