Henrietta Hotel, Covent Garden: Is this London's chicest new boutique hotel?

Fiona Duncan
Henrietta Hotel is the latest in a trend of continental boutique hotels opening in London.

Brexit may be looming, but it hasn’t stopped a trend for continental boutique hoteliers to make their mark in London. A branch of the supercool Hotel Costes in Paris opens in Chelsea next year; The Franklin in Knightsbridge is Italian-owned and correspondingly glossy; Mimi’s in Soho has a German owner; and this new hotel in Covent Garden has been created by four Parisians.

Does it feel French? Pas du tout. In fact it’s hard to pigeonhole: “Ooh, Star Trek,” said my god-daughter Anna when she walked into the bedroom, before seeing the pink bathroom and deciding that perhaps vintage Thirties was the name of the game. We were both equally confused, and yet the strange, dark blue room grew on us. Oddities included a multi-layered headboard (a signature feature of designer Dorothée Meilichzon) mixing mirror with fabric, and responsible for the Star Trek feel; a wall-hung wardrobe that looked perilous; an emphasis on strongly contrasting shapes; and a preference for mixing patterns with abandon. 

We loved the marble skirtings and the deco bathroom with its luxurious double-ended bath; we disliked the oddly tiny loo and ill-placed metal waste bin that somehow spoiled the show, and we hated the shiny Seventies armchairs. 

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Dorothée Meilichzon oversaw the hotel's distinctive - and not a little bit quirky - interior design.

“It’s not Star Trek, or Thirties, it’s playful,” declared Anna, and she was right. The hotel’s 18 similar bedrooms, in four different colourways, are indeed playful; they are not boring and they grow on you. 

The owners are four young Frenchmen, friends since childhood, who look frighteningly trendy in their press photo but they turn out to be pretty normal and very funny, at least the ones I met. Their Experimental Group has a slew of cocktail bars, restaurants and hotels in Paris, New York, Ibiza and London, where they have had the luck to alight in a graceful building with a history. From the Thirties, it was the offices of publisher and left-wing campaigner Victor Gollancz and it saw a stream of authors, from Daphne du Maurier to Kingsley Amis, pass under the elegant stone-carved portal of its front door.

The French foursome run the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown, where London chef Ollie Dabbous became a customer. They made friends and as a result, the restaurant at their new Henrietta Hotel is run by Dabbous – quite a coup. 

There’s no guest sitting room here. Instead, the long, narrow ground floor has become a bar and restaurant, much more placid than the bedrooms, with an intimate mezzanine area upstairs and open kitchen at the far end.

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The hotel is hard to pigeonhole: the design is somewhere between vintage Thirties and Star Trek.

Anna and I tucked in with brio, kicking off with specially designed cocktails. The wine list was delivered by an Italian sommelier who tuned in to our discussion about learning the front crawl, told us she was also a swimming coach and gave us handy hints – it’s that sort of chatty place. 

As for Dabbous’s food, it is clean, clever and uncomplicated. Highlights included the sheep’s milk curds with pistachio, beef tartare with nasturtium and rye and freshly baked warm madeleines with Chantilly cream, the most delicious thing I’ve eaten all year. 

The next morning, an inventive breakfast (bircher muesli with meadowsweet, crushed green apples and pomegranate anyone?) matched the inventiveness of this delightfully quirky new hotel.

14-15 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8QH (020 3794 5313; henriettahotel.com). Doubles from £250 per night; breakfast from £15. Access possible for guests using wheelchairs.

• Read the full Henrietta Hotel review here