Go Criminal Class: Lusso Revists Georgian England At The Rookery Hotel
The Hogarthian hordes may have shuffled off to the workhouse in the sky long ago, but there’s still the thrilling taste of gin-soaked wrong ‘uns at the Rookery. Here’s Bill Borrows, for example.
‘The Rookery is located in the fashionable area of Clerkenwell,’ boasts the hotel website. ‘(Located) between the West End and The City, it is like Soho in the east, with bustling street life and a plethora of fascinating places to eat and drink.’ There’s little to argue with there. And it certainly does seem to be ‘fashionable’, if that actually means the average price of a flat in the area is £761,781* (although that has probably increased since I started writing this piece).
In the same decorous manner, the area can be said to have a ‘colourful’ past – that is, if murder and mugging, thievery and thespianism, piracy and prostitution are your thing – and the name of the hotel pays perfect homage to the area’s heritage. It has largely passed from common parlance, but a ‘rookery’ used to be an area of slum tenement dwellings populated by the poor, criminals (escaping the newly formed law enforcement agencies in the Square Mile) and ne’er-do-wells of all other descriptions.
Some may consider it ironic to taint such an example of precision boutique hotelmanship with such a pejorative – a bit like calling the new Bentley an ‘Allegro’ or, indeed, ‘Borstal’ – but it serves an admirable purpose, pointing to the roots of the building. Of the 33 rooms and suites, many are named after local luminaries such as Clarice of Cokke Lane (prostitute), Joseph Smith (thief transported to Australia), Jack Sheppard (highwayman) and Jack Ketch (executioner). To that list could be added Fagin and the Artful Dodger who introduced Oliver Twist to the art of pick-pocketing in this very area.
There are also rooms named after architects, writers and chemists, of course, but these tend not to excite the imagination of American tourists to the same degree. Or indeed that of the indigenous population (excitingly, my suite was named after a soldier-of-fortune), although the look and feel of a country house once the front door closes, a roaring open fire and the lingering smell of Christmas in late January in the heart of dirty, cold and brown slushy London certainly has the power to inspire a local as much, if not more.
As the latch clicks behind you, the world of traffic jams and wind-blown off-licence bags disappears. You’re now in Georgian England, but with 21st-century attention to detail. The discreet entrance on Peter’s Lane has made the hotel a favourite with camera-shy celebrities, but they also flock here for the exemplary service and ambience as well as the period charm and quiet luxury of the rooms. The furniture is antique, the wood panelling somehow reassuring and the privacy total. The room service is 24 hour and tickets for sold-out shows, entrance to exclusive clubs (Fabric is a half-pissed stumble away) and airport pick-ups are only ever just an ask away.
Margaret Thatcher, or so it is claimed, functioned on four hours sleep a night, likewise Napoleon. American inventor Thomas Edison claimed it was a waste of time. To that, all I can say is that they never had the chance to sleep in a bed at the Rookery. Forget about patterns of sleep and the gradual progression from light sleep to deep sleep on the way to REM sleep, when you slip under the covers in the hotel you are asleep before your head hits the pi… . These beds, many of them four posters, put the fast in fast asleep.
It’s a wrench to leave their warm embrace and, if you’ve planned ahead, you don’t really have to as breakfast can be served in your room with a minimum of fuss and exquisite attention to detail – croissants are freshly baked every morning. For the more adventurous, Smithfield Market is less than five minutes away and should you wish for a bacon sandwich then you’ve come to the right place. If you subsequently want an early morning livener, the licensing hours permit pubs like The Hope (94 Cowcross Street) to serve pints first thing in the morning. For those who prefer more elegant surroundings, the Rookery boasts a well-stocked honesty bar in the drawing room on the ground floor at the back.
The bathrooms have received particular love and attention with insane plumbing, clawfoot baths big enough to dismember a trucker and brass shower fittings overhead. In fact, between the bed and the bath, the room service and the company of a good book you could quite easily spend a lost weekend at the Rookery – hell, you might even be tempted to turn off your mobile phone. Sir Walter De Manny, the man who has provided the name for my suite, ended up founding a monastery in the 14th century – this hotel might well have the same measure of contemplative calm. Book now to slap disappointment in the face.
*As recently calculated by ubiquitous/nefarious estate agents Foxtons.
The Rookery Hotel, 12 Peter’s Lane, Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6DS. Contact +44 (0)20 7336 0931 or visit www.rookeryhotel.com for details.