London, United Kingdom

The Zetter Clerkenwell

Price per night from$183.47

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (GBP148.33), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Modish magpie's nest

Setting

Cockney-turned-chic Clerkenwell

The Zetter Clerkenwell may look like an antique shop on entering, but it's actually a laid-back luxury hotel, with dramatic shabby-chic decor by designer Russell Sage and a cocktail bar with curious concoctions from Britain's past. Rooms are chromatic and classic by turns, with repurposed circus-carousel headboards and Union Flag-canopied four-poster beds. Inspired by the adventures and amours of an imaginary Great Aunt Wilhelmina (whose 'portrait' hangs in the bar), this hotel is like a weekend break in a rich relative's time-capsule abode.

Smith Extra

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A cocktail each in the lounge

Facilities

Photos The Zetter Clerkenwell facilities

Need to know

Rooms

13, including two suites and an apartment.

Check–Out

11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Prices

Double rooms from £178.00, including tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates exclude breakfast, but a Continental breakfast is available in the lounge for £15.50 a person, or pick from classics on the à la carte menu.

Also

Room 7 and the apartment are suitable for guests with reduced mobility (they are more spacious and have walk-in showers). The hotel has a lift which goes to all floors. There's no gym, but guests can get a day pass for nearby Gym Box for £15.

At the hotel

Umbrellas are available to borrow for free. In-room: Free WiFi, flatscreen TV, Marshall or Sonos speakers, selection of classic novels, Rare Tea Co teas and ground coffee, free bottled spring water (from the hotel’s borehole) and White Company amenities.

Our favourite rooms

Room 11, a Deluxe King, clashes colours and cultures – turquoise walls with a red fireplace; a Buddha head in the grate and a repurposed Victorian carousel headboard – creating a vivaciously vintage-style space with clear views of London's skyline from the window and a dramatic black marble-panelled bath set into the wall. Families staying at the hotel will find more than enough room in the Apartment, which has a double sofa bed in the living room and can connect to a Deluxe Double.

Packing tips

Some stamina, for a brisk bike ride over cobbles, bridges and docks in the day; and for exploring Farringdon's nightlife later on.

Also

The portrait of 'Great Aunt Wilhelmina' (which bears a not entirely accidental likeness to Vivienne Westwood), the invented character who inspired the hotel, was painted by Terry Greenwall – who previously painted portraits for the Harry Potter movies.

Children

Welcome. The Apartment can sleep two extra guests on a double sofa-bed, and can connect to one of the Deluxe Double rooms for groups of six.

Sustainability efforts

The Zetter Clerkenwell is remarkably forward-thinking, employing nifty gadgetry and schemes such as an energy loop (which heats your room and cools hotel fridges simultaneously), occupancy detection systems, water drawn from a borehole, and sustainable, recycled and environmentally friendly materials throughout. The Zetter is also a founder member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Food and Drink

Photos The Zetter Clerkenwell food and drink

Top Table

Swishing a glass around in front of a roaring fire feels especially decadent in these surroundings and if the second dining room isn't being used for events grab a perch near the stuffed boxing kangaroo for a great conversation starter.

Dress Code

You'll feel equally at home in jeans and a jacket in the bar as you would be in something pre-war and full-skirted with an opera cape. Designer Russell Sage's deconstructed Union Flag blazer is spot on, if you're lucky enough to own one.

Hotel restaurant

No restaurant, but the small eats and supper bowls in the lounge take Brit classics and give them a weird and wonderful twist; such as braised brisket and salmon ceviche served with sourdough crisps and topped with pomegranate. Take part in the most English of traditions, afternoon tea. Take your pick between Aunt Wilhelmina's tea with a selection of traditional finger sandwiches, and Uncle Seymour's with more substantial snacks like pea and ham croquettes and truffled sausage rolls; both come with scones, jam and clotted cream, and a variety of cakes. Finally choose your tea, or for something a little stronger, opt for bubbles or cocktails. There’s also a menu for vegetarians.

 

Hotel bar

This bespoke cocktail menu, carefully concocted with ingredients known for their therapeutic benefits, like St John's Wort and Vetiver, is filled with well-loved classics. But for something a little more interesting, try the Curry Leaf Daiquiri made with curried rum and spiced bitters or the Nettle Gimlet with gin and nettle cordial – packed full of immunity-boosting benefits. Not one of those crowded standing-room joints, the cocktail lounge is table-service only and in high demand, with tables available in 90-minute slots.

Last orders

The lounge serves snacks and cocktails 7.30am to 11.30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday (midnight on Thursday and Friday), and 8am to 12.30am on Saturdays (6pm on Sundays).

