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An insider’s guide to Sloane Street

Some of London’s neighbourhoods emerge as cool new hotspots, but others – like Sloane Street – have stood the test of time. From Jane Austen to the trendsetting clientele of today, the 1777 development has long been a magnet for all things food, shopping, arts, and culture. Here, you’ll find Londoner Richard Lee Massey‘s guide to the area.

Photography by Richard Lee Massey

26 July 2021

Harry's Dolce Vita. Photography: @harrysdolcevita

Kicking off on Sloane Square is the Italianate style Royal Court – Britain’s first national theatre company. Opened in 1888 (although the original opened in 1871 on Lower George Street), the theatre is a leading force for cultivating writers – from the undiscovered to the established. Here you can expect plays that challenge the artistic, social, and political orthodoxy of the day.

Around the corner is the Byzantine-style Cadogan Hall which first opened in 1907 as a New Christian Science Church. Having once hosted congregations of up to 1,400, the building has since evolved with the times and is now a concert hall. Currently, the popular venue’s residential orchestra is the Royal Philharmonic and offers a vibrant array of classical, jazz and contemporary music events.

Interestingly, the windows were designed by Baron Arild Rosenkrantz who learned the art of stained glass whilst working with Tiffany & Co. in New York. The designs have no religious allegories and instead exhibit the artistic simplicity of patterning.

Sloane Street’s origins can be traced back to 1777 when Charles Sloane (then Earl Cadogan) granted architect Henry Holland a lease to develop ‘Hans Town’ (the area of fields between Knightsbridge and King’s Road). Over the next few years, Holland developed nearly 100 acres of Chelsea. He laid out the street plan for Sloane Street, Sloane Square and Hans Place, designing the layout of much of what we see around us today.

Considering Holland’s elegant aesthetic, the area quickly became a fashionable place to live with the likes of Jane Austen often staying at No. 64 (left) with her favourite brother, Henry in 1811. It was here that Henry would help edit and proofread Jane’s novels before serving as her agent. It’s worth noting that while Austen stayed at No. 64, the building would have been a bit more like No. 123 (below) one of the few surviving examples of the classic Georgian houses on the street.

Running parallel to Sloane Street, you’ll find Pavilion Road, Chelsea’s artisan food quarter. Originally the stable or coach-house accommodation for the main houses in the area, the road is now a picturesque mews, recently pedestrianised, where you can pick up essentials from the likes of Bread Ahead, Ice Cream Union, London Cheesemongers and more — all of which are perfect for picnics.

Another notable person to live off Sloane Street was Lillie Langtry (actress, socialite, and mistress of the future King Edward II), whose house was absorbed into what is now The Cadogan, an indulgent Belmond Hotel where every detail weaves together past and present. Here, the area’s history played a role in its design with private libraries curated by nearby bookseller John Sandoe in each of the guest rooms.

Around the corner, the 14-suite Beaverbrook Town House will soon open with promises of a Japanese restaurant featuring interiors inspired by the 19th-century artist, Kokusai and suites named after London theatres. Another exciting addition to the area is Hôtel Costes, the first outpost from the infamous Parisian hotel that is set to bring the glamour it is well known for to Sloane Street.

Of course, considering the number of fashionable residents, the area became a magnet for shopping; laying the early foundations for the luxury shopping district it is today. Sloane Street’s wide and unhurried streets mean that shopping has always been a pleasurable experience and, more recently, conducive to social distancing.

Sloane Street is now home to an impressive list of luxury global flagships and British independents including Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Emilia Wickstead and Anya Hindmarch, amongst others. And in case that doesn’t tickle your fancy, I’m told the likes of Balenciaga and Burberry are set to open this summer too.

For those looking to rest their feet, the likes of Harry’s Dolce Vita provides the perfect respite. Here, you can expect upscale Italian dishes with highlights including burrata al tartufo (truffle and burrata), linguine vongole and the gelato cannoli. Buon appetito!

Richard Lee Massey is a PR director, brand consultant and founder of APT  – a UK private dining service linking top chefs with epicureans
FOLLOW Richard Lee Massey ON INSTAGRAM @richardleemassey

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