Even casual doodlers are welcome at boutique hotel Artist Residence London, a rakish 10-bedroom retreat in prim Pimlico. One could well imagine Francis Bacon or Lucien Freud spattering paint on the cosy rooms’ reclaimed wooden boards or ruminating in the Loft’s bed, which has a field-gate for a headboard. Add tastefully shabby touches – tea-crate drawers, milking-stools, antler chandeliers – pop prints and animal etchings and you have a new muse to inspire your own abode. And, the Cellar bar's painting-themed libations will awaken a whole new appreciation of art.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability, for £20 an hour. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £183.75, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates do not include breakfast. A-la-carte options run from a freshly baked croissant to eggs Benedict.
Spark up a salon of sorts in the cosy lounge, where patrons can sink into a mish-mash of kilim-print and scarlet-velvet couches. Hunt down the tucked-away treasures of the connoisseur owners’ art collection; we spied Pure Evil’s Warhol pastiches, the Connor Brothers’ fictional pulp covers, and Dan Baldwin’s madcap montages. We especially like Dave White’s sparkly disco shark in the Club Suite’s bathroom.
At the hotel
Ping-pong table, lounge, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Roberts radio, mini fridges, kettle with a selection of Joe's teas, Nespresso coffee machine, biscuits, bathrobes and slippers, and Bramley natural bath products. Medium rooms and the Loft have mini Smeg fridges; and the Loft, Club Suite and Grand Suite have Nespresso coffee machines.
Our favourite rooms
The Loft is a pocket-sized pied-à-terre with extrovert style. A chandelier made of antlers hangs from the vaulted ceiling, the king-size bed’s headboard is a field gate and the wood-lined ensuite has a bath tub custom-made in French Thirties style. The Grand Suite’s emerald sofas and four-poster add an air of vintage romance; and if you’re a struggling artist, go for the Medium rooms, which are bigger than Small Plus, and have mini Smeg fridges to raid.
Adhere to the vintage aesthetic and use a battered London A-Z to navigate your way around town – the beloved guide is much more fun to fumble with than Google Maps.
Hypo-allergenic bedding is available on request.
This is more of a grown-up stay, but little Smiths will love the ping-pong table and the café has colouring books and a kids menu that includes tabbouleh salad, mini burgers, and fish and chips. Cots are free for tots three-and-under.
The hotel uses eco-friendly cleaning products, waste is recycled and room lights switch off when guests leave. Furnishings are made of reclaimed and salvaged materials too (such as the wardrobe doors made from delivery pallets).
The cosiest seat is the cushion-coddled corner banquette near the door, which offers an eyeful of the open kitchen and the hotel’s comings and goings.
Rumpled, well-loved items that whisper of artistic affectations and nights spent feverishly daubing a canvas. Pair with one-of-a-kind or self-made accessories.
The Clubhouse – a laidback hub for socialising or working – is dressed in the Artist Residence's unique style, with bold artwork covering the walls, neon signs, an avant garde chandelier and comfy mismatched seating. Enjoy breakfasts of smashed avo or stacked pancakes, lunches of buttermilk chicken burgers or mac and cheese with truffle-and-hazelnut pesto, and dinners of corn-fed chicken with salsify and girolles or barbecue-glazed short-rib. There's a small terrace out front for when the weather's warmer, too.
In a hotel bedecked with ballsy artwork, the intimate Clubhouse bar – set in the cellar – is a super-cool hangout. The bar’s artwork is supplied by the Lawrence Alkin gallery, and the cocktail edit is a masterpiece too. In the café upstairs, take your pick of a worldly wine selection or crack open an icy Estrella Damm or Kirin Ichiban. And there's an outdoor terrace to take your tipple on.
The Clubhouse is open from 7.30am to 11.45pm for breakfast Monday to Friday, weekend brunch runs from 11.45am to 3pm; lunch is from noon to 3pm and dinner from 5.30pm to 9pm on weekdays, till 9.30 on Fridays and Saturdays.
During restaurant hours, your pick of the menu’s dishes and drinks can be delivered to your door.
The hotel’s shabby-chic interiors are fronted by a Thomas Cubitt-designed Regency townhouse, on a quiet street in Pimlico. It’s close to many of London’s iconic sights; Buckingham Palace and Westminster are both a pleasant 20-minute walk away.
