We’d like access to Experimental Cocktail Club’s speed-dial. For the group’s first London venture, Henrietta Hotel – set in two elegant Victorian townhouses within nosying distance of Covent Garden’s main square – they’ve called on a top-of-their-game team. Hip maximalist Dorothée Mellichzon has brought Gallic elegance and the neighbourhood’s neoclassical grandeur to interiors; a pair of eccentric drink historians have reincarnated the townhouses’ colourful former residents in cocktail form; and for the kitchen they’ve nabbed the Tyrrhenian taste makers of Italian Supper Club. Safe hands, indeed – we’ll see you there…
Get this when you book through us:
Two free cocktails from the bar a stay and VIP access to the Experimental Cocktail Club's bars
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £247.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates do not usually include the à la carte breakfast of pastries, muesli, fruit, juices and eggs any-way.
The hotel and the street it sits on have an impressive creative heritage; 17th-century painter Samuel Scott and actress Kitty Clive were one-time neighbours, and Henrietta Hotel’s main house was once the office of left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz, who greenlit work by raconteurs such as George Orwell, Kingsley Amis and John Le Carré.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV; Revo sound system; Nespresso coffee machine with Cru Kafe capsules; Russell and Hobbs kettle; minibar with local goodies, including pre-mixed Experimental Cocktail Club drinks; bottled water; bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The top-floor Grand London Eye Suite has that most coveted of London prizes: a just-big-enough-for-two balcony with a partial view of the London Eye. The bathroom also has a romantic claw-foot bath tub. Room sizes are generous for London hotels, even the cosiest categories have a two-person shower and his-and-hers sinks, but book a Executive Henrietta room for a little sitting area to socialise and clink cocktails in.
Pack light – Covent Garden is renowned for its superlative high-street, high-end and independent shops, so it’s likely you’ll return home laden with souvenirs – mostly for yourself.
There’s a lift to four of the five floors and some of the larger rooms allow for wheelchair access. The London Eye Superior Terrace room under the eaves on the fourth floor is a little more intimate than others.
Welcome but there’s little entertainment for junior Smiths on-site. Babysitting is available for £20 an hour (must be booked two days in advance); breakfast is free for under-fours and £12 for ages four to 12. Children up to one year old stay for free.
Water and energy consumption are monitored regularly and single-use plastics are a thing of the past. Suppliers and providers are selected based on their commitments to sustainability (and local suppliers are preferred), and the hotel uses eco-labelled cleaning products wherever possible. Vegan and vegetarian options are available in the restaurant, which has a farm-to-table ethos.
Nab a perch by the open kitchen and watch kitchen team beaver industriously away.
Don a Channel-straddling ensemble of Euro and Brit labels.
Henrietta have partnered with Italian Supper Club to devise their restaurant Da Henrietta. New arrivals walk straight into the convivial hubbub of the ground-floor bar, beyond which guests dine on seasonal fare inspired by the Tyrrhenian sea and the boot's diverse and ever-changing landscapes (your chic teal and terracotta giving Milanese lounge bar meets rustic Osteria). With Silvio Pezzana and Toto Dell'Aringa at the helm, the menu strikes a new chord in gastro-hub Covent Garden – reading it feels like a walk along a winding Italian coastal path: start with Burrata and Decana pear, perhaps, before moving on to Mezze maniche with amberjack ragout and Amalfi lemon. To the back lies the open kitchen, where guests can watch the team roll out pasta just like they do in the old country.
Backed by the Experimental Cocktail Club, the hotel’s drinks list is as theatrical as the musical numbers in nearby Theatreland. Drink historians – yes, it’s a thing – Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller (the brains behind slurpable Sipsmith gin) have looked to the hotel and neighbourhood’s storied past to inspire their quirky cocktail list.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10.30am, lunch from 12 noon to 2.30pm, and dinner from a pre-theatre friendly 6pm until 10pm.
Available night and day, expect a similarly Gallic-influenced, seasonal, in-room menu.
Henrietta Hotel is a boutique hotel in the bustling heart of London's Covent Garden. Set within the range of a hawker’s cry from the market square and the Actor's Church, it sits by hip boutiques and renowned restaurants on Henrietta Street. The Strand is
London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, the arrival points for international flights from all over the world, are both an hour’s drive away. Call Smith24 to book international flights or hotel transfers.
