Stepping inside The LaLee cafe-restaurant at The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel, immediately transports you to another era; the days when the exclusive Chelsea hotel was the stomping ground of Oscar Wilde, who famously held a pied-a-terre within its storied walls. And that’s exactly the idea. The warmly lit marble bar, the smartly dressed waiters and the crystal chandeliers are all reminiscent of the early chapters in The Cadogan’s glamorous 130-year history.
The LaLee is named in honor of The Cadogan’s other legendary 19th-century resident, Chelsea socialite Lillie Langtry, explains the hotel’s general manager, Xavier Lablaude. “The LaLee [takes] guests on a culinary journey to the grand cities of Europe, inspired by the voyages of Langtry (the LaLee shares its name with Langtry’s private railway car). Lillie’s love of entertaining is at the forefront and dishes are served in true sophisticated Cadogan style with a touch of tableside theater.
“[She] would entertain the brightest stars of society, including the Prince of Wales, at 21 Pont Street – her elegant townhouse that became part of The Cadogan. Now, The LaLee brings Langtry’s spirit back to life, paying homage to the cuisine she adored during her epic travels,“ says Lablaude.
The LaLee’s interior draws inspiration from Langtry’s private dining room and the gilded age of travel. Every detail of the space, which is split into three adjoining dining spaces, has been thoroughly curated.
An exquisite mosaic floor leads guests from the ambient first dining room, past a gleaming open kitchen, through to the restaurant’s second and third spaces adorned with marble fireplace and sophisticated paneled walls.
Striking artworks — of which the hotel is well known for — add a sense of personality (look out for the colorful portrait of a lady with a champagne coupe in hand beside a book authored by Wilde), whilst Persian rugs, floral upholstery and crimson leather chairs inject warmth into the space, leaving it feeling anything but stuffy.
Gaze into The LaLee’s open kitchen and you’ll find executive chef Chris Hill, formerly of the two-Michelin-star Dining Room at Whatley Manor and the one-star Ritz London. Guests on their way to their seats can watch on as Hill and his team serve up a menu of favorite European dishes utilizing the highest-quality ingredients sourced from London and UK suppliers.
The meal begins with the arrival of a freshly baked warm cloud of bread. This is followed by the choice of an inviting selection of small plates ahead of the main event. There’s something for every mood, ranging from a decadent Lobster cocktail to a sweet but tangy Burrata and pumpkin dish bejeweled with pomegranate and a garden fresh Artichoke and truffle salad. For those looking to channel their inner-Langtry and take it up a notch, oyster platters and caviar are also on the menu.
Those in search of a lighter bite can opt for one of the all-day options which include time-honored favorites such as Lobster bisque and Croque madame or monsieur. The menu also includes a rafter of comforting European classics such as French-inspired Steak frites with bearnaise sauce, Wiener schnitzel in a nod to Austria and Seabream Carpaccio – The Cadogan’s seafood take on the Italian classic, using freshly caught fish from British waters.
If you were hoping to add a bit of pizazz to your mealtime, look no further than the menu’s signature dishes. Notorious for romantic scandal and for risqué stage performances, Langtry didn’t shy away from drama. The LaLee menu pays homage to that in the form of a selection of signature classics which are theatrically prepared at your tableside. These include Dover sole and Beef tartare.
At dessert, the culinary voyage continues with offerings including a towering Chocolate cremeux served alongside an indulgent hazelnut financier, as well as other European hits such as Rum baba and Tiramisu.
Of course, a glamourous spot like the LaLee wouldn’t be complete without an equally glamourous cocktail menu. Diners can choose from 15 signature creations, each encapsulating a European city frequented by the adventurous Langtry. Paying tribute to Milan, the floral Mimosa al garibaldi is a hybrid of two of Italy’s most iconic drinks featuring fresh orange juice, prosecco, Campari and Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, while The Cobalt and tonic is a theatrical take on a gin and tonic, inspired by the socialite’s favorite color and the alluring sights and sounds of Amsterdam.
The wine list is bountiful and can be ordered by the glass. Alongside the classic champagne’s on offer is a bespoke ‘Reserved for The Cadogan’ English sparkling wine, created by the Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex exclusively for the hotel.
The LaLee, 75 Sloane St, London SW1X 9SG, thelalee.co.uk