The hotel is a 40-minute drive from Heathrow Airport, an hour from London Gatwick. Stansted and Luton are both just over an hour’s drive away. There are direct flights from the US and major European cities. British Airways flies direct from Japan, Singapore and Australia too. Call our Smith24 team to book your flights.
A Gatwick Express (www.gatwickexpress.com) departs every 15 minutes, and takes just 30 minutes to reach Victoria Station: from there, the hotel is a five-minute walk. The Heathrow Express (www.heathrowexpress.com) takes 15 minutes to reach Paddington: from there, ride the Circle line to Victoria.
People have been known to drive in London, but really it’s all about pounding the pavements – to happen upon off-the-beat eateries, bars and shops – and hopping on and off the Tube. Q Car Park (www.q-park.co.uk) on Cumberland Street is a five-minute walk from the hotel and costs £24 for 24 hours. Hotel guests get a 15 per cent discount.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s little to do in the hotel beyond snoozing, snacking and the odd game of ping-pong; and London awaits you. Make a beeline for Buckingham Palace to nose around the Queen’s state rooms, followed by a whistle-stop tour around Westminster Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament – stopping to look up at Big Ben – and bustle about Trafalgar Square’s sculpture-graced plinths. See stormy Turners, pretty pre-Raphaelite paintings and delirious Dali works at Tate Britain; stop in to Chelsea Space for diverse exhibits covering pop culture, graphic design and film; and the Saatchi Gallery – a 20-minute walk away in Chelsea – will satiate modern-art fans. If you’re in the market for your own objets, head to Pimlico Road, which is lined with antique dealerships, galleries and shops selling bespoke furnishings; we like Anthony Outred for curious one-offs. Ambrose Farm’s pork pies and butter-plumped croissants from Olivier’s Bakery are some of Pimlico Road Farmers Market’s delights (every Saturday 9am–1pm). Tachbrook Street Market (Monday to Saturday, 8am–6pm) has delicacies such as ham-hock stuffed empanadas and sake-infused salmon. Lavish musicals play at the Victoria Palace Theatre and the Apollo Victoria, both a 15-minute walk from the hotel; or enjoy smoky-voiced jazz singers and a handsome cigar-smoking lounge at the Boisdale restaurant’s Belgravia outpost.
We're taken with the Residence's own Clubhouse restaurant, but London's renowned eateries are legion and easily reached from the hotel. Did you know Victoria's a bit of a gastro-hub these days? Yes, beyond commuter crushes and big-ticket musicals, the neighbourhood's gained a rep for finer dining. Head to the Nova Building complex, close to Victoria Station, where Bone Daddies, Barbecoa and Franco Manca have sprung up. Our pick, set towards the back of the complex, is Timmy Green, which does brunch in inimitable Aussie fashion and serves up steaks aged to perfection with niche wines – and stacks of halloumi fries with pomegranate that you'll eat by the fistful. Dishoom in Covent Garden is the place for a posh Indian. This phenomenally popular Irani café has a vaunted breakfast menu (including a signature naan roll filled with Ginger Pig bacon), and fragrant and spicy dishes till late – wash down with a pick from the lassi menu. Nopi, in Warwick Street, a venture by superstar restaurateur Yottam Ottolenghi, is outfitted in white marble and gold brass, with colourful artwork hung throughout. The menu changes seasonally, but a few favourites are evergreen (courgette and manouri fritters, coriander-seed-crusted burrata with blood orange and twice-cooked chicken with lemon-myrtle salt and chilli). Book ahead for Bocca Di Lupo's pared-back Italian fare; its dishes rarely have more than three carefully sourced, superior quality ingredients, and there’s a cocktail (negroni, aperol spritz) and Italian wine list.
Wilton Road café Pimlico Fresh (+44 (0)20 7932 0030) has the area’s best breakfast and lunch offerings scribbled across its blackboard walls. The choice changes daily, but banana French toast, Spanish-style scrambled eggs, and bacon and avocado on toast are thrown into the mix. Wash them down with superfood smoothies, fresh juice blends and strong coffees.
Pimlico’s nightlife scene is somewhat spotty, but the Marquis of Westminster – a mere five-minute walk from the hotel – is a welcoming emerald-walled spot to kick-start an evening in. Wines and Brit ales flow freely and the diner-style bar snacks – slabs of bacon with baked beans and hash browns, pulled-pork sliders – are extraordinarily moreish. Post pub head to the Nightjar, a moody, dark-wood-panelled bar with low lighting and cocktails that come served in shells or gently smoking teacups. The drinks list is arranged by era, with pre-prohibition, prohibition and post-war concoctions, and the barkeeps have a cache of extremely rare spirits for punters willing to pay top dollar. Roll your fringe, slip on some spats and dress for the occasion.
