A Little Bit Wilde

Inside London’s exciting new Belmond Cadogan Hotel

The handsome redbrick Belmond Cadogan Hotel, perfectly located on Sloane Street at the historic junction of chic Chelsea and grand Knightsbridge, opened earlier this year, and it could not be more stylish or surprising.

Oscar Wilde kept his London pied-a-terre on one of the upper floors over a century ago. After a four-year refurbishment, the hotel retains a certain bohemian and artistic flair, with 430 newly commissioned works of art and a dash of wit among the very traditional English sense of decorum.

The Belmond Cadogan stands out from other London luxury hotels due to its small size (54 keys, 22 of which are suites) and its genuine British-ness. At heart, the hotel, with grand triple-glazed bay windows and a discreet entrance, is well mannered with just the right amount of posh. The focal point of the lobby is a soaring five-story landmark staircase of solid English oak that’s also over a century old.

Surrounded by historic townhouses, the pedigreed hotel consists of five townhouses dating back to 1887. Most of the period details of the original building were retained and restored, along with mosaic floors, oak paneling throughout, opulent oak trim, and elaborate plaster crown molding. The new décor and architecture by Blair Associates: Architects, and GA Group International is in pale neutral tones with a splash of jewel colors and colorful abstract modern art, and each suite feels individually planned and custom-designed.

Wilde’s pied-a-terre was historically room 118, which is now part of the Royal Suite, with a deep bathtub that overlooks Belgravia. Some suites have their own dining rooms and spacious living rooms, and talented hotel staff love to style the décor and flower arrangements to thrill guests who are planning a cocktail party, a celebratory dinner party, or a chic baby shower. The hotel, small by London standards, has found a niche with global nomads who want a luxury hotel experience with a genuine sense of place and a very central location. Many suites have working fireplaces, a welcoming and luxurious touch in London’s brisk winter weather.

Every accommodation features a deep freestanding bath with both a handy Champagne glass holder and secure book (or iPad) holder. Most of the furniture was custom-made in England. And in keeping with the Wilde-influenced literary themes throughout the hotel, each room has a custom-selection of books, a mini library of British literature in collaboration with the top independent Chelsea bookshop, John Sandoe, which was founded in 1957.

Superbly polished suites feel ultra-private, and the rooms have become a secret home away from home for London residents who check in for a quiet weekend escape, cosseted and pampered at the spa.

Award-winning young Scottish chef Adam Handling has his restaurant downstairs, and his talented team provides updated English fare plus a menu of exclusive and exotic cocktails.

For families traveling with children, the Belmond Cadogan offers a rare amenity. The property is owned by the centuries-old Cadogan Estate, which includes historic private Cadogan Place Gardens directly opposite the hotel. There is a special key for entrance to the enclosed and locked 93-acre landscape, which the hotel will provide. Youngsters can play on the swings in the playground. Romantics may also choose to take a hotel-provided picnic basket to stroll in the gardens in the spring (at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show), when the air is fragrant with lilacs and cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Handling serves up traditional dishes using modern recipes at the destination dining room, Adam Handling, Chelsea. The open kitchen with chefs’ tables and bar seating showcases the talented chefs at work as they add the final flourishes to theatrical dishes such as Highland Wagyu Beef with short rib and butter-poached King Crab. The menu encapsulates the very best of British cuisine, with sustainability at the heart of the restaurant’s philosophy. The Bar, accessed directly from Sloane Street and the hotel, serves classic cocktails, champagne, and whisky and has an impressive wine list.

A highlight of any stay is Handling’s theatrical afternoon tea served in the tea lounge, Cadogan’s, which transforms into a private residents’ bar by evening. Handling’s extensive tea menu proposes starting with Krug Grande Cuvée, Edition 166, Champagne, followed by a tasting of rare Oolong teas. To start, there are traditional sandwiches, such as Scottish smoked salmon on caraway bread. Savory bites include truffled egg, delicate gougeres, and Mrs. Kirkham’s cheddar tart, while sweet treats include raisin scones with Cornish clotted cream as well as delicate white chocolate and raspberry mousse. Finally, wait staff offer a selection of petite teacakes—of particular note is an exquisite checkered Battenberg cake covered in marzipan.

The Belmond Cadogan is also within walking distance of Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanical gardens dating back to 1673. Just a five-minute stroll along Sloane Street is Cadogan Hall, the first permanent home for a London orchestra. And the Royal Court Theatre on nearby Sloane Square has a long history of launching new voices, new playwrights.

London immersion, indeed.

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