London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. At its centre stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames River, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire city.
London’s most eagerly anticipated hotel since late 2016 has now opened its doors. Three years may seem like a long wait, but that’s normal for Belmond – the luxury hotels and trains group recently acquired by LVMH – as it insists on getting everything just right, and right first time. That is the experience of its forty-six properties, from the Cipriani in Venice to the sublime Orient Express to Rio’s iconic Copacabana Palace. Fortunately, the new Cadogan has the potential and the history to match them. Housed in a handsome Victorian interpretation of a Queen Anne town house, the hotel endured early renown as the base of Edwardian It-Girl Lillie Langtry and as Oscar Wilde’s London home. Later the hotel’s comfortable country-house ambience made it the default London bolt hole for the landed gentry, in town for shopping and the theatre. These days the luxury retail in the area is unsurpassed, thanks to the transformation of the top of Sloane Street into a rival for New Bond Street. And Belmond has cleverly secured guest access to the immaculately maintained private residents’ garden and tennis courts of Cadogan Place across the road. Inside, the rooms are bigger than average – even at this rarefied level – with the largest double room offering 48 square metres. The public areas were designed by GA Group, who are adept at creating spaces that are both elegant and comfortable. That same sense of practical luxury extends to the restaurant, where Belmond has persuaded Adam Handling to introduce Knightsbridge to some of the unfussy contemporary British dining he pioneered at The Frog in Hoxton. In all, an experience well worth the wait.
England is fortunate to have a silk-weaving industry, with factories such as Vanners and David Walters, both founded in the 18th century, still manufacturing in Suffolk. Drake’s, established by Michael Drake, is a relative newcomer (it celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2017), but has swiftly risen to be the largest independent producer of handmade silk ties in the UK. Under a new creative team since 2010, it now offers a full clothing range, a modern take on tradition, at its corner site on Clifford Street – opened in 2011 – equidistant from Savile Row and Bond Street. Besides bespoke formal wear, there are casual jackets, linen shirts, high-quality cashmere and Shetland sweaters and cashmere socks. And, of course, printed, woven and knitted ties and bow ties, as well as scarves.
Unarguably the smash critical launch of 2018, Brat took an award-winning chef (Tomos Parry of Kitty Fischer’s, itself the smash critical launch of 2014), added a fashionable Redchurch Street location with history – it was previously a pole dancing bar – and made magic. Unfortunately, for those suspicious of the hype anyway, it really is that good. Part of the magic is in Parry’s wood grill-based cooking: he knows when to leave well enough alone with wonderful ingredients such as the house speciality turbot – brat is the old Northumbrian word for the fish – and when to embellish; and part of the charm is in the relaxed elegance of the big-windowed, wood-panelled, stripped-back room. Do try a few of the small dishes at the bar before taking your table – this is definitely a place to linger.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane, the innovative Regency architect whose works included the Bank of England, was also a collector of eccentric antiquities. This museum is located in what was his residence and studio, a place that reflects his eclectic interests and experiments with illusionist architectural forms. The organized chaos of this intriguingly labyrinthine cabinet of curiosities assaults the eye, with objects as diverse as the alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, Roman marble busts, Hogarth paintings and Renaissance statues that emerge from false walls in the manner of an Advent calendar. Magical.
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