If you had one night in a hotel to enjoy before you got arrested, what would you do?
I’d have ice cream and caviar, even though I don’t like caviar, followed by a bubble bath of champagne, even though getting sticky bubbles lodged in various nooks and crannies sounds pretty revolting. To top it off I would throw a TV out the window (à la Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones) and then go really off script and eat an entire packet of peanuts from the mini bar. Yes, you heard me. An entire packet. And I wouldn’t even tell concierge.
Oscar Wilde was arrested from room 118 at The Cadogan hotel, and I can just imagine him relaxing in a velvet dressing gown, sipping on his favourite drink (a glass of Perrier-Jouët), and puffing on a cigarette. Instead of trying to flee, it’s rumoured he simply downed his tipple and followed the policemen into a cab… which he paid for.
The Cadogan, now A Belmond Hotel, obviously uses this tale as a key part of its storytelling. Who wouldn’t? It’s free marketing at its best and you get to bandy about dazzling Oscar Wilde quotes. (“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast,” is one that I personally live by). As such, literary artworks and wordsmithery can be found on every wall, suite and surface throughout the hotel.
When I arrive I see that there’s a Swarovski-encrusted peacock named Oscar which sits on a plinth outside the restaurant. I’m tempted to steal it (and I definitely would’ve if it was the night of my arrest) but, luckily, I refrain, as I probably would end up in jail.
'Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast,' is an Oscar Wilde quote I personally live by
Instead, I head up to the comfort of a blissfully quiet junior suite. Unsurprisingly, the literary theme continues. A bookcase is artfully decorated with novels that I’m told have been handpicked by John Sandoe, an independent bookshop just off Sloane Square. No sign of Jilly Cooper or Mills & Boon’s silky-knicker reads; the tomes have been expertly curated to reflect British history and local creative characters (among them is Jane Austen, who stayed on Sloane Street with her brother Henry while she was writing Pride and Prejudice).
There’s also plenty of reference to Lillie Langtry, an actress and high-class fling to the Prince of Wales (before we create a Daily Mail storm, we are of course referring to Edward VII and not Prince Charles). One of the buildings that make up the hotel used to be her house where she ‘entertained’ the future King (another was a bank), and when it was absorbed into the hotel, she demanded to have her own suite in which to stay. Naturally. The entrance to that building is still on Pont Street and is used by guests to access the suites, making it seem like a home from home (a rather lovely touch).
There are a few nods to Sir Hans Sloane, too, an Irish physician and a chief contributor of artefacts to the British Museum, whose daughter married into the Cadogan family around three centuries ago. They both left a marked influence on London if our road names and tube stations are anything to go by.
With this rich history of arrests, sexual liaisons, infidelity, decadence, hedonism and bohemian personalities, it’s surprising that I want to behave myself. But that’s because the hotel now oozes smart sophistication. After the recent re-opening in 2019, which took four years to renovate and cost $48 million, you can tell this is a diamond in the Belmond collection. The staff are absolutely charming; I seem to spend most of my time chatting away to them and they keenly oblige.
At the time of my visit, Covid still seems to be lurking around like a house-party guest that won’t leave. I imagine that the hotel would normally be busy with the hustle and bustle of business people, wealthy international vacationers and the like were it not for the various travel restrictions and general uncertainty that seems to linger on. But no doubt, everything will be in full swing soon. (We pray).
In the meantime, we have an absolute hoot pretending to be aristocrats. Despite the British summer delivering its usual bouts of rain, we borrow an umbrella and wander around the private gardens complete with tennis courts, which we definitely would’ve tried out had the sun decided to make an appearance. We are given our own key and walk arm in arm around the pristine lawn pretending we own the land and have a rifle to shoot the riff-raff outside (which, just two hours prior, would’ve been us).
Then I retire from our gentle promenade to have a bath (sans champagne) in the immense tub and order room service. We order two pints of beer. Unsurprisingly, The Cadogan is more of an establishment to serve Perrier-Jouët from a tap than lager, so we are given two cans of Tiny Rebel IPA. My boyfriend is convinced that he’s bought these before in Sainsbury’s, we Google it, and, lo and behold, there they are being sold for £2 per can. It’s funny then, when our receipt arrives and we have to sign off £23. To be fair, we did get them delivered directly to the bathroom with chilled glasses, so that’s got to be worth £19 for sure.
Dinner is an absolutely delightful affair. At the time, Adam Handling Chelsea is serving up British fare, although it’s due to change hands soon. The hotel is keeping shtum on who is the next in line to take over but be sure that The Handbook will be the first to deliver the news when we find out. To keep us sated, they deliver what can only be described as a carnivore’s ideal death-row meal: bacon bread with chicken butter. It’s has a powerful meaty hit and I devour every single bit of it.
Next up, my crab starter is delivered like a cute little hedgehog with spikes of dill, while the duck is accompanied by cherries and pistachios. The wine list matches perfectly with our mains of pea and mushroom agnolotti (a glass of Xinomavro 2012 from the Alpha Estate) and juicy rare lamb (The Dark Prince’s Nero d’Avola 2018). To finish, I swig on some Barbadillo sherry while munching on dessert, which looks like a veritable English allotment of rhubarb cubes and green herby moss.
We roll our expanding bellies back to our room to pass out and enjoy breakfast the next morning. Still full at sunrise, we both choose a beautifully delicate fruit plate followed by some eggs. Then I decide to while away the morning working from bed, because check-out isn’t until a gloriously languid 12pm. There’s something so lavish about making calls from a hotel suite in Knightsbridge in the nude surrounded by literary greats. Plus, I feel Oscar Wilde would approve. After all, he is the one that said: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”