Samuel Johnson once wrote: 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.'Had he ever enjoyed a stay at the Artist Residence London hotel in Pimlico, however, he surely would have written instead: 'When a man is tired of London, he should ensconce himself in a bubble bath to rejuvenate and bask in the city's wonders.' Less succinct, but certainly applicable to this hidden haven in the heart of town.
Blink and you might miss the discreet glass doorway marking the entrance, nestled neatly between a row of pretty Pimlico townhouses and the striped awning framing the hotel's all-day restaurant. Fortunately the postcode led us directly to the door to be greeted by some of the ever-accommodating, never-imposing staff… after helping ourselves to sweets from the glass jars lining the hallway, of course. It was just the first of many personal touches that made it feel more like staying in the house of a particularly hospitable friend, with impeccable taste and a flair for design, than a hotel.
We were delighted to hear on arrival that we’d been upgraded to the Grand Suite. With floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed brick walls, a freestanding cast-iron bath big enough for two, a double marble sink, squashy armchairs and the kind of four-poster bed in which lazy Sunday mornings were invented, it’s the epitome of understated opulence. The open-plan design makes the suite simultaneously intimate and spacious, and a few signature quirky features – log-filled fireplaces, Pop Art on the walls, a retro radio and reclaimed parquet flooring straight from a school gym – make it a showstopper.
As is the trend at the moment, the art lies in combining shabby chic with the upmost attention to detail. There was an array of sweet-smelling bath salts and body lotions displayed on a wooden stepladder, a well-stocked mini bar tucked inside one of the ornate armoires and, a personal favourite, the chocolates-on-pillow turndown service.
Having nosed thoroughly through every nook and cranny, we tore ourselves away to briefly play tourist. A sanctuary in the middle of the Central London storm – it’s only a five-minute walk to bustling Victoria – the neighbourhood is peaceful and charming. Pimlico has plenty by way of independent shops and cafes, and we discovered that the river is reachable in only half an hour or so on foot… though we should have allowed extra time for debating whether or not it really was Battersea Power station that we were standing opposite (it was, temporarily minus a couple of chimneys).
Exploring over, our evening began with drinks in the Clarendon Cocktail Cellar in the hotel's cool, cave-esque basement, illuminated by vintage marine lamps dotted around a corrugated iron bar and cosy candlelit tables. The relaxed vibe, soundtracked by unobtrusive music (comfortingly recognisable at a just-perfect decibel level), makes it ideal for drinks parties, date nights and pre-dinner tête-à-têtes alike. After seeking advice on the art-inspired cocktail list from the bar manager, we opted for 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte'. Much like its Neo-Impressionist namesake, it was unusual and memorable – a tantalising mix of gin, oleo saccharum, tea, sparkling wine and tapioca pearl. Art critics we are not, but we certainly know cocktails and these come highly recommended.
Heading upstairs for dinner in the atmospheric Cambridge Street Kitchen, we were met with inviting smells and tempting sights. The menu is fashionably minimalist (though there’s almost certainly something for everyone), but the portions are generous and the food delicious, not to mention, again, the unfalteringly friendly service. Warm bread with smoked-sea-salt butter whetted our appetites for something hearty, so we were delighted with our choice of beautifully cooked lamb rump. The rhubarb-and-oat crumble that followed was, we agreed, even better than the one we make at home (not an accolade easily given).
And how best to round off such an indulgent evening? With a soak in the tub, up to our ears in bubbles, gazing out at the London lights and marvelling at how it’s possible to feel quite so tranquil in the middle of the city.
Though it was near impossible to surface after the most comfortable of sleeps, Desert Island Discs and the thought of the Cambridge Street Kitchen's unmissable breakfast roused us. We chose fluffy American-style pancakes drizzled with maple syrup and crisp bacon, and the house granola with creamy yoghurt, honey and fresh berries, and, to chuckles of approval, a side of sausages (the definition of a balanced diet, yes?)
When we checked out an hour later, we felt geanuinely sad to say goodbye, not only to our luxurious room, but to the staff who obviously have a desire to get things just right for their guests and are very talented in doing so. We left feeling wonderfully pampered yet completely at home – via the sweet jars, of course.