Don’t let Charleston’s ‘old South’ reputation confuse you; Zero George hotel has no doilies or chintz. What it does have: restored colonial architecture, Architectural Digest-worthy interiors, an inventive local restaurant and plenty of shaded piazzas (that’s a veranda, in Charleston-speak) for your afternoon gossip. Oh, and the high street, King Street, is just a few minutes away on foot.
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Glass of champagne upon arrival. SilverSmiths also get free parking; GoldSmiths also get a room upgrade upon check-in, if available
Noon. Check-in, 4pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £275.06 ($341), including tax at 14 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $2.28 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include Continental breakfast and nightly wine and cheese.
In the 1804 carriage house, the original kitchen has been fully restored and updated for cooking classes with the chef, held weekly on Monday evenings and Saturday lunches. Contact the concierge in advance to book or to plan a private event.
At the hotel
Furnished courtyards and piazzas, 24-hour coffee centre, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, iPod dock, minibar, radio and Malin and Goetz bath products.
Our favourite rooms
While the spacious Garden Suites have room for entertaining and open onto a semi-private courtyard, we’re rather partial to the charming and elegant top-floor Anson Suite, with its second-storey piazza and views of Charleston Harbour.
A lace fan for fanning yourself as you lounge about on one of the piazzas with sweet tea in the afternoon.
While the hotel does not have a gym, guests get free access to one three blocks from the hotel.
Not unwelcome, but not catered to.
Not only is all food in the restaurant sustainably produced and locally sourced (some even from the on-site garden!), but the hotel also composts food waste, uses only LED lights and has natural gas tankless water heaters.
If the weather permits, get a table on the covered piazza or in the courtyard. Otherwise, a window-side table indoors will overlook the garden courtyard.
Simple elegance, like the hotel itself; pearls and khakis won’t go amiss, but leave the sweaters at home, as the weather is usually quite warm.
Relaxed and understatedly sophisticated, Zero Restaurant and Bar is a guests-only breakfast spot by morning (fresh fruit, pastries, cappuccinos and the like), a sultry wine bar by 5pm (when it opens for free, guests-only wine and cheese daily) and a locally supplied haute cuisine restaurant by 5pm Tuesday to Sunday evenings. Dinner sees the likes of braised swordfish with fingerling potatoes and pickled shallots or house-cured duck confit with butternut squash risotto. If you book a cooking class (held Saturdays from 11am to 1 pm and Mondays from 7pm to 9 pm), it also includes a three-course meal with wine pairings.
Part of the restaurant, the bar has a well-curated international wine list, as well as a seasonal cocktail menu with fresh takes on classics like the Pickled Vesper and Bespoke Manhattan.
The restaurant opens for dinner at 5pm on Tuesday to Sunday evenings. Drinks and food stop being served at 10pm.
A few blocks each from the water and Charleston’s main drag, Zero George is on a quiet, residential street. It’s a relaxing refuge for lazy mornings and afternoon naps in between excursions.
Charleston International Airport (CHS), the city’s main airport, is 18km or a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Direct and connecting flights are available from major US cities, and connecting flights are available through New York from the UK.
While you don’t need a car to get around Charleston, you might want to hire one at the airport if you plan to leave the city at all. The hotel has valet parking for $20 per day.
Worth getting out of bed for
In Charleston, stately mansions with wide, inviting verandahs line up in tidy rows, horse-drawn carriages clack up and down cobblestone streets and the scents of honeysuckle and magnolia drift on the breeze. The best way to experience a city this picturesque is to walk its streets, stand on its porches and peek your head into its many churches. Start with a walking tour from The Original Charleston Walks. They offer a variety of themed tours from Slavery & Freedom to the Civil War to Historic Homes on mellow, two-hour guided ambles. Delve further into southern history with a visit to a former plantation. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark that’s home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens, plantation stableyards and a house-turned-museum. You can also embark on horseback trail rides and guided kayak paddles right from the sprawling grounds. The second-largest city in South Carolina, Charleston is the cultural seat, and you could spend several days wanderingMuseum Mile with its collection of 15 museums and historic sites addressing subjects from slavery to contemporary art.
Charleston has no shortage of James Beard-tapped chefs and emerging culinary stars, so loosen those belts and prepare to eat well. Chef Sean Brock – heirloom gardener, seed preservationist, James Beard winner – is committed serving food that is indigenous to the south at Husk on Queen Street. Popular oyster bar 167 Raw is a two-minute walk from the hotel and serves up fresh seafood, including can't miss lobster rolls. House-made charcuterie, elegant dishes – smoked salmon wellington and duck two ways – along with a three-storey wine wall make for a decadent night out. Housed in a former bank, The Ordinary on King Street from one more James Beard Award–winning chef, Mike Lata, who also runs local favourite FIG. His newest venture is a sleek brasserie that’s the place for delicate oysters and fresh seafood creatively prepared (schnitzel triggerfish, anyone?), and, despite the name, it's anything but average.
