The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell
49-50 St John's Square
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.
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.
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 Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith and City lines.
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 £10 daily payable to drive into and around central London (www.cclondon.com). 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, Kemistry Gallery, Rocket 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.
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The Modern Pantry’s dove-grey walls and black furnishings act as a subtle backdrop to dramatic dishes, such as sugar-cured New Caledonian prawn omelette and coconut- and lemongrass-braised pork belly. The Modern Pantry also does a brunch menu that goes above and beyond your average fry up, with trappings such as tea-smoked salmon, yuzu mayonnaise and English muffins with kumquat marmalade. 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. If you prefer your light bites in the form of designer dim sum, head to Cicada where inventive tempuras and sashimis served in dainty dishes are the order of the day. They also serve heartier BBQ dishes such as black cod with sweet miso and lamb rendang. If the whimsical Brit-a-brac in the Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell tickles your fancy, St John will suit you finer than a bowler hat. The restaurant’s menu is filled with quirky dishes revived from a few eras back but even though chitterlings and dandelion, roast bone marrow and parsley salad and rabbit offal may have gone out of vogue, fortuitously St John realised they were tasty enough to warrant a comeback.
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.