By John O’Ceallaigh
The clue’s in the name: Britain’s Iconic Luxury Hotels is known for its storied hotels. But the company’s latest launch is a departure from that norm – and it feels like a sign of things to come as hotel groups the world over modify their approach to hospitality. With its portfolio comprising English grande dame Cliveden and the likes of Chewton Glen, in April the group launched The Apartments by 11 Cadogan Gardens, a collection of six fully serviced apartments discreetly set in an elegant red-brick in a particularly salubrious stretch of Chelsea.
Each occupying a single floor of the building, the one-, two- and three-bed apartments are just around the corner from Iconic Luxury Hotels’ 11 Cadogan Gardens. It means Apartments guests will have immediate access to the hotel’s facilities, should they want them, including concierge services and the gym, alongside use of its cosy lounge and priority bookings at the hotel’s popular Hans’ Bar and Grill on pretty, pedestrianised Pavilion Road – a three-minute walk from The Apartments’ front door.
I stayed in the ground-floor one-bedroom apartment about two weeks before England’s hotels, museums, galleries and various other tourist attractions were permitted to open fully on May 17, and while the city was quiet and 11 Cadogan Gardens remained closed, The Apartments were already doing a roaring trade. Fully booked the week before my arrival and also at capacity during my stay, they’ve been met with enthusiasm by business travellers, fans of the ILH brand and newcomers finding their footing in the city. One booking concurrent to mine was held by an American family looking to acquire a home in the area.
Whichever apartment they stay in, guests will reside in bright, spacious and airy properties. Kitchens are fitted with Bosch appliances (though mine was too small for serious chefs and I expect many well-off residents will order takeaways or room service from Hans’ Bar and Grill, which is unpretentious, delicious and very reasonably priced for Chelsea). London-based Atellior architecture and interior-design studio is responsible for the apartments’ look and drew inspiration from the building’s Victorian heritage and the likes of the nearby Chelsea Flower Show. Though those nods are subtle, guests will notice botanical wallpapers and complementary Taschen titles strewn throughout.
Still, with 11 Cadogan Gardens such an extravagant, opulent hotel – during my tour I was almost taken aback by the gilt and glass Mirror Room, oversized beds with dramatically embellished headboards, and the atmospheric old portraits that hung along the stairwell – I think the apartments’ designers had the opportunity to show a touch more personality. It’s a common challenge when hotels the world over introduce apartments and residences into their inventories: fun flourishes that might seem exuberant and quirky when spending a night or two away on holiday can quickly become ostentatious and overbearing if spending time somewhere indefinitely.
Hotel and apartments manager Ian Richardson is giving that conundrum some consideration currently. He spoke to me about potentially adding more throws and soft touches to each property. I’d welcome the likes of more ambitious floral displays and bespoke amenities to go alongside the breakfast bakery basket and Noble Isle bathroom products that await every new arrival. A friend who stayed in The Apartments before me told me a teepee had been erected in their living room as a surprise playpen, complete with soft toys and cookies, for her young daughter. Thoughtful, creative additions like that will come to make such a difference to the long-term reputation and success of The Apartments.
One facet that will also be appreciated by all is the access guests gain to the private Cadogan Gardens. An old stone stairwell led directly from my ground-floor apartment to the lawn, while guests on other levels can arrange for hotel staff to unlock the gates that lead to this immaculate little square. Catered by the hotel, picnics can be taken on the lawn in summer and a spread of benches make ideal book-reading perches; during my stay, I enjoyed an evening beer under the shade of a cherry blossom tree with my feet at rest on a carpet of pastel-pink petals. Though the property is a four-minute walk from Sloane Street Station, at night the surrounding neighbourhood feels remarkably peaceful and tranquil.
In fact, while many international visitors might choose The Apartments for their proximity to the likes of the Saatchi Gallery and shopping on Sloane Street and the King’s Road, I think they’ll be just as impressed by the elegant expressions of rarefied London life that surround them.
Some of the capital’s most elegant boulevards and mews encircle this enclave of Chelsea and my favourite activity here was roaming the sidestreets around me. This is where many of the world’s wealthiest reside – although the concentration of supercars was expected, I was surprised to see through the windows of one nearby mansion that a spiralling metal slide cut through its multiple levels. For future guests at The Apartments I think it will be a pleasant fantasy to live, briefly, alongside them.
Bookings at The Apartments by 11 Cadogan Gardens are subject to a minimum two-night stay and cost from £350 per night for a one-bedroom apartment.