Stylist’s deputy editor Susan Riley checks into London’s latest boutique hotel – the characterful Zetter Townhouse Marylebone
The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell is one of my favourite places in London. Tucked away in a cobbled square off Clerkenwell Road, the double-fronted townhouse is a residential cocktail den of the quirkiest order, stuffed full of artefacts such as cats in dresses and with a wickedly grand dining room you can hire for parties out the back. It oozes identity, largely down to the strong sense of narrative running through the entire building; its interiors are kookily designed to be the London home of ‘Great Aunt Wilhelmina’ – an eccentric old relative who you can pretend you’re visiting for a few snatched hours – and therefore feels lived in and loved.
Since its launch in 2011, it has (rightly so) won numerous awards, so to now have another Zetter Townhouse on the other side of the city, this time in Marylebone, is welcome news indeed. Bigger than the first (Clerkenwell has 13 bedrooms, this has 24), the Zetter Townhouse Marylebone opened in August this year and sits on Seymour Street in the beating heart of Marylebone – a part of town which, packed into a square extending from Regent’s Park to Oxford Street to Edgware Road to Fitzrovia, is becoming increasingly special and vibrant.
Like the Clerkenwell site, the hotel is housed in another meticulously restored double-fronted Georgian townhouse (it was once the home of poet Edward Lear, best known for The Owl And The Pussycat), but inside feels smaller, darker and noticeably more masculine. That’s because, if Clerkenwell was designed with the eccentric aunt in mind, this is the uncle’s domain. Wicked Uncle Seymour to be precise. Who from the looks of things likes his walls deep burgundy, his drapes golden and his trinkets knee-deep (vases, figurines and china plates deck every surface, with even a stone-carved giant nose mounted above a doorframe).
On the ground floor, straight off the street, is Seymour’s Parlour, a cocktail lounge decked out Georgian drawing room style with a painted ceiling that smacks of a miniature Sistine Chapel. You can eat and drink here from breakfast till late with cocktails that draw on Uncle Seymour’s love of the horses (this is a place that follows through on a concept fully; do go with it) and menus created by the Grain Store’s Bruno Loubet. Mingling with fellow residents and off-the-street walks ins – which will make it a major squash during busy times – dinner is very casual. Ours kicked off with an elderberry kir (elderberry cordial and champagne) and Valais fizz (Arquebuse vodka, lime, fir essence and soda) before sampling everything from nibbles of courgette crisps and grilled aubergine and broad bean salad to fish pie and lamb stew and mash supper bowls to an excellent chocolate pot dessert with what tasted like shredded cornflakes with attitude sprinkled throughout.
Upstairs, the bedrooms are grand but designed with a touch of distress; three parts Palace of Versailles, two parts granny flat. The Uncle Seymour touches are there again in my room – gold curtains fringed with burgundy tassels, elaborate gold drapes cascading from above to make up a grandiose headboard, a gramophone on the nightstand… The bathroom – thanks to a marble vanity unit that’s lit from the inside – glows like something out of E.T. and three of the walls are wrapped in a blown-up map of the UK, so as you sit in the bath you can take a little tour around the South West from Frome to Bodmin, Newquay and Padstow. If those views don’t suit, the upstairs rooftop apartment has a copper-plated outdoor bath complete with taps (hot tubs be gone!) out on the roof terrace. Worth the splurge if your budget can stretch, although if you’re after a glass of wine to enjoy in it, my advice would be to order the bottle; I kept ordering glasses without realising the hefty service charge added on every time the staff walked up the stairs. Like any trauma, my mind has blocked out exactly what it was but I remember thinking it was OTT in such a small bespoke property that’s meant to feel like home.
For breakfast the next morning, Seymour’s Parlour transforms into an impressive breakfast bar with yogurts, meats, preserves and breads, with hot food (croque monsieur croissants and potted eggs with avocado and smoked salmon) ordered from a menu. Then it’s out to explore Marylebone on your doorstep. The Zetter has helpfully listed all of their neighbourhood recommendations: the Daylesford Organic farm shop and cafe; Jason Atherton’s latest London outpost, Social Wine & Tapas; butcher and deli The Ginger Pig; Scandinavian cafe the Nordic Bakery; Wigmore Hall for concerts; Baker Street’s Everyman Cinema… (it’s a lovely list and means you can be lazy in your lack of research). On there too is the Sir John Soane’s Museum, just under two miles away in Holborn, whose ‘architectural collections’ inspired the interiors of the Zetter Townhouse Marylebone. Which means really, a night here – while not as magical as its Clerkenwell predecessor – is like a night at the museum. Just don’t tell Uncle Seymour.
Rooms at the Zetter Townhouse Marylebone start from £258; reservations: 020-7324 4577; Seymour’s Parlour: 020-7324 4555; thezettertownhouse.com
Town house vs country house
The Bingham in the leafy London suburb of Richmond offers an affordable and serene alternative to London’s city-centre hotels
A hundred quid doesn’t get you much in the way of a bedroom in W1, but venture a little further west out along the District Line and you get a lot more bang for your buck.
With a grand Georgian façade, tranquil riverside location, sumptuous interiors and personable staff, this note-perfect restaurant with rooms has been a favourite haunt of well-heeled Richmond locals for years.
The Bingham is also prime staycation territory, with a slick restaurant overlooking the river and an atmospheric chandelier-lit bar. Plus, the beautiful, bucolic Petersham Nurseries (petershamnurseries.com) is just a 15-minute stroll away (through actual fields; you’re not in Soho any more), with an enticing roster of candlelit evening events and wine-pairing suppers.
And no visit to Richmond would be complete without a Thames-side walk followed by deer-spotting in the wild and wonderful Richmond Park.
OK, you’re still 25 minutes on the Tube to Kensington, but for visitors from out of town, a riverside stay in Richmond makes for a brilliantly affordable and relaxed way to see the Big Smoke.
Rooms from £120; thebingham.co.uk; 020-8940 0902
Illustrations: Hattie Stewart