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Walk on the Wilde side in big smoke; British Break.

Byline: Jasbir Authi

YOU won't get a better checking-in story than this one.

On April 6, 1895, in room number 118, Oscar Wilde, Britain's most quotable and flamboyant playwright was arrested at one of London's top hotels while sipping on weak hock and seltzer.

He was charged with "committing acts of gross indecency" and, after being found guilty, served two years' hard labour.

The events of that day were recorded forever by the poet laureate John Betjeman in his outpouring, The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel.

Fast forward 105 years, and today guests can get a glimpse into the decadent world of Wilde and his scandalous social circle at the fourstar Edwardian Cadogan, just off Sloane Square in central London.

The beautiful first floor suite, where his infamous arrest took place, is reached by a clattering old iron elevator with shutters which evoke memories of a time gone by.

Guests can pamper themselves with the luxury smellies in the big gleaming bathroom or don a smoking jacket favoured by Wilde, which hangs in the wardrobe in the separate dressing area and relax like a true gentleman.

The bedroom has long bay windows which overlook Sloane Street and is furnished with velvet-edged boucl bedspreads, cotton-twill upholstered chairs and a period radio.

In the morning, guests occupying the front-facing bedrooms can awake to the sounds of horse-drawn coaches trotting by or count the amount of luxury cars leaving their underground car parks, when drawing the curtains.

If the suite is unavailable, all the other rooms and suites boast LCD TV, an electronic in-room safe, bathroom goodies, high-speed internet, a DVD player, and s mini bar. Sunday lunch was in the elegant Langtry's restaurant, named after Lillie Langtry, Wilde's close confi-dante, mistress to King Edward VII and all round good-time girl.

The restaurant was once part of Miss Langtry's own apartment where she conducted various dalliances.

If only those walls could speak!

I'm told the restaurant, with its traditional English decor and huge fireplace, is popular with locals.

The three courses, which cost a reasonable pounds 45 per person, are served with Wilde's favourite champagne Perrier Jouet Champagne.

You could try burning off a long boozy lunch, a creamy afternoon tea or delicious dinner by exercising in the hotel's small but functional gym or browsing upmarket shops such as Dior, Valentino, Hermes, Prada, Jaeger, Harvey Nichols and the irresistible Harrods department store which are both within walking distance of the hotel.

Alternatively retire with a good book in hand to the comfortable panelled drawing room which is laden with fragrant fresh flowers and has a modern coffee bar station at one side.

The hotel is itself marking the 115th anniversary of Wilde's arrest with an exhibition of his inspired art by Masters students, in the drawing room.

Unlike Wilde, you'll leave this memorable hotel, wanting to return.


History: The Cadogan Hotel. Inset, writer Oscar Wilde. Sumptuous: Enjoy a meal at Langtry's restaurant at The Cadogan.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 19, 2011
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