In a city where more and more hotels now have the charm and individuality of a suburban shopping centre, 11 Cadogan Gardens promises something rather more cosy. James Fisher paid a visit.
The door rattled shut and the lift took off with a jerk. The concierge looked at me with a beaming smile. ‘I think people were a bit smaller when these lifts were made’, he chuckled. ‘You’re not wrong,’ I chuckled back nervously, all six foot four inches of me wedged inside this small, juddery box, as we rose up to the second floor.
It was the last time I used the lift. It’s a pleasant antique, but, like a parachute, I prefer my lifts to be as close to modernity as I am to the ceiling of most country cottages.
The bond with antiquity is a consistent theme throughout 11 Cadogan Gardens. The hotel is a gorgeous example of early 20th century interior design, and walking through the entrance feels similar to passing through a window into a grander age. It can be a little baffling for those more used to modernity when staying away from home – 11 was clearly a house that became a hotel, and as such, it can be a little disorientating. There are lots of long passages and nooks and crannies that open up into reading rooms, further corridors and the splendid Chelsea Bar, an enchantingly moody speakeasy on the ground floor.
My room lurked up a creaky and effortlessly grand staircase that, if it was your grandfather, would tell you stories about the War – the first one. It’s sprinkled with paintings of extremely stern-looking people from a long time ago, and, like the rest of the hotel, is decorated with a dark palette that seems to absorb most of the light from the various chandeliers.
Somewhat strangely, there’s a room on the ground floor where the walls are made of mirrors, which will help you go insane if a day’s shopping on the King’s Road hasn’t quite done the trick.
However, the luxurious eclecticism of 11 Cadogan Gardens is what gives it its charm. At first glance, it appears that someone has blown up an antique shop on the inside, but you quickly realise that this brings a sense of comfort, and a crippling realisation that a lot of the modern 5-star hotels in London are extremely dull. If the ghost of Nancy Lancaster was to haunt a Chelsea hotel, it would be this one.
Unsurprisingly, the rooms are exceptional. They are spacious, comfortable and bedecked with all the mod cons that you could hope for, but each has a sense of ornate and individual character.
The bed was one of the most pleasant things I have ever slept on and, despite a crushingly early start the next day, I commuted from London to Farnborough with a smile — an unusual, but refreshingly pleasing, experience.
The restaurant is worth a visit too. Hans’ Bar and Grill is the archetypal high-end English eatery, with fresh seasonal fare and a wine list that is as exotic as it is extensive (which is very). I had an extremely serious bottle of red, chosen by the sommelier, which matched well with the delicious lamb served for my main course. It’s a nice place to eat, regardless of whether you are staying at 11 or just fancy a nice dinner in Chelsea.
What 11 is, then, is a blissful refuge for the country-house owner in the heart of SW3. The floors creak with the authentic feel of corridors creeped and you can feel the awful burden of urban life stop at the doors as you walk through, settle in to the Chelsea Bar, and drink a dram.
For those who prefer their manors in Monmouthshire, but for some ghastly reason have been dragged in to the city, 11 is a home away from home. I’m sure, if you asked reception nicely enough, they’d even turn off the heating in your room and spring a leak in your ceiling to pump up the authenticity.
Three more hotels in London that do things a little differently
Hotel Cafe Royal – Oscar Wilde’s favourite London hotel blends brave design with a location right in the heart of things in Piccadilly Circus.
Henrietta Hotel – Tiny by London standards (there are just 18 rooms) this cracking and unusual – run by the aptly-named Experimental Group – is a few steps from the boutiques and cafes of Covent Garden.
The Stafford Hotel's new restaurant has impeccable standards to live up to.
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