Ask anyone to list hotels in London and they’re unlikely to name 11 Cadogan Gardens. It’s not that it’s a secret exactly — if you’re the type to stroll around Chelsea you’ve probably passed the front door — but you’re unlikely to overhear someone casually name dropping the hotel as their latest check-in. But that’s at the heart of this five star boutique’s appeal, as Millie Walton discovers.
11 Cadogan Gardens comprises four adjoining red-brick Victorian town houses, tucked on a street just behind Sloane Square station, a hop, skip and a jump from the King’s Road, but it couldn’t really be more different from the neighbourhood’s clean, sleek aesthetic. Inside, it’s dark, almost moody, we have to blink several times to adjust to the low lighting, and even when we’re seated at the front desk, it’s still vaguely disorientating. We’re sitting in a room of wooden paneling and lush dramatic fabrics — a quirky blend of old fashioned and contemporary.
At the front of the hotel there’s a library room decorated in a similar style, a mysterious unmanned bar across the hall and the grand staircase at the centre with extraordinary modern-style golden chandeliers hanging on violet velvet ropes. It’s how I’d envision the home of an eccentric Lord, or perhaps the setting for a seductive Gothic tale. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the creak of floorboards from somewhere deep inside the building followed by the light step of running feet.
Our excitement is brought back down to earth by the very enthusiastic and chatty concierge, who takes us in the lift “for ease” and shows us into a beautiful bedroom flooded with natural light and decorated in creams and blues with a very large marble bathroom. The rooms are all individually styled and ours feels smart but homely, more subdued than downstairs but with a few traces of eccentricity — shiny silver pillows on the sofa, crushed velvet cushions on the bed — which are increasingly loveable if not for the objects themselves (the artwork’s hit and miss) then for the flare of originality that’s so often missing amongst bigger 5 star establishments.
The Hans’ Bar & Grill with its soft, neutral colours and hanging plants comes as a surprise; we’d expected a dining chamber with grand fireplaces and dark corners. The ambience though is perfect. The tables are well positioned for privacy and the waiters are buoyant without overdoing it. We start with fresh salty rock oysters with Bloody Mary shots followed by starters of tuna tartar with wasabi and smoked mackerel with apple, fennel and watercress. Both are delicious, well balanced dishes and pair perfectly with the rich aromas of the Hubert Brochard Sancerre blanc. For our main courses, I opt for the pan-fried cod with cauliflower cous cous, raisin and lovage pesto whilst my dining partner tries the chickpea and coriander burger with mango chutney and fries.
We’re both pescetarian and are impressed by the range of options, but would have liked to see a fish on the grill menu if only to have the choice of ‘building our own main’ with sauces and sides. Still we’re more than content; the cod, in particular, is beautifully cooked and falls off the bone. We finish by sharing the pineapple carpaccio with chilli, lime & coconut sorbet — it’s delightfully tangy and fresh — and head back upstairs to wait for the bar tender to appear, which he does almost immediately (as if he’d known) to mix us two strong gin and tonics which we sip sitting in velvet armchairs in the library, discussing crime thrillers.
The next morning we have some time to pop into the private garden across the road, using an enormous bunch of keys which we’re told to guard with our lives since they’re not easily replaced. It’s small, quiet and beautifully kept, no doubt a big draw in the summer and for families with small children. As we’re leaving, a returning guest arrives with his family and greets the staff as if they’re old friends — unsurprisingly, the concierge knows them all by name. It’s the kind of hotel that’s likely to provoke opposing opinions (for the unconventional decor rather than the service), but that’s no bad thing, in fact, it means that those who do stay, stay because they really love it. I, for one, am completely charmed.
For more information on 11 Cadogan Gardens, see here.
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