The imposing portrait of Lady Astor above the staircase at The Chelsea Townhouse is a reminder this boutique hotel was – first and foremost – a family home. Indeed, it doesn’t feel much like a hotel; rather, as you step into the hushed marble entrance hall, it’s as if you’ve dropped by at a well-heeled friend’s house.
Set within three red brick Victorian townhouses on a quiet garden square in the heart of Chelsea, the hotel welcomed its first guests in August. Located just across the street from its sister property – 11 Cadogan Gardens – The Chelsea Townhouse is the sixth addition to Iconic Luxury Hotels’ burgeoning portfolio.
Dotted throughout the dining room are paintings of Cliveden House in Berkshire – also once owned by the Astors and now within Iconic Luxury Hotels’ fold. The English landscape scenes and family portraits were gifted to the property back in the 90s back when it was operating as the Draycott hotel.
Since then, the historic building has undergone an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation. The paintings are one of the few details that remain. Gone are the Draycott’s signature tartan throws and chintzy floral curtains; this is pared-back luxury that lets the original sash windows and antique chandeliers do the talking.
The Chelsea Townhouse is very much a boutique hotel; 22 rooms have been renovated so far, with a further 11 set for completion by the end of February. Each of the townhouses are connected by a network of secret staircases and concealed passageways – you’ll hardly notice as you slip between them.
We stayed in one of the Garden Suites up on the first floor overlooking the leafy square below. The rooms are seriously spacious, especially for London – ours spanned over 360 sq ft with the type of dreamy soaring ceilings that you rarely find in the capital. The nicest detail is the French windows which flood the room with natural light (a lovely spot to read a book and sip your morning coffee).
It’s clear much effort has been made to preserve the building’s historic architectural details – our room had a beautiful emerald marble fireplace and perfectly preserved cornice framing the ceiling. Decorated in a calming cream and gray color palette, the interiors are understated and classic. Expect bespoke wooden furnishings (we loved the enormous mahogany four poster bed) and super-soft carpets.
The hotel’s charming front-of-house manager, Craige Liquorish, also took me down to see one of the suites in the basement. While this subterranean setting might be offputting for some, it was surprisingly bright with the added bonus of opening directly onto the private garden, so you can take a stroll straight from your room.
The only drawback is the lack of bathtubs. Just two rooms have a separate tub – the building’s listed status has made it tricky to get permission to knock through the walls to add more (request the basement Garden Suite if you want to have a soak).
In keeping with the posh house vibe, the hotel eschews a restaurant for a laid-back ‘dining salon’ on the ground floor. Looking out over the garden, it’s a peaceful setting for breakfast; the enticing buffet table is filled with an array of sweet treats from homemade granola to freshly baked pastries, and – of course – you can order a Full English hot cooked breakfast too.
The salon is open throughout the day serving brunch, and Liquorish tells me the hotel is in the final throes of developing a tasting menu diners will be able to sample here in the evenings.
Across the square at 11 Cadogan Gardens is another dining option – Hans’ Bar & Grill – helmed by head chef, Antonio Aniello. Get a few starters to share (we loved the tuna tartare with lemon sesame oil and a crispy seaweed cracker) before diving into the mains. There is an excellent selection of steaks and burgers, as well as some tasty seafood options; you can’t go wrong with the clam and squid linguine.
Downstairs, you’ll find the cozy bar – with its charcoal-colored walls and low-level lighting this feels like more of a winter spot; sunny evenings are best spent on the terrace outside.
The Chelsea Townhouse sadly doesn’t – yet – have a spa but you can nip back over the road to 11 Cadogan Gardens to use the gym.
It’s the location that is the real draw. When you’re not unwinding with a glass of wine by the roaring fire in the library or strolling in the garden, head to Pavilion Road – a pretty mews street brimming with artisan food shops, restaurants and bars. And, for those with a penchant for shopping, the boutiques of Sloane Square and King’s Road are within walking distance.