To anyone over 50 Chelsea is Sloane Street and Sloane Rangers and Mary Quant and shift dresses barely reaching below navels. To anyone with green fingers it’s Chelsea Flower Show. To anyone who loves red it is the scarlet of Chelsea Pensioners’ coats.
Actually the doormen at The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel on Sloane Street, wear coats that exact same red. The hotel’s owned by The Cadogan Estate, who have most of the area (the late Earl Cadogan, father of the present Earl, was a friend of Girlahead’s father’s dearest friend and the Earl always amused her by taking a real silver toothpick out of the breast pocket of his Savile Row suit during dinner).
Cadogan Estate’s head of property Hugh Seaborn is a canny operator. He’s turned Pavilion Row, which backs on to both The Cadogan and 11 Cadogan Gardens, into a charming car-free avenue of boutiques and cafés. 11 Cadogan Gardens, part of Iconic Luxury Hotels, is zingy and edgy. Girlahead ate there a couple of nights ago and the parmesan and truffle fries are ooh-la-la. Iconic Luxury Hotels have made 11 into such a success that now Mr Seaborn has given them three more terraced townhouses to oversee (as No 11 GM Ian Richardson might say, he’s taking over the open square of tall brick townhouses around Cadogan Gardens).
The three additional buildings, formerly The Draycott, will eventually become the 36-room Chelsea Townhouse. Girlahead stayed in the first of the three ‘houses’, already open. #14, on the upper first floor, has a proclamation balcony looking over and into the Gardens. The feel of #14 is 100% house-like, soft beige tweeds and matching drapes, not a chink of chintz in sight. Genuine antiques and a complete set of PG Wodehouse.
The Drawing Room, one of the two ground-floor reception rooms that both have real-flames coal fires, is lovely, for tea, snacks (but you can dine properly at #11) and a super breakfast. The breakfast buffet is carefully labelled. Good show, there are Chelsea buns. These are sweet, glazed-top currant buns, supposedly first baked at The Bun House, a nearby establishment that in the 18th century was a favourite of Hanoverian royalty – well, you know how podgy those German kings and queens looked in portraits, too many diets of Chelsea buns, perhaps. Sadly, there’s no point in historians seeking out that Bun House. It was pulled down in 1839 but its legacy is assured, at Chelsea Townhouse.