York & Albany

Camden, London, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Kate Parsons
Boutique hotel by Gordon Ramsay in trendy Camden: fantastic food and a relaxed mood
When you think of Camden in north London, images of the cutting-edge music scene, Goths and punks, busy pubs and a vibrant market might spring to mind. Chances are, a sleek Gordon Ramsay hotel and restaurant isn’t the first thing you’d imagine. But that’s exactly what this notorious chef has added to this neighbourhood - and jolly good it is, too. We arrived on an overcast Saturday afternoon to find a buzzing bar full of local families and friends enjoying a late lunch; it was cool enough to feel at home in Camden, but felt special too, mainly because the reception staff welcome you like VIPs. More of this, please!

The elegant John Nash Georgian townhouse is bang opposite Regent's Park. It was resurrected from dereliction and sympathetically refurbished with antique wardrobes and sepia photographs in its 9 rooms. Downstairs, the bar features more contemporary vintage pieces such as worn leather sofas and oversized wing-backed chairs. But the restaurant’s the main draw; split between the ground floor and basement, you get views out to a terrace upstairs, and in the basement a ringside seat to the theatrics of an open kitchen. And it goes without saying that the food’s terrific. All in all a great - if surprising - addition to this neck of the woods.

Highs

  • The food. It’s gastro rather than fine dining, but excellent and well priced: think wood-fired pizzas, roasted hake with cucumber and crab, and coconut crème brûlée
  • Super comfortable beds and crisp linens in the 9 elegantly styled rooms, some of which have superb park views
  • First-rate service from enthusiastic staff, yet a pleasingly informal ambiance, which we’d not really anticipated. Any minor issues were expertly handled
  • Camden itself - a cool, edgy, quintessentially London neighbourhood, with a brilliant live music scene. And you're just 10 minutes' walk from the Tube station to zip all over London
  • Right by Regent's Park for jogging, picnics, London Zoo and the open-air theatre

Lows

  • Whilst we enjoyed our stay, the Y&A felt a little confused in its identity and focus (the restaurant/bar is a slightly odd mix of casual and smart), but things seem to be heading in the right direction under new manager Richard
  • The rooms are small for the price, especially the Classics, and one is above the kitchen and you can hear the noisy extractor fan all night
  • No tea- and coffee-making facilities in the rooms
  • Due to building regulations there’s no double glazing so you do hear some traffic noise, but this is London and it didn’t bother us at all

Best time to go

London is a year-round destination. If the British summer looks promising, come then so you can enjoy lazy days in Regent's Park. Shoppers might want to come for Christmas or even the January sales, and museum lovers should choose the more queue-free months in autumn and spring.

Our top tips

Bring comfortable shoes and walk wherever you can (you're only 20 minutes' walk from the West End). You’ll save a fortune in cabs and Tube fares, and get a much better insight into London.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • 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
Room:

Rooms

With only 9 bedrooms, York & Albany has an intimate feel, and we loved the original features, including wonky floorboards and an elegant stairwell. You'll find antique furniture and period prints on the walls, but rooms have all the mod cons too, including iPod docks, DVD players, and fluffy robes and slippers. Bathrooms have a mix of tubs and showers, plus revitalising toiletries by British brand Green & Spring, and you get fresh fruit and mineral water on a side table. You need to call reception if you want tea or coffee as they like to serve fresh brews.

The smallest are the Classic Rooms; Superiors are bigger and more luxurious. Deluxe Rooms are vast with super-kingsize beds or twin beds, and there's a Suite, designed by Russell Sage.

We stayed in Deluxe 7: a plum-toned room, which had a fabulous shower room with underfloor heating, but the water pressure was annoyingly erratic during our stay. We also found the towel rail curiously small given the heap of fluffy towels provided. However, we loved the squishy leather armchair and grand wardrobe that provided plenty of space for our stuff. Big windows overlooking the park kept the room light, but excellent black-out blinds ensured a good night’s sleep in the super-comfy beds.

For light sleepers we’d recommend a side room, such as Deluxe 2 or Classic 9 or 10; there’s less traffic noise. We loved the slipper bath in room 2, so that would be our top choice.

