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Cadogan’s secrets

1 May 2019

Belmond’s first UK hotel is a homely hideaway with literary – and scandalous – overtones

Plenty of hotels purport to create a sense of place, but few do so as successfully as this stylish bolthole in the British capital. Following a five-year refurbishment, the stylish Chelsea address incorporating the original 1887 Cadogan Hotel, plus three Queen Anne Revival-style townhouses and a former bank, is very much made in Britain.

Oscar Wilde’s former apartment has been reimagined as the Royal Suite, a plush, grown-up space that feels like a well-appointed Chelsea flat. The writer’s influence extends to the bar through splashes of tweed and velvet upholstery, seen alongside family photos from the album of Scottish chef Adam Handling. The latter’s successful zero-waste Frog restaurants in Covent Garden and Shoreditch earned him an invitation to take charge of Cadogan’s culinary creations: modern British cuisine peppered with fanciful touches like Earl Grey and cucumber ice cream.

Literary overtones continue throughout: 600 books moulded in brass adorn the lift lobby, and a library including works by local writers such as Agatha Christie and Bram Stoker was curated in partnership with nearby John Sandoe Books. Actress Lillie Langtry’s former home is now the hotel’s dining room, embellished with details that reveal secrets of the socialite’s private life: note the feathered Prince of Wales crest on the cornice, alluding to a royal indiscretion.

Cadogan’s 430-piece art collection is dominated by contemporary British talent, including many works commissioned specifically for the hotel. Five female artists took inspiration from the charming Cadogan Gardens to create signature paintings for the 54 rooms and suites. Botanically minded guests can request a key to the private gardens from the concierge. The latter, incidentally, sports a fetching smoking jacket in the evening as a further nod to Wilde, while the doormen flaunt bright red Mary-Quant era chequered overcoats, in tribute to the neighbourhood’s 1960s fashion revival.

From the concierge:

Secret garden
Borrow a key to Cadogan Place Gardens, the exclusive, residents-only square directly opposite the hotel. On the banks of the Thames nearby is Chelsea Physic Garden, founded in 1673 and the oldest botanical garden in London.

Swinging 60s
The Victoria & Albert Museum is running a Mary Quant exhibition until February 2020, celebrating the life and work of the designer who started a fashion revolution in the 1960s.

To the bookstore
Visit John Sandoe Books on Blackwell Terrace, just off Kings Road, to pick up some reading material. It is one of the best independently-run bookshops in London.

Words: Joe Mortimer