[ Langtry’s Restaurant is now closed. ]
The Cadogan Hotel in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, was built in 1887. The name commemorates the Earls Cadogan, who, through their company Cadogan Estates have owned Sloane Street and the surrounding area for generations.
This marvellously appointed Victorian luxury hotel was, soon after its opening, to play host to the arrest of playwright Oscar Wilde. On April 6 1895, genteel Victorian society was rocked by the “incident”, in room 118, which was immortalised by John Betjeman’s poem, “The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel”:
“Mr. Woilde, we ‘ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”
The poem recounts the arrest of the Irish writer on various charges of indecency. Wilde was convicted and jailed for two years.
Perrier Jouët Champagne was Oscar Wilde’s drink of choice during his visits to The Cadogan, and I am sure he missed it when incarcerated in Reading Jail. Following his arrest he asked his partner to pay his “PJ” bill, hence ensuring its everlasting link with the hotel.
Actress Lillie Langtry was a friend of Oscar’s. She was a celebrated beauty and was nicknamed the “Jersey Lily”. She had a number of prominent lovers, including the future king of England, Edward VII. She lived at 21 Pont Street from 1892 to 1897. That’s a red-brick building conveniently connected to the Cadogan. Even after she had sold the house and it had been incorporated into the hotel, Lillie would stay in her old bedroom, which was where she entertained her royal admirer.
The décor of the dining room is subtle in taupe tones. The walls are resplendent with plaster mouldings, and that artistry continues onto the ceiling where hangs a crystal chandelier, said to have been there when this room was part of Lillie’s home. It’s a small and sophisticated dining room which has a magnificent Carrera marble Louis XIV fireplace as a focal point. This is bijou elegance seldom found these days. It is unique in that it not only seems Victorian but indeed is Victorian, and very much reminds one of those days of opulence and scandal, of boastful architecture and proud tradition.
Langtry’s offers a range of classic British dishes executed by Head Chef Oliver Lesnik. Yes, classic but thoughtfully tweaked for contemporary appeal. The dinner menu has a comprehensive bill of fare and lunch has a list that is equally tempting although shorter.
My starter was Italian Ham and Grilled Figs. Simply plated yet having all the charm of a still-life. The figs glistened with caramelised sugar which gave texture and sweetness to the delicately perfumed fruit. A small flute of bread (made in the kitchen on the premises) completed that introduction to the style of Oliver’s food.
Smoked Salmon with Caper Berries was what appealed to my guest. This was an honest, generous and unfussy serving of this traditional appetiser. No intricate roses of fishy flesh. No folds of constructed piscatorial pleats. Just a plate covered with smoked salmon and a little garnish was well received.
Beef Stew with celery and a rich gravy was bound to be my companion’s main course on such a chilly winter’s day. Chunks of tender meat were joined by a side order of the creamiest creamed potatoes to add still more comfort to an already warm and homely dish. An old-fashioned delight.
I am seldom persuaded by a steak but our neighbours had ordered the spatchcock chicken from the Grill section of the menu, and those boarded meals did look enticing. I settled on the sirloin steak and it was cooked to pink-interiored perfection. Marked by the grill and well-flavoured, it was everything that a carnivore could ask for. For those of us who eat beef so seldom, it is indeed a treat and one that I savoured at Langtry’s.
The dessert list offered me Eton Mess with Cherries, amongst others. This is a very traditional pud and is said to be the result of a culinary accident at the eponymous boy’s school. One should perhaps be grateful to the slippery floors and ungainly waiters of that establishment, although I am sure no such creature exists within Langtry’s.
My guest tucked into Banana Bread and a substantial scoop of real clotted cream. Another memory of teatime cakes. That is perhaps the theme of this restaurant: it evokes thoughts of gentler days when life was less hurried. A place to return to again and again.
Langtry’s has a popular offer for weekends:
Saturday and Sunday Lunch.
This offer is valid for a maximum of 6 people per booking.
£45.00 for 3 courses including Champagne Perrier Jouët.
£35.00 for 3 courses including Louis de Custine Champagne.
21 Pont Street, London, SW1X 9SG
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018