It’s hard to imagine a time when Clerkenwell smelled of anything other than fine hand-soaps and artisan coffee but the East End of London in bygone days was nothing but a warren of dirt and industry. Like a student bedsit, the cigarette factories, printing trades and overcrowded employee housing created a melting pot that would send you nose-blind!
Nowadays, slick warehouse conversions and fashionable worker-cottages bring style en masse to this little trendy district, and The Zetter Hotel does well to blend in.
Situated on Clerkenwell Road amongst creative work-spaces and fashionable restaurants, this modern establishment takes design very seriously and gives a subtle nod to the original Italian architects of Victorian Britain. It was because of the little design details that we booked ourselves in for two nights in September for our anniversary. From the minute you walk through the doors you are greeted with colours and textures galore, the other-worldly chandelier and floral mural in the lobby area remind you that this is no run of the mill hotel : The Zetter want you to have fun and enjoy yourselves.
Unusual details like the fact you can request a Hot-Water bottle in your bed, or borrow the hotels 2 bikes if you’re feeling a bit Bradley Wiggins, all make you feel like you’re not just another number to them. The excitement from our concierge about the new hand-picked ales and gins in the mini-bar made me consider inviting him in for a night-cap, but I rendered him and his Jazz-hands too cool for my tartan pyjamas and bed-socks so settled instead for a celebratory champagne (courtesy of The Zetter just because we mentioned it was our Anniversary!) and a flick through some interiors and travel mags left in the room for our perusal. They assumed I was cool too. (I absolutely am cool though, just in case you were wondering : my 7 year old told me so the other day, after I rode her scooter to school!)
The rooms are pretty small, but this is London. However, they redeem themselves with fluffy rugs, bold upholstery and Nespresso coffee machines. Oh, and I have to mention the non-mist mirror in the bathroom! I didn’t even know that was a thing but it so is, and it’s so going on my list of ‘top inventions’, along with banana guards and handbag phone chargers.
We booked the Rooftop Studio with its own private balcony and amazing views of the city, including The Gherkin and St Paul’s. It’s a gorgeous room with bags of personality and Mr MLLH does like a view. However, at £350 a night I felt I was expecting a bit more. Don’t get me wrong – after spending hours searching for the perfect hotel and room for our Anniversary celebration I still feel we made the right choice but next time I would choose their ‘Deluxe’ room for £100 less and do without the balcony (the deluxe room does have a Juliette balcony though – patio doors which open up to a glass guard, so you can sit in your room and still enjoy the view)
Some of the little details:
- Brompton Bikes available to borrow for free
- Raindance shower
- Nespresso Machine
- Daily ice and fresh milk
- Smart TV
- Bose or Marshall Speaker
- REN bath products
- Mist-free bathroom mirrors
- Big fluffy bathrobes and slippers
- Hot water bottles
The Area Of Clerkenwell
Did I already mention Clerkenwell is cool? Before our trip my research warned me of an industrialised area, and it is. But rather than the run down ugly 70’s style warehouses my imagination conjured up, it’s beautifully transformed Victorian affairs, think red bricks, lots of windows. And, the side streets are now homes for wealthy families or arty entrepreneurs, not forgetting the traditional London corner pubs.
Clerkenwell is also full of ancient history too, I’m talking real old. Pop in to St John’s Gate Museum, literally opposite The Zetter, for a tour around the 12th Century Crypt and tales of the Priory Knights. And don’t miss the Priory Garden attached, often booked out for wedding drinks receptions and you understand why when you see its prettiness.
One of the mornings we took breakfast in bed, such a luxury and a very well proportioned Full English Breakfast – no complaints there. The other morning however, we booked brunch at The Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings (a five-minute walk from The Zetter) and I would absolutely recommend it. Amazing food in delightful botanical surroundings, I wrote about it in my London Food Guide Post so be sure to check it out!
Exmouth Market is also only a stones-throw and again follows the theme of cool. Artisan bakeries and coffee shops rub noses with independent Jewellery and gift shops – it’s a happy mornings perusal and watering-hole.
So if you’re in London for a couple of days and want to soak up the über hip surroundings of Clerkenwell and the East End then The Zetter is for you. It’s an experience, not just a hotel room. Enjoy!
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Have you been? Do you agree? Or do you know of some other hotel gems in this area? Do tell! And, don’t forget to subscribe for more tips and travel musings from My Life-Long Holiday.