‘Ah, you’ve got a very special room,’ said the man on reception mysteriously, as Mr Smith and I checked into High Road House, the Chiswick outpost of Nick Jones’ Soho House empire. ‘Very special’ was reiterated by an elfin?type creature dressed head?to?toe in black, who had appeared at our sides, smiling and rubbing his hands with glee. Very special is good, I thought, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from the savvy Mr Jones, and his oft?enlisted interiors whiz, Ilse Crawford. He’s been serving up a cocktail of high style, designer comfort and brasserie food to the media masses in his ‘houses’ for the better part of two decades.
Why our particular room at this London boutique hotel was worthy of fanfare was finally revealed when we made our way to the third floor, took a right down the stripy?purple?carpeted corridor and turned the key of room number nine. It’s a vast, gleaming white space, in which the only splashes of colour are afforded by a yellow wooden chair hanging on a hook and a green cashmere blanket on the bed. We smiled.
After the flash of snow-blindness had cleared, the nuances of the room became apparent. There is a freestanding bedside bath big enough for two (or even three media luvvies, should they so desire) poised at one end, a retro Bush radio discreetly wafting Radio 3 over the airwaves, a large flatscreen TV on a swivel to ensure comfortable aquatic viewing, a king?size bed, piled high with nimbus?like pillows, and two white leather and chrome armchairs. As usual, I scurried to open all the drawers, which are helpfully labelled: ‘teatime’ is stocked with charming miniature Le Parfait jars of hot chocolate; ‘builders’ has teabags, coffee and sugar; ‘tuck box’ is a sweet tooth’s paradise; and ‘cold’ is the minibar, offering two bottles of champagne, fresh milk, Coke, beer and bars of Green & Blacks organic chocolate. I could quite happily have planted myself in the bath, with Mr Smith, the two bottles of champagne and the chocolate. There, we’d flick through the endless Sky channels in a leisurely fashion, only to decamp to the bed hours later, in shrivelly-toed, bathrobed bliss, for room-service comfort food. But it was only 4pm, and such sybaritic behaviour would have to wait.
It’s not surprising that Jones chose Chiswick for one of his ventures. No longer is this West London location the preserve of the posh middle-to-ageing population. It’s still well?heeled of course, but the lush leafy suburb with its attractive houses is also home to younger power couples, with babies in Bill Amberg papooses, wanting their children to have access to good schools and green spaces, musicians, artists, journalists and writers – all of whom are the perfect target audience for the Soho House brand and for the High Road House hotel experience.
Heading outdoors, you’re on Chiswick High Road, which is a notch above most of the city’s high street offerings. The Gourmet Burger Bar is W4’s answer to the golden arches; there are lots of independent shops; and Turnham Green Terrace, just around the corner, is a foodie’s delight – its greengrocer, fishmonger, baker, butcher, chocolatier and deli remind us of the streets of yesteryear, with not a Tesco in sight (that’s back on the High Road). The real find, though, was just next-door: the Old Cinema is an antiques emporium, set out over three floors and full of everything from old postcards and French glassware to vintage fashion and leather armchairs. I clocked up a mental bill of thousands of pounds on our whistle?stop window-shopping tour. Flanking the other side of the hotel’s busy brasserie is the Cowshed shop, selling the raft of Soho House’s on?trend own?brand spa products, a selection of which resides by the bath upstairs. With names such as Saucy Cow, Wild Cow and Cheeky Cow, I couldn’t wait to add something naughty to the waters, putting paid to the mooted idea of an afternoon’s shopping in Richmond. In fact, even a visit to glorious Kew Gardens, just down the river and at our ambling disposal, was gazumped by the draw of a larger?than?life, full-body dunking.
Back upstairs in our hotel room, I had to lure Mr Smith into my enormous bubbly bedroom tub, as he seemed more interested in the lily pad?sized shower head in the bathroom. But, in the end, he couldn’t resist the chance to watch The Pink Panther while wet, so we slopped around and slathered ourselves with the bovine unguents until we noticed it was martini hour.
We debated whether or not to sip our cocktails over a game of pool in the louche?looking, low?lit ‘playroom’, but settled instead for the more glamorous surrounds of the High Road House members’ bar, which better suited my freshly piquant chilli and passion fruit martini. Dinner menus, which change daily, were swiftly brought by the waistcoat?clad staff, so we could linger over the choice of seared scallops with pea purée, or Barnsley lamb chop with spinach?and?anchovy sauce. Three hours later, we were still sitting there, still imbibing and having graduated to ordering wines by the glass. The atmosphere was conducive to slow drinking and fast talking – or was it the other way round? Either way, it seemed the ideal balance for an evening in a boutique hotel bar. Finally, we dragged our fun?fatigued, food-full limbs upstairs and flopped into the bed, large enough to allow us to digest in solitary peace. That smart chap at the start of our stay had it right: it was, very, very special, indeed.