That fabled Parisian den of opulence and hive of hip, Costes, has landed in London. What will we make of this haven for the haute monde, just across from Peter Jones, that bastion of sensible Britishness and the very reverse of chic?
It was back in 2015 that Cadogan Estates announced a partnership with legendary hotelier Jean-Louis Costes. I admit that I blanched at the news, still traumatised by my first and only visit to his Rue Saint-Honoré hotel.
It was 1996. I was in the city to compile a hotel guide and well used to the nonchalant froideur of impossibly chic Parisian receptionists. But nothing prepared me for Costes.
I rang the bell. The door was opened by a stunning receptionist wearing little more than a diamond stud in her belly button. The utter disdain with which she regarded Peter Jones Woman on her doorstep has permanently scarred me, though thankfully Jacques Garcia’s Oscar-Wilde-in-an-opium-den interior was so dark that no one really noticed me.
Fast forward to 2023. The collaboration with Costes has finally come to fruition in a six-floor (the top one is new) fin de siècle former mansion block on the corner of Sloane Gardens. Why the new hotel has been given such a dull name (first it was called One Sloane, now it’s been renamed At Sloane) je ne comprends pas; something to do with wanting to be mysterious, I suspect. M. Costes remains closely involved but prefers to stay in the background.
If my world has a centre, it’s Sloane Square. I was brought up in a street just behind Peter Jones (or the Mothership as we aficionados know it) where my father was a director. This is my ’hood, one that I’ve seen evolve from a neighbourhood for bohos and artists in the 1960s, to the centre of the Swinging Sixties, to the days in the 1980s when Sloane Rangers ruled the roost to now, as high-end as Bond Street, where Tiffany, Cartier and Balenciaga rub shoulders. Surely nothing could go wrong this time at a Costes hotel.
“You can’t come in,” said the handsome (naturally) hotel doorman to my adult son who was joining me for dinner. “We have a dress code here. Parisian chic.”
Have you ever been judged and barred? And on your own patch? It’s an awful feeling. “You aren’t good enough for us, so go away,” it said to my son, who’s on the spectrum and only wears certain clothes, in this case a black tracksuit. With all my Costes trauma flooding back, I explained this to the elegant staff (no bare midriffs). They were kind; we were in, but it was hardly a great start.
For those of you chic enough to gain admittance, what will you find behind the 1889 listed red brick facade? Rarely have I come across a hotel so exquisitely designed, with such attention to detail, from the 21 specially commissioned carpet patterns to the curated music, house perfume and “Love” button by your bed to dim the lights. It’s the creation of François-Joseph Graf, aesthete and art collector, whose work as a decorator is mostly for private clients and whose range of handbags is as jewel-like as his interiors.
The walls of the winding staircase are adorned with black and white photographs of famous couples (and there’s one in each of the 30 rooms: Bogart and Bacall looked down on me). There are antiques, trompe l’oeil finishes, lacquered surfaces, beautiful books, Benson lights and furniture that recalls Mackintosh and Godwin, as well as leaded and stained-glass windows specially made in Chartres.
On the ground floor, a neo-Greek lobby is dominated by a long, beautifully accoutred table. It’s meant to be shared by guests alongside staff at their laptops, but I felt awkward lingering there. In the basement, the sultry, hedonistic bar, where waitresses wear long black backless dresses, has already become a sensuous destination for London’s fashionable society.
The bedrooms, with off-white panelling on the walls, are packed with detail and laid out like miniature apartments, with false doors that look as if they lead to another room. My Chambre Sloane (£1,500 a night) had an entrance lobby, dressing room, desk, sofa, armchairs and beautiful Art Nouveau bathroom that recalled those – now gone – at Claridges. It was homely and full of interest, but felt cluttered and smaller than it was.
Most remarkable is the top-floor restaurant, inspired by the artist Whistler’s 1876 Peacock Room. Don’t wave your arms about in here: its Japonisme-style shelves are packed with more than 500 precisely positioned vases. Our modern French dishes were pitch perfect, with French wines to match, and the service charming.
One can’t help but admire At Sloane, and be thankful for its beauty, idiosyncrasy and distinct personality among London hotels, but its fussiness veering towards pretension was not for me and nor was it particularly “Costes” either. After breakfast, I strolled home – to the Mothership.
At Sloane (020 3750 0750; onesloane.co.uk) offers doubles from £600, room only.