“Welcome home.” I haven’t heard those words uttered upon checking into a hotel in years. It has gone out of fashion, like chocolates on the pillow and the morning newspaper.
That is the best way to sum up my recent experience at the newly opened Chelsea Townhouse. I was slightly caught off guard by it. From the Iconic Luxury Hotel group – the people behind Berkshire grande dame Cliveden and New Forest superstar Chewton Glen – the new hotel has opened relatively quietly, among many other much noisier London launches.
In contrast to many of the capital’s boutique hotels, it has carpets. It also has charisma and history aplenty, with its impressive collection of arts and antiques set against a blank canvas of off-cream walls and twinkling chandeliers. And yet, with its cushioned bay windows and copies of P G Wodehouse on little library shelves, the hotel maintains the feel of a member of the landed gentry’s cosy London pad.
Leafing through an Alan Bennett novel while checking out my balcony (all rooms overlook the square’s private gardens), a world away from the London buzz and hassle, I did feel oddly at home.
The Chelsea Townhouse, in pindrop-silent Cadogan Gardens, around the corner from Sloane Square, is a reinvention rather than a brand new project. Formerly the Draycott Hotel, it has been taken over by the property management firm Cadogan and lavished with a multimillion-pound refurbishment. Although even the smallest rooms are splendid, with chandeliers and enough room for a little table and chairs, the ground-floor rooms that open straight onto the garden are, in my opinion, the finest.
But what is really special about the Chelsea Townhouse is its emphasis on service. When you choose a boutique hotel over a five-star chain in London, a lot of the time you are trading on-point service for calmer surroundings and curated interiors. Not so here. It’s the kind of place where they remember whether you like your sourdough sliced in the morning and actually ask whether you are comfortable with the French windows open on a breezy autumn day. And, of course, they remember your name. Depressingly in hospitality, such a thing is getting rarer.
That isn’t to say that this is an old-fashioned hotel. It still has the hulking rain showers, indoor cactuses, big Soho House-y bottles of bergamot handwash and designer-scented rooms. But there is something old world-ish about the place. It has a discreet eccentricity that is unmistakably English.
The timing for a new Chelsea home-from-home hotel is opportune. Since Channel 4’s fascinatingly appalling Made in Chelsea, SW3 had faded back into clubby obscurity. Once again though, it is on the rise. Pavilion Road, just around the corner from the hotel – once the capital’s longest mews – has been transformed into a Carnaby-style shopping avenue, all ice-cream parlours and upmarket fishmongers. Tens of millions are being pumped into designer hub Sloane Street to transform it into a Parisian-style boulevard.
As a townhouse-hotel rather than a hotel-hotel, there isn’t a restaurant as such here, though a small supper menu is served in the intimate dining room. The menu is limited and slightly dear for its simplicity – £30 for a basic smoked salmon platter and £21 for crab on toast where the fish to mayonnaise ratio is 50:50. The burgers seem the best value, at £25, with fries. Unless guests are feeling lazy, they are better off exploring Chelsea’s plethora of options.
Breakfast, which can be served anywhere from the dining room to the library to the garden or your bedroom, hits the spot, with banana muffins and bircher muesli among the continental spread, as well as cooked full English options. My avocado and poached eggs on toast (eggs still warm and runny, avocado nicely ripe) was the best I’ve had in a long time.
Overall, then, my short stay in Chelsea Village was a splendid one. So much so that, checking out in the morning, I felt like a five-year-old forced to leave her mother at the school gates. Rain showers and duck-feather pillows aside, surely that is the sign of a five-star experience in our frenetic capital?
Double rooms at The Chelsea Townhouse (0207 730 6466; thechelseatownhouse.com) start from £299, including breakfast