Covent Garden and Charing Cross Tube stations are both within a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The Heathrow Express zips passengers to Paddington in 15 minutes; from there, ride the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross. The Gatwick Express pulls into Victoria Station after a 30-minute journey; from there hop on the Tube to Covent Garden. If you’re visiting London for a while, invest in an Oyster Card and nab a Tube map for easy Underground navigating.
The joy of parading around London is coming across lesser-known restaurants and quirky backstreet bars; driving can be a stressful affair, and parking even more so… If your legs start to tire, the Tube will swiftly carry you from A-to-B. If you arrive by car, the nearest charged parking is at the NCP, a 10-minute walk away.
Worth getting out of bed for
Most Londoners would give their stiff upper lip to live this close to Covent Garden. Those with a penchant for purchasing could spend days in the boutiques laid out around the market, along Neal Street, Long Acre and beyond; high-street brands and high-end wares are well represented; groomed gents should sweep Henrietta Street for Fred Perry shirts, hand-lasted Cheaney brogues and authentic military jackets from Nigel Cabourn. Ladies can buy Burberry trenches, Jo Malone scents, Aesop lotions and Urban Decay make-up on King Street, which runs parallel. Neal Street is lined with quirkier boutiques and Neal’s Yard is home to the equally fragrant (for very different reasons) Neal’s Yard Remedies and Neal’s Yard Dairy– both excellent souvenir stops. The London Transport Museum is an intriguing look at the thing Londoners love to grumble about, and the London Film Museum has an array of intriguing celluloid artefacts. Come evening, it’s showtime in Theatreland; take your pick of musicals, comedies, dramas and more – some starring bona fide celebs – in Covent Garden’s myriad theatres: The Lyceum, Cambridge, Aldwych, Wyndham’s, the Garrick… boards are always being trodden somewhere.
The Henrietta Hotel sits within an orbit of London’s best restaurants. For just-so steak hit Flat Iron next door; for fine Brit fare, the Ivy Market Grill is a few doors down (the restaurant’s noted flagship is just a five-minute walk away); for oysters every which way (try them grilled), and a host of other seafood specials, see the genial hosts at The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchenover the road; and romantic French eatery Clos Maggiore is in the next street. Lauded Indian restaurant Dishoom, 18th-century dining institution Rules; iconic French dining spot Le Garrick; fine African fare at The Barbary; beloved seafood stop J Sheekey and the Seven Dials outpost of top-drawer steakhouse Hawksmoor all require minimal effort to reach. Still hungry? Brilliant burger joint MeatLiquor and ritzy Italian Margot are a short wander away, brunching spot Christopher’s, well-regarded Italian Polpo, Balthazar, Native, Barrafina, Frenchie… We really could go on and on. The bottom line is: you’re unlikely to go hungry here.
There’s a clutch of chain cafés close by the hotel: Caffe Nero, Paul’s bakery… Walk a little further for a better cup of joe – Monmouth Coffee, Notes and Coffee Island all fill their cups with much better beans. For light lunches, try the healthy Wild Food Cafe in Neal’s Yard.
Bursting at the seams with must-try restaurants, Covent Garden’s a little lighter on write-home-about bars. It has some solid old-school pubs: Lamb & Flag is an ancient pub with a warm welcoming ambience, unlike back in the day when it was the domain of drunk bare-knuckle fighters. Porterhouse is more modern, but nonetheless cosy, given a spot of sparkle by polished-copper knick-knacks. Our top tip is to swoop down the Strand and along Villiers Street to join the thirsty throng at Gordon’s Wine Bar. Or experience the Gallic surliness of the server behind the counter at the oldest wine bar in London, Le Beaujolais. Est. 1986, Freud Bar on Shaftesbury Avenue isn't technically a secret, but you may miss it as it's hidden down a narrow stairway.
Let’s start with a full disclosure, just in case anyone might accuse me of being anything other than impartial in this review.
I am, indeed, utterly biased. I have enjoyed the company of (and significant amounts of alcohol with) the Experimental Group’s gorgeous founding Frenchmen and their gorgeous wives and partners on several occasions. From the moment the Experimental Cocktail Club opened its doors in Chinatown it was my hangout of choice until I stopped hanging out in cocktail clubs altogether (thanks to that common condition known as parenthood). Sister bars in Paris, New York and Ibiza would also top my list whenever I was in town.
