San Domenico House
Anyone who’s been trumpeting the end to decadence should take a trip to bustling SW3 and splash out on a spell at San Domenico House. A sumptuous Italian-owned boutique hotel a swerve from Sloane Square, it’s fashioned from two 19th-century townhouses, and it’s a gorgeously over-the-top bubble of Puglianese glamour.
Pressing the bell to a central London hotel has never rewarded us with such smiles and charm. Add to that a mention that our stay is a treat for my birthday tomorrow and five minutes later a beautiful package of spa goodies is in my paws. A cheery ‘happy birthday!’ the following morning certainly takes the edge off having to check-out, too, but without ending our tale before it’s even started, a word on why our escape is so special…
Richly carpeted and decorated in deep browns and seductive blacks, our two-floored Gallery Suite boudoir groans with antiques, portraits and prints. The only thing that hints at this eclectic collection of stairways and landings all leading to hidden rooms as being a hotel as opposed to an enclave of a friend’s palazzo? A minibar and perhaps the TV tuned to a Italian channel. Mezzanines are always extra-sexy, but a little more challenging shall we say, after a cocktail or two. An added frisson comes from the fact stairs lead steeply from our own snug rag-roll-walled sitting room down to a canopied bed, draped and festooned with leopard and feather tie-backs. As confirmed minimalists I’d have expected such opulence to have Mr Smith and I flinching. The reality? We adore every gilded, overstuffed inch of it.
Locals in these Sloaney parts are known for their conspicuous consumption, and so shopping, supping and people-watching around here is top-notch. Before meandering out into the bustling Kings Road to find a bite to eat, we are tempted to pause in the muffled comfort of the intimate lounge for a glass of white wine and some nibbles on the overstuffed tapestry sofa, losing ourselves among the dozens of cushions. But hunger forces us out and we pop across the street to the Gallery Mess at the grand Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road. This café-cum-bar, situated a couple of minutes walk from the hotel (if you can avert your eyes from the shopping opportunities provided by the King’s Road and Duke of York Square). The beautifully designed, narrow, vaulted bare-brick and white-painted space soothes our inner minimalists while tempting ud to window-shop while we pick at perfectly chargrilled chicken breast, watercress salad and French fries that wittily come in their own mini fryer baskets accompanied by miniature pots of ketchup and Dijon mayo.
It being my birthday eve, the celebrations extend beyond chips to martinis and mojitos at Tini Bar on Walton Street. In this purposefully dark and glitzy setting we treat ourselves to a game of Sloane Square Safari Watching. This sport involves small troupes of tanned, tousled and perfectly accessorised blondes sipping cocktails and casting glances at circling groups of impeccably groomed, seriously aftershaved males. The bar draws to a close, and the safari members move in for the kill (some more successfully than others), and we wobble back to our gorgeous suite. Those narrow stairs negotiated, we collapse into our incredibly comfortable and romantic bed. Well, actually, it is more a case of jumping – the huge mattress resembles that of the fabled princess and her pea.
Following the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had in central London, we savour just how discreet this intimate hotel is – even the air conditioning seems to whisper rather than hum. In that near total darkness only really great hotel curtains can provide, it is a serious chore to think we have to drag ourselves out of this hibernation-worthy hideaway. Mercifully a delicious breakfast is calling and after a shower in our sumptuous black marble bathroom, using a selection of my gorgeous spa products of course, we head downstairs.
Now in lodgings as luxurious as this, room service in bed is always an option, but as we haven’t yet seen or heard a single other guest, the temptation to eyeball a few other residents proves too great. In the swagged, antique-filled basement we see evidence that other people have eaten their continental breakfasts, but again we seem to have the place to ourselves. Galvanised by a generous serving of fruit, pastries, tasty smoothies and decaf-with-a-kick coffees, we’re ready to check out some of those world-class flagship shops. Not before lingering a lot longer than is strictly necessary in the hushed reception hoping to catch a glimpse of some fellow inhabitants. I wish, in turn, I could describe the typical clientele of San Domenico House, but it’s so discreet we don’t spy a single other guest.
Prising ourselves from the previously unfamiliar surroundings of Chelsea, we’re better attired and lighter of pocket, but bestowed with a new appreciation for the leopard-print tie-back. Owned and run by the same family behind Masserias San Domenico and Cimino in Puglia, San Domenico House is an indulgent helping of Italian luxury, and these lovers of minimalism would happily swap pared-down white spaces for another serving of candlelit more-is-more homeliness. What a birthday treat I’ve had – who knew when we head for SW3 I’d get such a taste of the bel paese. The beautiful country indeed, and only a cab ride from home – perfetto.