Business

Former Royal Residence in London to Open as Luxury Hotel and Club

The Houses of Parliament. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- Cambridge House, an 18th century grand Palladian mansion in the heart of Mayfair, has had many lives. Among the more glamorous ones, it was used as a royal residence by one of King George III’s sons, as a social hub for parties by Henry Temple when he was prime minister in the mid-1800s and, most recently, as the naval and military club (known informally as the “In and Out” club because of the signs outside), with the late Prince Philip being its president. 

Next year, it will open as a 102-room hotel by the rarified (yet fast-growing) Auberge Resorts Collection, which hopes to channel the opulence of the Georgian era in its design. Because of Cambridge House’s status as a Grade I listed property—the same level of historic significance given to places like Blenheim and Buckingham palaces—Auberge will preserve features like 19-foot-high ceilings, original fireplaces and ornate plasterwork. The hotel will also benefit from the building’s perennially impressive views: Suites will be decorated in a range of color schemes that borrow from the original Georgian aesthetic, and they’ll overlook the king’s current residence, with windows facing the greenery of the parks. All told, it will be the first UK property from Auberge Resorts Collection. The “In” and “Out” signs will remain. 

New additions will be equally dramatic. In keeping with its knack for decadent spas, Auberge is adding a wellness area inspired by ancient Roman bathhouses that’s set to span two floors, including a pair of heated swimming pools—a rarity in central London—and a relaxation area with a fire pit. Details are hazier around the multiple in-the-works restaurants, though representatives for the brand promise a brasserie in a Georgian ballroom and an open-air courtyard spot.

“London’s a great city, a great market, and it’s been on our list for a very long time,” says Richard Arnold, chief development officer at Auberge, speaking exclusively to Bloomberg about the news. “But we wanted to ensure that we had a one-of-a-kind property that truly matched the direction of our brand.” 

If there’s one thing Auberge is known for, it’s creating idyllic getaways outside cities. The brand got its start in California’s wine country in the 1980s, and more recent openings includes Wildflower Farms, which quickly became a playground for New York City urbanites to escape to the Hudson Valley—often for more than $1,000 a night. Among its 28 hotels, Auberge counts just two in Europe so far, in Santorini and France. Both were acquired rather than built under the brand’s direction; a third outpost will open on the outskirts of Florence, Italy, at the end of this year. 

All this makes Cambridge House Auberge Resorts Collection a significant departure for the brand, albeit one that plays into its new expansion strategy. Along with its 102 rooms, the hotel will also include a private members club—a model that Chief Executive Officer Craig Reid has applied to hotels such as Hotel Madeline in Telluride, Colorado, Commodore Perry Estate in Austin and the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut. 

The project is part of a massive regeneration of 1.3 acres along the southern stretch of Mayfair by Reuben Brothers, the developers who purchased the site for £130 million ($167 million) in 2011 and debated turning it into the UK’s most expensive home. (Cambridge House itself has been vacant since 1999, with much speculation about what would open there.) Reuben Brothers is also behind the Twenty Two, another hotel, which includes one of London’s latest members clubs; it’s attracted guests including Jeff Bezos and Tom Cruise since opening in 2022. 

“For us to be a part of Cambridge House’s next chapter is incredibly special, given its unique history and deep legacy in Mayfair,” says Arnold. 

Auberge’s opening will no doubt appeal to well-heeled American travelers familiar with the collection’s stateside resorts. But Cambridge House will have an enormous number of new five-star hotels to compete with, too. Among the gold rush of openings in the British capital next year will be Rosewood’s the Chancery, a reimagining of the former US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and Admiralty Arch, Waldorf Astoria’s transformation of the namesake landmark near Trafalgar Square, also a Reuben brothers project. 

That adds to this year’s glitzy debuts, which have so far included the Mandarin Oriental Mayfair and the Emory in Knightsbridge, with starting rates pushing north of $2,000 a night at the latter. Asked how Cambridge House’s rates will compare to the others, Arnold says the price will be “competitive” for the Mayfair neighborhood. 

Data from the national tourism agency VisitBritain indicates there may be enough demand from Americans to keep all these new players plenty busy. The agency projects that US visitors to Britain will spend in excess of £6.7 billion in 2024, representing nearly 20% of all tourism revenue in the country.

For Arnold, success will require more than winning the American audience—he’d like to see Cambridge House Auberge Resorts Collection become a hot spot with locals. The place was, after all, once the heart of Mayfair’s party scene.

“We’re crafting a product that will resonate deeply with Londoners,” he says. “We want it to be a social hub for Mayfair.”

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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