The Rookery

Clerkenwell, London, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
An imaginatively restored trio of Georgian buildings, just north of The City, with antique-furnished, wood-panelled bedrooms
How times have changed in Clerkenwell. The 'rookery' is an old nickname for the thief-and- whore-filled slums which thrived here in the 18th century. Now it's a trendy mix of Georgian townhouses and bustling offices, medieval lanes and smart restaurants, historic churches and funky nightclubs, with this buzzing hotel at its heart.

Sited on a quaint lane off Cowcross Street (where cattle were once driven to Smithfield, Europe's largest meat market), the three derelict 1760's terraces were bought by antique dealers Peter McKay and Douglas Blain, both instrumental in saving Spitalfields. They embarked on an ambitious and, one might say, obsessive restoration programme: 5 years sourcing the right furniture and ensuring exact period detail, right down (or up) to the chimney pots. A fourth building was cleverly added to the row, then a conservatory and small patio garden. All 33 rooms are named for former inhabitants, so you feel like a guest in the late Georgian home of a distinguished gentleman.

Highs

  • Historic buildings sensitively restored with reclaimed wood panelling, paintings of local landmarks and atmospheric lighting
  • Great location close to the City, yet with easy access to the West End
  • Unconventional business travellers will love it here: free WiFi and flatscreen TVs in a cosy, evocative ambiance, plus 3 meeting rooms for up to 16
  • And couples on a city break can bask in romantic four-posters and huge roll-top baths
  • Professional, efficient and friendly staff

Lows

  • No meals other than breakfast, which has to be taken in your room and is not included in room rate
  • Occasional noise might be heard in front-facing rooms but double glazing meant we didn't hear a thing
  • These are old buildings: don't expect level floors, do expect creaking floorboards
  • Not the most sociable place, given the lack of communal dining room; and there's no lift

Best time to go

London is great all year round, but at its best and most vibrant in the spring and summer months. The hotel is busy throughout the year, but sometimes less so in summer and late autumn.

Our top tips

Wander through the City of London, its boundaries marked by griffins atop pedestals; you'll find layers of history at every corner.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 33
  • Breakfast only (walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Club Double

Rooms

Spread across 3 townhouses and 4 storeys, the 33 bedrooms - no two of them alike - are beautifully conceived, showing layer upon layer of history and a phenomenal attention to detail. There's a judicious sprinkling of antiques - carved oak bedheads, green leather writing desks, fine rugs and prints, all in late C17th-early C18th style - coupled with wood panelling and rich Georgian colours from Farrow & Ball and John Oliver: dark plum, duck egg green, Etruscan red, clotted cream. Expect silk curtains, damask covered sofas, hardback books, flattering lighting and the odd bust or stone fireplace. But it's not overdone, and the overall effect is of a home rather than a museum, comfy rather than formal.

Mattresses are thick, pillows plump, and the Egyptian cotton linen felt divine to slide into. All bathrooms feature restored plumbing of brass, copper and nickel, and roll top Victorian-style baths. Only two rooms have showers.

The three single rooms actually hold standard double beds but are the smallest in floor space. Standard Club double rooms have queensize beds - Edward Cave has striking church furniture, while Henry Carey, set at the junction of one house with the new build, has windows to two sides.

The 10 Superior rooms are larger again and distinguished by the addition of DVD players. Romantic Mary Lane on the top floor has a vaulted, beamed ceiling, a Gothic-style carved bed and a vast bathtub big enough for two.

The two Junior Suites on the ground floor have distinct living areas and four-poster bedrooms with larger, more extravagant bathrooms. Sir Walter de Manny has a separate anteroom as well, while the bathroom is ingeniously concealed downstairs in the cellar with a faux Georgian window; Theophilus is one large room with a green leather writing desk and an amazing copper bath.

The open-plan Rook's Nest suite, housed in the new section over two floors and with windows to three sides, has a sumptuous kingsize bed cornered by four blackamoors, opposite a fabulous Victorian bathing machine. Its upper level has a retractable crow's nest, porthole windows and a writing desk underneath the panelled eaves.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

There's no restaurant at The Rookery, nor a breakfast room, so before retiring be sure to mark up your choices and serving time (between 7 and 11am) and hang it on your door knob.

The breakfast tray (not included in the room rate) holds home-made jam and marmalade, the Rookery Reveille (muesli with bananas and yoghurt) or the Continental (home-baked rolls and pastries), freshly squeezed orange juice, as well a choice of tea, herbal infusions, coffee or hot chocolate.

A simple room service menu - fresh ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta, or wild mushroom stroganoff with rice - is available from noon until 10.30pm, while pizza and smoked salmon sandwiches are available all day. You can also get bar drinks. We sank into the conservatory's comfy sofas with pre-prandials by the fireplace; in summer you can slip outside into the little patio garden.

For dinner, it's no hardship to have to eat out: Clerkenwell is a gourmet ghetto with cuisines of every stripe. Club Gascon, just across Smithfield Market, is Michelin-starred; Portal and influential St John, on St John Street round the corner, are both justly popular - the latter famous worldwide for its 'nose-to-tail eating'. We've heard good things about the conveniently located Hix Oyster & Chop House, which is just along the road. Bleeding Heart is across Farringdon Road, Moro up the road offers superb Spanish/Moroccan cuisine, while Smiths, almost next door, does a roaring trade in everything from brunch burgers to fine dining.

If you want a light lunch, there are plenty of sandwich bars and delis hereabouts. London's Italian quarter is adjacent, as is the original Jewish enclave; both have left their gastronomic imprint on the area.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore historic, villagey Clerkenwell, once a monastic haven, then a 'rookery' and hotbed of C19th radicalism, now home to bars, gastropubs, restaurants and fashionable loft-dwellers; your in-room directory has pages on local churches, former prisons and relict gateways, and the hotel can arrange local guides
  • Visit St Pauls Cathedral, Wren's masterpiece, just 10 minutes' walk away; don't miss the Whispering Gallery
  • Stroll down to the river, cross the Millennium Bridge from St Pauls to the iconographic Tate Modern gallery, housed in the former Bankside power station
  • Marvel at the best of human civilization in the British Museum, about a 15 minute walk away in Bloomsbury
  • Book tickets at the Royal Opera House for world class ballet and opera - or cheap standing seats are available if you get there early enough to queue; even closer to home is the Barbican, which has classical concerts, films, art and theatre
  • The West End's theatres, cinemas, galleries, bustle, shopping are only 3 stops on the Central Line, or just down High Holborn on the bus
  • For night owls, Clerkenwell's famous nightclubs, Fabric and Turnmills, are around the corner, and Smithfield market has bars open late and pubs open early (5.30am for the workers)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome; babysitting cots and rollaway beds can be provided on request. There are two rooms on two floors which both have lobby doors that lock to provide a family space. Some superiors and deluxe rooms have sofabeds. Cots and rollaway beds are free for younger kids.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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