Room service

The service menu offers high-end nibbles, charcuterie plates and desserts – including grown-up chocolate fudge – to enjoy in the splendour of your suite (last orders are at 9.45pm).

Location

Photos The Zetter Clerkenwell location
Address
The Zetter Clerkenwell
49-50 St John's Square
London
EC1V 4JJ
United Kingdom

This Georgian townhouse sits across a cobbled courtyard from sister hotel The Zetter on St John's Square in Clerkenwell. St Paul's Cathedral is a 20-minute walk away and the Old Bailey is 15 minutes away, as is cultural nerve centre, the Barbican.

Planes

Stansted airport (www.stanstedairport.com), the landing point for many budget airlines, is an hour's taxi ride from the hotel. Heathrow Airport (www.heathrowairport.com) is under an hour's drive away, but to avoid the battle of wills that is London driving, ride the Heathrow Express train to Paddington and take a leisurely Tube ride to Farringdon on the Circle line; the hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the Tube station.

Trains

There's a frequent train service direct from London Gatwick to Farringdon overground station, which is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Many National Rail trains and the Eurostar arrive at St Pancras International; from the station Farringdon is just a 15-minute overground trip away. Farringdon and Barbican Tube stations both service the Elizabeth, Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith and City lines.

Automobiles

If you decide to take the plunge and get behind the wheel in London you should be aware that driver hordes and ninja traffic officials aren't the only annoyances you'll face, because Clerkenwell lies within the Congestion Charge zone. On weekdays from 7am to 6pm, there’s a £15 daily payable to drive into and around central London (www.cclondon.com), and certain cars are subject to a £12.50 environmental charge, so be sure to ask before renting if your wheels are ULEZ compliment. There's no parking at the hotel but the Hat & Feathers NCP car park (www.ncp.co.uk) is just a minute’s drive away on Clerkenwell Road.

Worth getting out of bed for

Since Clerkenwell's factories, breweries and distilleries became warehouse conversions, fine dining and nightclubs have appeared on the scene. However, as one of London's most ancient enclaves, it’s still scattered with relics from well before the Industrial Revolution, so in between gourmet scotch eggs in Farringdon's gastropubs and waiting for the beat to drop, you can brush up on your British history. St Paul’s Cathedral – domed masterpiece and much-beloved part of the London skyline – took Sir Christopher Wren over 30 years to complete; the Shard and the Gherkin may tower above it, but this Florence Cathedral-inspired institution holds its own. The landmark dates back to the 17th century, but it’s also well known for a certain low-key wedding held there in the 1980s…Charles and Di? Nah, never heard of them either… The Museum of London’s incredible archives detail the settlements, fires, plagues and wars that built the London of today and it's made all the more fascinating because there’s still evidence of the city’s layered history close by; not least, the remnant of London's Roman wall just outside the museum. However, Clerkenwell’s not all worship and crumbling walls, Old Street is a 10-minute trot away and you can tell by the surfeit of directional-haircut sporting hipsters and bizarrely mustachioed boys skulking about that you’re in the thick of London’s art mecca. There are scores of galleries to stroke your chin in: Hoxton’s White Cube Gallery, Victoria Miro, Parasol Unit and many more tucked away in winding streets; be sure to plan your visit on the last Thursday of each month to schmooze at private views. If you prefer your art multi-faceted and all in one handy space, pay a visit to the Barbican Centre – its Brutalist architecture may look rather ominous, but this labyrinthine cultural hotspot is one of the best arts venues in the UK. Theatre, music, film, dance, art and music are all covered here, and the centre is willing to take a punt on lesser-known, international and obscure artists alongside more established ones. Performances are on every night of the week depending on what medium takes your fancy.

Local restaurants

Just around the corner from the townhouse lies Sushi Tetsu which serves an array of bite-sized fish dishes served on bamboo leaves. Don’t be shy, chefs here will happily make any off-menu rolls and there’s a chef’s selection for the choice-stricken. A few minutes away, Granger & Co. serve all-day Australian-inspired fare, or, if the whimsical Brit-a-brac in the Zetter Clerkenwell tickles your fancy, St John will suit you finer than a bowler hat. The restaurant’s ever-changing menu is filled with quirky dishes revived from a few eras back

Local bars

The Hat and Tun is a traditional British pub filled with Chesterfields, a dark-wood bar and a menagerie of stuffed animal heads. Here half pints o’ prawns and kiln-roasted salmon are washed down with a range of Brit beers. A 10-minute walk away you’ll also find the Craft Beer Co. in Leather Lane, the fleet of beer taps that greet you along the bar of this cosy boozer are a welcome sight indeed. With 16 cask beers and 21 keg beers to sample, this Clerkenwell favourite may require a few repeat visits.

