We decided to try Ampersand House at the last minute after seeing it online: the prospect of staying in rooms named after typefaces struck a deep geeky chord. It turned out to be a truly exceptional gem.
Kathryn, the owner (with her partner Andrew); is also a designer, and she has done a great job. Modern decor was the opposite of chintzy, edgy but not gratuitously trendy - still comfortable and friendly. The place has a cosy old-house feel, with uneven landings and crooked floorboards, but managed to marry that harmoniously with modernity. It felt welcoming, from the lounge/breakfast room with music and coffee table books on tap, to the little nook on the landing - a perfect spot to curl up with a book, with an enticing chair by the radiator.
We stayed in the smaller of the two rooms, Caslon (it's a font, natch) which had a very comfortable bed and good linen, a nice shower room, and a small but fun selections of books and DVDs (Spirited Away and Monsters, Inc). The room faced onto the front garden and a relatively busy main road beyond it, but noise was minimal thanks to double-glazing - we never really noticed it. Location is not the house's strongest point, and there are no real views, but it is still only a 5-minute walk from the centre of town and all its attractions.
We had a quick glance at the other room (Gill Sans - another font) before the couple who had booked it arrived - it was significantly bigger, with a large bathtub and a sofa, and also had style without being over-bearing. It would have been nice to try it, but we definitely did not feel we had got the short end of the stick. There are possible plans for future expansion, which I imagine will present some more interesting opportunities.
Kathryn greeted us with a freshly baked dark chocolate cake, creme fraiche and Earl Grey tea - marvellous! We were delighted to have seconds the next day when we returned from a very cold walk. We also had dinner as well as breakfast, and the cooking was top-notch. Kathryn gave us her beautifully moist home-made felafel as a starter, and a delicious and light caper & spinach risotto with poached egg as the main, accompanied by a jug of orange juice (for one of us) and a glass of chilled pinot grigio (for the other). Home-made ice-cream and herbal tea finished the meal off nicely.
Breakfast was similarly good. The full English was available in either veggie or bacon and sausage versions - we did not actually eat it, but gazed enviously at our neighbours. An example of the sort of above average touch: rather than a watery beef tomato, Kathryn grilled a whole vine of little cherry tomatoes. We ourselves had Eggs Florentine with well-judged spinach (not overdone) and a healthy home-made muesli with not-so-healthy thick greek yoghurt - and tasty prune and pear compote, also home-made.
But the best part of the stay was the welcome. Kathryn and Andrew were lovely hosts - exceptionally engaging, helpful and interesting without being overbearing. This was visible in the little friendly touches - the bag of home-made amaretto biscuits in the room, the cake and tea on arrival and after a cold walk, the lift to the the station in Gillingham. None of this showed up on the bill - that was nice not so much because you got something for free, but because it was part of the genuine warmth of the welcome. It is a cliche to say one felt not like guests but friends, but in this case it has an element of truth.
We paid £85 for our night at Ampersand House - it is not super low-budget, but nor is it very expensive - for what you get, it feels very good value. It has only been open since February 2013, but with its unusually stylish decor and great atmosphere, we feel sure Ampersand House will become a genuine hit.
Caslon for cosy comfort, Gil Sans for more room, sofa and bathtub.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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I must apologise for the seemingly very slow response – but I did post a reply at the time that has been deleted!
We were absolutely bowled over by your review – and the fact you had taken the trouble to include so much detail. As we are new to the business, it's absolutely invaluable to have feedback like this, far more effective than advertising. Thank you.
I hope you will both come to see us again soon, and that we'll have the pleasure of hearing you sing again!
All the best
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.