From an urban oasis inspired by hallucinogenic botanicals to a boutique boasting more gadgets than a Silicon Valley startup we explore London’s most interesting small hotels and what makes them so special.
Despite the name, you don’t have to own an easel and palette to stay at Artist Residence. The lofty epithet which prefixes all four properties originates from the time founders Justin Salisbury and Charlotte Newey recruited local artists on Gumtree to help decorate their Brighton hotel.
Four properties later, Salisbury and Newey have refined their approach without losing that sense of fun and community. Their Pimlico incarnation – with its distinctive red and white awnings – features more art than most galleries, even hosting a monthly exhibition with Lawrence Alkin Gallery in the Clarendon Cocktail Cellar downstairs.
Salisbury and Newey have created a hospitable space for guests to experience impressive works by street artists and twins The Connor Brothers, surrealist Dan Hillier and pop artist Pure Evil, to name just a few. We’d also recommend dining at the hotel’s Cambridge Street Kitchen restaurant, where head chef Elliot Miller has curated a delicious menu including quail, tuna tataki, venison and butternut squash risotto.
With the unusual accolade of being London’s smallest hotel, The Napoleon proves mini can be mighty. Originally a fish and chip shop straddling the boundary between London’s financial district and Shoreditch, new owners Tom Aske and Tristan Stephenson (founders of bar consultancy Fluid Movement) have given the building a new lease of life.
The duo decided to convert an unused space on the top floor into a luxury penthouse suite which sits atop three unique cocktail bars. There’s louche whisky taproom Black Rock, sherry stop Sack, inspired by the bodegas of southern Spain and our personal favourite, Devil’s Darling, home to arguably the best scotch-based Old Fashioned London has to offer.
Best of all, guests can order beverages from all three without leaving their bed, delivered via a private dumbwaiter. Add to that an antique drinks trolley with complementary spirits and you’ve got any cocktail aficionado’s dream guesthouse.
What other boutique hotel do you know that takes its name from a hallucinogenic botanical? The magical and mysterious Mandrake plant inspired this newly opened lost city hotel, oriented around a striking central courtyard with hanging gardens of jasmine and passion flower.
The experience totally overwhelms the senses. Guests enter through a dark tunnel, emerging on the other side to find themselves in an urban rainforest, the miasma of London replaced by the eerie soundscapes of French music producer Pierre Arnaud and specially designed scents from perfumer Azzi Glasser.
Find a clandestine corner in hotel bar WAESKA to sample White Witch – a reinvention of the white Negroni made with homemade truffled Grey Goose Vodka – while surrounded by the surreal and unsettling artworks of Francesco Clemente, Jonas Burgert and Peter-John de Villiers.
Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell
Stepping into Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell is like entering the imagination of a Victorian eccentric. There are theatrical touches throughout this 13-bedroom Georgian townhouse including the portrait of fictional patron Aunt Wilhelmina, stuffed costumed cats and reclaimed fairground signs handpicked by designer Russell Sage.
Zetter takes great pride in its award-winning bar ZTH Cocktail Lounge, a veritable palace of curiosities with a menu from drinks expert Tony Conigliaro (of Lonsdale and Roka fame). Our favourites include: Vieux Kir, served with Nooch liqueur and Perrier Jouët Champagne; and Köln Martini, made using Beefeater gin, dry Martini and served with aromatics.
Explore the cafés and restaurants in nearby Exmouth Market and marvel at the Barbican Centre, the city’s great Brutalist icon, before returning to your velvet-clad haven.
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Henrietta Hotel might be small but packs a big punch thanks to its eye-catching design, mouth-watering menu and inventive cocktails. This cosy hotel in the heart of London is perfect for social media mavens looking for a romantic getaway.
Design aficionados will love the bespoke bedheads inspired by traditional Milanese door frames, the retro ’70s-style armchairs, terrazzo-patterned carpets and millennial pink in the bathrooms, perfect for any impromptu Instagram shoots. The Ren, Malin+Goetz and Jon Masters Organics bath products will keep you feeling fresh after a day exploring the Big Smoke.
Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous is already winning plaudits for his seasonal menu including melt-in-your-mouth crab flatbreads and freshly baked Madeleine cakes served with Chantilly cream. We also recommend the amazing literary-inspired cocktails paying tribute to the building’s former incarnation as a publishing house, when it welcomed such greats as George Orwell.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet stylish place to crash in London, then look no further. Long-time collaborators Jason Catifeoglou, Andreas Thrasyvoulou and Steph Thrasyvoulou have painstakingly and lovingly restored neighbouring Victorian townhouses to their former glory, using materials reclaimed from schools, hospitals and military facilities.
The 73-room homage to British craftsmanship is a haven of no-fuss utilitarian luxury with self-serve pantries and a community café serving a selection of CRU Kafe coffees, teas and legendary Crosstown doughnuts. Atop the striking timber staircase, the elegantly designed first floor drawing room is a warm, cosy space to hang out with friends.
The Pilgrm’s lounge serves comfort food from head chef Sara Lewis, including mushroom and Dolcelatte cheese toasties alongside Mediterrenean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes including cauliflower falafel and harissa labneh. Simply book online, turn up and chill out.
Eccleston Square Hotel
Eccleston Square Hotel occupies two Georgian townhouses on the eponymous quad. Unexpectedly for such a historical setting (neighbouring the former residence of Sir Winston Churchill), Ecclestone Square Hotel is one of Europe’s most technology-friendly boutiques, packed full of gadgets and innovative features to keep guests comfortable and entertained.
Each of the hotel’s 39 affordably priced rooms come with over 100 3D movies on demand and iPads allowing guests to control their environment from the comfort of their bed, even order room service from the kitchen and set when they’d like the food to arrive. Hotelier Olivia Byrne says one visitor even extended their stay to use the complimentary Handy integrated mobile phone system which offers guests unlimited local and international calls.
The Byrne’s looked at how yachts use space efficiently to get the most from the Grade-II listed building. Using lots of technology that goes unnoticed, such as soundproofing and high-spec air filtration, and others that are more obvious, including the electronically adjustable Hästens Swedish massage beds, they’ve created a luxurious and comfortable hotel that helps guests stay connected.
This historic hotel celebrated its 125th birthday with an extensive refurbishment. Think four-poster beds, tapestries, mahogany bookshelves spilling over with ancient volumes, antique sideboards, winding staircases and stalactiform chandeliers.
There’s even a suite named after famous actress Judy Garland, who spent so much time here during her career treading the boards that she had her bed shipped over from the States – the same one used today. That’s not the only name dropped within these wood-panelled walls. In 1968, legendary rockers The Rolling Stones launched their album Beggar’s Banquet at Bar 190.
Stop by The Gore for the notably large collections of whiskies and rums, best enjoyed from within the cloying velvet of Cinderella’s Carriage. Upgrade to the Tudor suite with its gorgeous stained glass windows and luxurious copper bathtub.
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