Travel: The Cadogan, London
They found Wilde slumped in an armchair in room 118, drunk on cheap wine and chain-smoking cigarettes. In his lap were newspaper reports detailing the acts for which he would soon be hauled off to serve two years of hard labour.
The incident was later immortalised by John Betjeman in his poem 'The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel' and sent shockwaves through Victorian society. But within the hotel the event barely raised an eyebrow. In the late 19th century the Cadogan was rarely out of the gossip sections as the haunt of actresses, playwrights and rogue royals. Nowadays, things are a little more sedate, but with a history this intriguing we couldn't wait to find out more.
Wining and dining? Langtry's, the in-house restaurant, was once the home of Lillie Langtry, mistress of Edward VII. The celebrated beauty was a dear friend of Wilde, who helped launch her theatrical career, and the two whiled away many an afternoon in the building. Even after Langtry sold the house in 1895, she would go back and stay in her old bedroom, by then a part of the hotel, although not yet its restaurant.
After Wilde's imprisonment, she went on to find fame and fortune, at one point during her colourful life owning a vineyard in California. Today Langtry's is presided over by head chef Oliver Lesnik, who provides traditional British food with a contemporary twist. If you are in the mood for something decadent, opt for the limitless champagne lunch, available on Saturday and Sunday for 35. Langtry, and Wilde for that matter, would surely have approved.
Room service? The Oscar Wilde Suite is an exercise in over-the-top luxury, just as you imagine the playwright would have liked it. Framed letters written by Wilde during his stay line the walls of the large and airy suite, and a photograph of the playwright with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, the youthful lover who was his downfall, hangs in pride of place. If the suite is booked, though, there are plenty other, equally luxurious options. All rooms include LCD TV, direct dial telephone with voice mail, electronic in-room safe, Zen Zone bathroom goodies, high-speed internet, DVD player, hairdryer, iron and ironing board plus the ubiquitous mini bar.
Worth getting out of bed for? We were particularly impressed with the very civilised afternoon tea we took in the refined oak-panelled drawing room. Especially when we discovered it was in this room that Lillie Langtry would conduct her trysts with the future King Edward VII.
Budget or boutique? The Cadogan has 65 rooms and suites, a gym, tennis courts and private garden. A recent refit has brought the hotel back to life, but it was its decadent history that most enthralled us. Still, if badly behaving aristocrats from bygone eras aren't your thing, you could always pop down the road to Gucci, Tiffany, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and the West End is a mere hop and a skip away.
Little extras? Rumour has it the ghost of Lillie Langtry roams the hotel. She doesn't cause any trouble though, and instead appears when the hotel is quiet.
Guestbook comments? The Cadogan exudes warmth, comfort and luxury in spades. Our short stay transported us into a world where every one of our needs was accommodated and even anticipated. Why can't life be like this all the time? Prices start from 295 (excluding VAT), The Cadogan Hotel, 75 Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, London (020 7235 7141, www.cadogan.com).
We travelled from Edinburgh to London by rail with East Coast Trains (08457 225225, www.eastcoast.co.uk); advance return fares, booked online, start from 26 Standard Class or 118 First Class.