Reviews

Photos The Zetter Clerkenwell reviews
Matthew Hurst

Anonymous review

By Matthew Hurst, Wheeler and dealer

A small, charming Georgian square deftly removes the townhouse from the Clerkenwell Road. I arrive at the cobblestone EC1 cul-de-sac and enter the front door to discover… a rather fabulous cocktail bar. There’s no real reception – once we’re identified as staying at the hotel (walking in with luggage helps with that), a member of staff asks us to take a seat, another enquires if we’d like a drink. I wasn’t planning on one, but a quick scan around the room at people settling in and enjoying an afternoon libation, I realise this is exactly the right way to start.

The Zetter Clerkenwell evokes a certain type of Englishness. Or perhaps many certain types. From stripes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Paul Smith suit, bag or umbrella, to brocante and antique brass lamps, replica ships, animal illustrations, heavy crimson curtains and reclaimed stools. Each piece might not ‘match’ but certainly comes together and creates a distinct whole.

It may be counterintuitive to be envious of a person who doesn’t exist, but the inspiration for the Zetter – a character called Great Aunt Wilhelmina – has led a rather fabulous life if her paper (and trinket) trail is to be believed. The intricate free-hand paintings on the lift doors hark back to halcyon hippie-trail treks, repurposed vintage magazine wallpaper speaks of her Lambeth days, and headboards in the top-floor rooms – made from Victorian carousel trappings – are souvenirs from the time she ran away to the circus; the Master at Arms cocktail served in the bar is a subtle nod to a dalliance Wilhelmina had with a sailor during the war. If you’re going to stay in a fictional character’s ‘house’, it may as well be a dun-roaming flâneur with a saucy side, a hefty fortune and some healthy eccentricities.

We’re in the Apartment. While still more like a hotel room, it is certainly as big as an apartment – particularly one in Paris or Manhattan – and by London standards, it’s a room of generous proportions. If this Zetter weren’t such a stickler for detail you might not feel so green-eyed, but Great Auntie’s story is crafted to be watertight; all modern technology is covered by tapestries or made from repurposed vintage tech, bathrooms have purposefully tarnished mirrors and Marshall radios, the faux-herringbone wallpaper in the bar has been hand-painted and artworks hang delightfully askew in the hallways or have light fittings dangling through them. It’s uncanny, but after just a few drinks here you really do feel like a guest at her house, so you’ll feel utterly at ease donning a lounge suit, cracking open one of the Zetter’s pre-mixed cocktails in your minibar and swanning down to the lounge.

My honorary Mrs Smith lures us to a rooftop party at a hotel in the West End. Arriving at the central London hotel’s foyer that I realise how different it is to the Zetter Clerkenwell, and how unoriginal and bland some stays can be – even supposed ‘luxury’, ‘contemporary’ and ‘sophisticated’ ones. Thanks to London’s heavy drizzle, the party has been relocated to the bar; we have one drink before longing to be back at the Zetter, a jasmine tea gimlet in hand, knowing that a bed is just a stairwell away… When we do return to the townhouse, the cosiness and charm of Tony Conigliaro’s bar has been enhanced by the fact that it is now evening, and it is indeed time for a nightcap. An amaretto for the lady and an amaro for myself; the night was capped.

Being in East London on a Sunday places markets high on our agenda. After a continental breakfast next door in Bistrot Bruno Loubet (in the main Zetter hotel) and a super-sized serving of newspapers and plunger coffee, it’s a short walk to the nearest Boris Bike dock and 10 minutes later we’re getting lost in the magical Colombia Road flower market and fighting for space at the bar at the Royal Oak, the wonderfully boisterous pub in the heart of it all.

Finally we retreat back to the hotel room, and settle happily into an afternoon of laptop-tapping while perched facing the window in the square below. A stately antique writing desk, a shiny new silver laptop, a gin from the mini-bar… what more could a writer want? It’s the kind of desk you could pen a memoir at. Staring out into the window as I do far too often, it hits me that the view from the room is lovely – not really of anything at all, other than a cobblestone square and a few brick buildings, but complete with a red phone box, black cab and people scurrying around with umbrellas, it’s a classic London view, yet without a landmark in sight.

As for where to eat, the Zetter’s location dazzles with dining options. It’s just a five-minute radius from some of London’s great drinking and dining spots, including Moro, Caravan, Quality Chophouse and the Sessions Art Club, which is a few doors down. 10 minutes by cab, bus or Boris Bike puts you at Broadway Market, London Fields, Shoreditch and Dalston, or the same in the other direction and you’re at Covent Garden, Soho and the West End. It inspires you to make like that Great Aunt Wilhelmina, and be a great explorer. And if you’re feeling too lazy you could always stay put – you’ll feel as though you’ve had an adventure from here. 

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Price per night from $183.47