By Ann Abel
While splashy new hotels like the Bulgari and the Corinthia battle it out for pre-Olympic prominence, the under-the-radar hotel-ification of No. 11 Cadogan Gardens offers proof positive of the charms of British reserve and discretion.
The 54-room hotel is nothing if not discreet, holding onto its heritage as a private club for Victorian elites even though it’s now a public hotel owned by the same family that runs the more established, conservative Cadogan hotel nearby (famously the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency in 1895). A rabbit warren of dark-wood-paneled corridors and spiraling staircases, the place has an air of rakish glamour: it’s clubby, posh, and perfectly suited to its tony Chelsea environs.
There’s also just enough cheekiness, the form of pink chandeliers, vintage black-and-white photos of celebrities behaving badly (I was disappointed to learn that these were purchased from a Hollywood dealer, having initially convinced myself the stars been photographed at No. 11), and so many mirrors that when my property tour led me to the “mirror room,” one of many glam spaces for small dinners or meetings, I had to laugh. It’s an alluring room, though, and made me wish I’d had a half-dozen Londoners I’d needed to hold court with.
The guest rooms are individually decorated and range from the demure beige room I was given (no. 208) to the wildly seductive Valesques Suite, with its red-velvet-draped four-poster bed and red velvet coffee table. (There are also four private apartments with their own garages.) Their bathrooms belie the building’s late-19th-century roots, as they’re on the snug side. (Historical charm, right?) I found mine more than comfortable but rarely spent time in it, preferring the serene, modern drawing room with its enticing fireplace during the day and the sexy, film-noir-ish bar after dinner. Let the hordes clamber for trendy points; the quiet members-only vibe suited me just fine.
The hotel had been open about three weeks when I visited in early June, and already the service was beyond seamless. The front desk staff escorted me every time I got lost looking for the restaurant (in the basement), and a bartender raced up two flights of stairs to adjust my room’s thermostat himself after I’d asked if the heat was still working. (This was England in June, after all.)
There are flashier addresses in London, hotels that feel more state-of-the-art and cutting-edge, with epically scaled spas and Michelin-starred chefs. But ultimately, many of them could be anywhere. No. 11 Cadogan Gardens struck me as something much more precious and rare: a place that could exist only in London.
Rooms: £225–£1,600 plus VAT. +44-(0)20-7730-7000, cadogan-hotel-london.com