The Zetter Townhouse

Clerkenwell, London, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
Brilliantly quirky boutique hotel and cocktail bar in trendy Clerkenwell
According to Samuel Johnson, 'When a man is tired of London, he's tired of life'. But perhaps he just needs a visit to The Zetter Townhouse, where his joie de vivre will be shaken, stirred and wonderfully restored. From the moment you swish through the heavy curtains that cloak the blue door of this double townhouse, it feels like you've entered a sublimely characterful private club. Gold-framed oils adorn the walls; there's a brass gramophone, a buzzy lamp-lit ambiance and small clusters of velvet armchairs (no standing allowed, so it never feels crowded). You'll double-take at quirky taxidermy (a kangaroo in boxing gloves! A cat in a dress with a parasol!), then you'll smile at the bar. An old apothecary's table lined with homemade cordials and a list of cocktails inspired by old recipes for tinctures and herbal remedies. Pretty cool, right?

Upstairs are 13 unique bedrooms, rivalling the eccentric fabulousness of the ground floor. One four-poster bed is clad in Union Jack bunting; another has its headboard reclaimed from an old fairground ride. There are comforts galore - old radios revamped into iPod docks, Ren toiletries, hot water bottles - and best of all, ready-mixed cocktails await in your minibar. Call downstairs for ice and a shaker then laze in bed all day drinking Martinis. Who could tire of this?

Highs

  • Mixologist Tony Conigliaro's unusual cocktails - he distills his own nettle and dandelion cordials from leaves gathered from the canalside
  • The décor: we loved the newspaper-lined hallways, antique carriage clocks and the stuffed cockatoo on the marble mantlepiece
  • The food - you're across the courtyard from The Zetter Bar & Lounge (housed in sister hotel The Zetter), where fabulous flavours await. Or you can have supper bowls shipped to your room
  • The feeling of fun - Tony's Flintlock cocktail contains gunpowder tea tincture, so is delivered to your table with a bang and a bright flash of light! Have a couple then head to the games room for table tennis and a Wii
  • The location - tucked away in a quiet cobbled courtyard, but right in the heart of things. Clerkenwell has loads of character, you can walk to Brick Lane and Spitalfields, or jump on the Tube and zip all over London

Lows

    • Fairly expensive (though worth it) and rates don't include breakfast
    • Cheaper rooms feel a bit small
    • No car park

Best time to go

Any time of year - London is always buzzing. Spring and summer bring flowering parks, crowded pavement cafés and throngs of tourists; autumn is generally quieter, but skies are often blue and temperatures warm. Winter sees the streets fill with Christmas shoppers - take to the ice on an outdoor rink or soak up the festive atmosphere.

Our top tips

For a fun night out, All Star Lanes offers the glammest bowling experience since the 50s!

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • 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
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Games room with Wii
  • Free gym pass
Room:

Rooms

The vintage-modern rooms at the Townhouse are gorgeous; perfect places to relax by day and sleep well by night. Each is different and all have quirky design elements. Our Deluxe room had a bookshelf full of leather-bound cricketing manuals; another room we saw had a reclaimed piece of fairground ride as its headboard. There are colourful bed blankets, cosy hot-water bottles, Oriental lamps, Art Deco club armchairs. We especially loved our old wireless, revamped into an iPod dock/radio, but our favourite thing was the minibar with ready-mixed cocktails. You ring downstairs for a shaker and ice, and voila: Martinis and Manhattans you can drink in your towelling dressing gown. Genius.

Bathrooms are classically decorated in black and white. All have a rain shower, a full swoop of Ren toiletries and thick piles of towels. Bigger rooms have baths, too, some of which are in-room so mention this when booking if you'd prefer your tub in the bathroom.

Some beds are four-poster, others are regular doubles; all are superbly comfortable with just the right plumpness of pillow and heaviness of duvet. Thanks to this and double glazing we slept really well. Club rooms are bijou but not cramped; book a Suite or Apartment if you want lots more space and a couple more gadgets (e.g. Sonos sound systems).

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player (on request)
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The food at the Townhouse is served out of The Zetter Bar & Lounge across the courtyard at The Zetter. Dining here is a great experience. A lovely room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a long curved bar and well-spaced tables, it's full of light by day and feels cosy when candlelit at night. Staff are, without exception, charming.

Over at the Townhouse, the bar menu includes scotch egg with curry mayonnaise and beef burger with a truffle-buttered bun.

Breakfast is a groaning buffet with all you could hope for - pastries, homemade granola, fresh juices etc - and then there are cooked options. My husband, a 'Full English' afficionado, was very pleased with both the size and taste of his meal; I completely loved my avocado, bacon and mozzarella bagel with a 'Morning Melon' smoothie.

Clerkenwell is full of restaurants if you want a change of scene; Caravan in Exmouth Market is good for brunch; close by, tapas bar Morito is a little sister of Spanish-Moroccan institution Moro. The Peasant is an excellent gastro-pub, and Gaucho Smithfields is the place for steak.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • While away an afternoon drinking cocktails in the Townhouse. Tony Conigliaro's unusual recipes pack a real punch, and we loved the inventiveness of The Flintock and the taste of a Rose Gimlet

  • Villagey Clerkenwell has loads of independent shops (ladies, head to Lie Down I Think I Love You for bags, scarves and shoes), and nearby Exmouth Market offers pie & mash cafés alongside kooky boutiques and handmade jewellery shops

  • Walk around the historic local sites, including a 12th-century priory, former prisons and a fantastic Norman church

  • St Paul's Cathedral, Wren's masterpiece, is just 10 minutes' walk away; don't miss the Whispering Gallery

  • Smithfields Meat Market is worth a look, the last surviving wholesale market in central London. Trading hours are 4am til midday, and the area is lined by bars so late at night you'll see suited businessmen drinking pints alongside massive meat carcasses!

  • Sadler's Wells is close; one of the UK's top venues for modern dance and classical ballet

  • Fabric, set in an old cold house of Smithfields, is one of London's coolest clubs, with frequent live music. For something more off-radar, The Betsey Trotwood has an atmospheric cellar where it hosts regular Indie gigs

  • Hire a bike from The Zetter and head over to Brick Lane for a world-class curry and to visit trendy Spittalfields market

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Ballet
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Live music
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children are welcome and stay for free in a baby cot or for a supplement cost in an extra bed in their parents' room. Or there are connecting rooms available.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Deluxe rooms can fit a baby cot; the Suite has a double sofabed for 2 children who don't mind sharing; the Apartment has space for 1 rollaway bed.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for The Zetter Townhouse