Deluxe 5 is gorgeous, with a fancy four-poster bed, and the Suite feels even more special as it has a private entrance and is enormous, with park views from the bed and dining table; you really have to have room service if you stay here! There was a huge desk for workaholics and a plush sofa to cosy up on and watch DVDs (reception has a collection). Best of all is the bathroom, which had a glass ceiling so you'd feel like you were showering under the stars.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Rather than fine dining and Michelin-starred presentation, the Y&A shows Ramsay taking a more low-key and relaxed approach. This is good, honest food, presented simply and served with aplomb. However, with a menu overseen by the exacting head chef Kim Woodward, it certainly won’t disappoint. It's a mixed bag and, alongside bistro classics such as steak and béarnaise sauce, you’ll find wood-fired pizzas and a house burger.

We ate in the ground-floor dining room and enjoyed starters of whitebait and a charcuterie plate with juicy caper berries. Faultless mains of tender steak and duck came after a small surprise plate of grey mullet with spinach, salsify and black trompette mushrooms - divine. Our waiter made some excellent suggestions to accompany each course from the comprehensive wine list. Our only gripe was that desserts were a little uninspiring, but the white chocolate parfait was delicious.

The clientele covered a broad range, from a large family to a young couple sampling the meal for their forthcoming wedding reception at the hotel. There was a relaxed and buzzy ambiance, and plenty of staff to keep things flowing smoothly. After our meal we sat in the bar to sample cocktails - all delicious. Note that the team do everything they can to accommodate hotel guests in the restaurant, but it's advisable to book in advance, just in case.

If, after a long day, you’d prefer something casual, opt for room service or order a takeout from York & Albany Pizza. During the summer, picnic hampers can be arranged for sunny days in Regent's Park.

Breakfast is served until 10.30am, and on weekends until 11.30am. Hot and cold options include Eggs Benedict or Florentine, the classic full English, and traditional porridge with honey. Everything we ate was very good.

If you’re staying a few nights, you might want to explore other local dining options. Nearby you’ll find inexpensive Japanese restaurants, a Côte brasserie and the vast pan-Asian restaurant Gilgamesh. The team at Y&A can make recommendations, and hotel guests get priority booking at all Gordon Ramsay restaurants.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Make the most of your proximity to London’s largest park - Henry VIII claimed Regent's Park for use as a hunting ground but the only animals you’ll find today are being nurtured at London Zoo. In summer catch an open-air show at the theatre; the Shakespeare plays are fantastic

  • Your in-room info pack includes a small map on a ribbon with several different jogging routes, and as the park is open from 5am it’s a perfect way to burn off supper excess before breakfast!

  • Camden is well known for its music scene and you can see fantastic live acts and eclectic line-ups at Koko, Dingwalls, The Electric Ballroom and the Jazz Café

  • The market at Camden Lock is also world famous. Just remember that on Sundays it gets so busy they close the Tube station for a few hours during the middle of the day. Search amongst the stalls for vintage clothing, music and art

  • The Jewish Museum reopened in a former piano factory in Camden in 2010. With regular exhibitions and events, it aims to offer a social history of Jewish people in London

  • Jump on the Tube and head to Old Street, from where you can walk to Brick Lane and Columbia Road, home to London’s weekly flower market (Sunday). Nearby, Spitalfields Market has a wide variety of cool shops and enticing restaurants and cafés

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Jogging
  • Live music
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Picnics
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Theatre
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are welcome and extra beds are available for 2-12 year olds. There's heaps to do for families in the vicinity from gaping at the latest fashion trends in Camden to visiting London Zoo. The restaurant has a children's menu and staff can provide colouring kits. Note that the hotel vibe is geared towards adults.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Some rooms, though not interconnecting, have a main entrance that can be locked and then separate doors to the actual rooms themselves, so they're good for families. All rooms except Classics can fit a rollaway bed or have space for a travel cot

Baby equipment:

  • Highchairs

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

Children's meals:

There's a children's menu in the restaurant

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Teens will be fascinated by the shops and scene of Camden Town
  • Regents Park (its Open Air Theatre in the summer has plenty of family shows)
  • Zoo
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum
  • Madame Tussauds at Baker Street

Distances:

  • Airport: 45 minutes
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Shops: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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