The Square Mile might have been closed, but VICTORIA OWEN found a hotel to put a smile on her face

I have an issue with staying in the City of London, and its peripheral area, at the weekend. It’s always closed.

Hampstead, Westminster, Chelsea, Marylebone. Each of these places offer life after 5pm on a Friday. But The City…?

That’s before I arrived at Farringdon Station on a cold, damp, wet weekend to be warmly welcomed to a Clerkenwell hotel which has enough character for the whole area.

Zetter Townhouse is saturated in enough Victoriana to satisfy any hardcore vintage enthusiast, yet – with its beautifully designed rooms – still has the up-to-date feel you’d expect from a sumptuous boutique hotel.

In fact, with just 13 decadent bedrooms within its Georgian walls, a stay at Zetter really does feel like a visit to an eccentric great-aunt (just as the independent owners promise on their website). The rooms are unique, lovingly filled with obscure antiques mixed with modern twists.

Despite her dotage, this great-aunt serves fabulous – award-winning – cocktails. This meant that on that dark, dank weekend in October, hubby and I felt little need to leave the confines of the quiet “parlour”, where staff were only too happy to provide beverages and nibbles.

Although food is not prepared on the premises, Clerkenwell is actually rather much alive at the weekend, with a wealth of good grub on offer. The very fact that one of my husband’s favourite restaurants (St John) was snuggled around the corner, was enough to keep him mollified, but the Zetter nibbles proved plenty as we enjoyed a delicious variety of house cocktails.

The following day, the rain held off. After a wonderful full English (which we watched arrive from across the road at the Townhouse’s big brother The Zetter Hotel), we pottered “Up West”. One of my favourite pastimes in London is walking, and the journey from Zetter Townhouse to Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery did not disappoint. It included a 40-minute meander past some of London’s historical landmarks, including Smithfield Market, Fleet Street, The Royal Courts of Justice and Somerset House. Plus all the activity, energy and life you’d expect from London.

The funny thing is, that as we left the Zetter Townhouse, I felt the urge to find a key to double lock the front door. It is so small and intimate that it really is like a private residence. Other than the suitcase packing at the end of our stay, it truly felt as if we were staying at our own home. Obviously, this makes for a very relaxing – no holds barred – experience. And actually, I don’t think the staff would bat an eyelid if you placed your stockinged feet up of the sofa or coffee table.

If you want to fully submerge yourself into the Townhouse experience, you can, should you have the funds, dive in and take ownership of the whole building, including its dining room and games room. That’s accommodation for 26, private dining for 30 and cocktails for 120 of your closest friends.

But for us, one room was plenty to enjoy a grey autumn weekend in London, and we’ll certainly return to enjoy Great Auntie’s hospitality soon.


49-50 St John’s Square, London EC1V 4JJ

Reservations: 020-7324 4560

Room rates vary from £215 to £522 per night