My first attempt to visit Charleston boutique hotel Zero George was in July. Bags were packed, the ‘out-of-office’ was set, the boarding pass was printed… And then, the flight was nixed by the airline for no reason. On hearing the news, I slipped out of a meeting to call the hotel, bracing myself for a talking-to on account of the cancellation T-minus six hours before arrival. Instead, I was granted a full pardon and told: ‘when your future plans to come back to Charleston come together, please reach out!’
Well, done. My friend and I rebooked for late October – which, as it turns out, is a better time to visit the Southern United States than in the heat of the summer – and this time, our journey to Charleston was utterly, wonderfully uneventful. When we pulled up to the hotel at ‘0 George Street’ – yes, that’s somehow a real address, charmingly – we had to do a little poking around before we found the front desk: the hotel is comprised of five 19th-century buildings, all arranged around a courtyard with little sitting areas (let’s hear it for outdoor couches!) and alfresco tables for the stay’s raved-about restaurant. But when we stepped into the reception nook (set in a carriage house built in 1804), bleary eyed from our AM flight, the staff were very eager to show us around the grounds and buttoned-up and polished in a way that felt like hospitality with a capital ‘H’.
There was the bar area, where breakfast was served every morning to be taken anywhere on the property as you saw fit, as well as coffee, water and fizzy drinks all day. There was the veranda, home of ceiling fans and a cozy, in-demand day-bed, which was ideal for curling up with the gratis cheese plate and glass of wine doled out during the daily happy hour. When we returned to the hotel after a seafood-y brunch at 167 Raw and some bopping around King Street to shops like Hampden Clothing and Worthwhile, the tour resumed with our room: a sprawling space with the color scheme of Olivia Pope’s closet, all ivories, bones, beiges, and khakis. These are also known as the sorts of hues that feel like too much upkeep at home, but are exactly right when you’re on vacation. Though the suite, with its dressing room and upholstered headboard, had a classical vibe as to not disappoint the building’s exterior, the bathroom was wholly modern: rain shower, Malin + Goetz toiletries and all.
After some lazing around in our sitting room (that very much encouraged lazing around), we took our loafing to that aforementioned day-bed. We snacked on candied pecans smeared with blue cheese, before dipping out for drinks at the Bar at Husk and dinner at the communal table at FIG (two of the food-and-bev places that anyone we quizzed about the city recommended). Next up: flopping into our cushy bed with more pillows than we knew what to do with and pretty, little glass water bottles left on our nightstands during turn-down.
The next day, we motivated ourselves to explore the city more voraciously and after brunch at open-and-airy Feathertop, we tackled a self-led tour of historical homes, booked through the Preservation Society of Charleston. Our favorite stop was a former cotton warehouse converted into a modern-industrial home just off the water. It, like everything else we’d done on the trip, was within a 20-minute walk from Zero George, which kept us on foot and really seeing the city, instead of in the back of an Uber, gabbing and flicking through Instagram.
The big plan for the evening was to make our way through the prix fixe menu at the on-site restaurant, masterminded by chef Vinson Petrillo. We were seated outside in jacketless-but-breezy weather, which felt especially good after an unseasonably hot (and mosquito-punctuated) day. To say the service was enthusiastic would be an understatement: our waiter acted as though there was nothing in the world he’d rather be doing than explaining the liquid parmesan tortellini, or talking us through the nuances of a stellar orange wine. Somehow – surprisingly, really — he also knew how to give us space, which allowed us to overeat (and, fine, drink) before we walked the few hundred feet back to our room.
In light of some WiFi wonkiness (that the Zero George team tried very hard to remedy) and a looming inbox, I slipped out of bed the next morning while my friend dozed. I stepped back into that same outdoor dining area from eight hours before, this time setting myself up with coffee, berries, hard-boiled eggs and my laptop. I owe thanks to the clattering of saucers and the abundant palmetto trees for making me feel more sociable and vacation-y, less like I was playing email Whack-a-Mole.
On that last day, we drifted a little further out of the center of town for lunch at Xiao Bao Biscuit, ambled back to the hotel and had one last glass of seltzer on the day-bed you’re probably tired of hearing about. We then left Zero George, with just one regret: that we weren’t there long enough to validate sending a handful of the watercolour-print postcards stacked up at the front desk.
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