Now, opening their first hotel in London, they’ve sweetly named it after me. How could I not be a little, shall we say, ‘favourably inclined’, from the off?
The Henrietta Hotel – which some might claim was in fact named for the street in Covent Garden on which it is situated – is a cosy 18-bedroom boutique address with a playful-yet-luxurious interior design by Dorothée Meilichzon. As the Group’s first hotel in London (but not, I have on good authority, their last), reviews have so far been unanimously favourable everywhere from fashion blogs to Forbes. And given that the menus, the pencils and the towels all literally have my name on them, regardless of my bias, that’s really a relief.
Naturally it was necessary for Mr Smith and I to test it out for ourselves so, despite the fact it’s a short hop from our own front door in Islington, we booked in anonymously for a wintery weekend in late November. Which, it turns out, is a magical time for this corner of Covent Garden. Those cold, wet, dark evenings we’d all been getting used to were suddenly made lovely. Central London, transformed with Christmas promise and candlelight, shopfronts and cafés lit up with gorgeousness and glitter, seemed more inviting than it had in months. Before the last minute must-buy-everything panic dash inexplicably sets in a couple of weeks later, it’s a time of year that sparkles with ideas and inspiration, while mulled wine and hot chocolate put reality in a dreamy soft focus.
Having accidentally walked passed the front door more than once, we eventually checked in to the Henrietta just in time for cocktail hour and were led straight up to our room on the second floor, which overlooked the street and had plenty of room to swing a cat (or a cot – should you be traveling with a small one in tow), and to stand far enough back to happily Instagram all the picturesque design details. From the Art Deco pink bathrooms to the midnight blue bedroom walls, the deep forest-green details and brass bedside lamps – the look is eclectic and fun; sophisticated yet unexpected. And it’s all brought majestically together by one of the enormous statement headboard that have become Meilichzon’s signatures.
It was so nice, and – it being the Friday evening after a particularly energetic week or seven – Mr Smith and I took one look at the room, one look at each other and instantly agreed: we weren’t going to leave again until, ooh, sometime on Saturday At Least. The enormous double-ended bath was run. Sancerre, saucisson and a selection of other various snacks were summoned from room service, to be followed a short while later with a full meal served hot from the restaurant downstairs. Our staycation was in full swing.
The mark of a great hotel is whether it can help you to unwind, regardless of how comfortable your normal daily life might be. Even with no spa or a library to spread out into, the Henrietta rose to the occasion admirably. More than a nice change of décor, and the delights of an unusual minibar selection and the bathroom’s cute amenities (the Henrietta provides a little bag with a selection of gorgeous brands), more than the lack of endless chores that would be demanding our attention if we were at home, the Henrietta is just a lovely a place to spend time in. It’s a little boutique world unto itself.
Perhaps it’s the service – and this is something that the Experimental Group pride themselves on – or the comfortingly soft upholstery, low lighting and dark walls. Perhaps it’s the sense of history that pervades: with painter Samuel Scott and actress Kitty Clive as former residents of the street, and this very building once housing the office of Victor Gollancz Ltd, publisher of George Orwell, Kingsley Amis and John Le Carré among others…
Actually, do you know what it is? It’s the madeleines. Oh My God The Madeleines. If there’s one thing you need to remember if you ever stay here, it’s to order the madeleines. Freshly baked, hot from the oven, fragrant with tonka beans and served with a bucket of Chantilly cream, these are something else. They are beyond. They are heaven in cake form and worth every second of the 15-minute wait.
On the Saturday we slept in, we brunched and we ventured out for the day to absorb all the culture on our doorstep. The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery are a two-minute stroll, and all the bars and shops of Covent Garden are even more inviting when you have only a 30-second roll from your bed to get there. That evening we dined in the Henrietta’s restaurant proper, surrounded by a sociable buzz and that happy, relaxed and oh-so-stylish atmosphere the Experimentals create so effortlessly in all their properties.
We had more madeleines for dessert and took another portion upstairs. And please know that I say this with no bias whatsoever: I highly recommend you do the same.