Review by Fiona Duncan, published 25th July 2010.
Who would have thought that Soho would become a location for desirable hotels? There used to be none: you visited Soho and its denizens at night, but you didn’t stay. Yet today there are three standout addresses, the most luxurious of which is Firmdale’s Soho Hotel, the latest of which is Dean Street Town House, part of the Soho House group, and the most unusual of which is Hazlitt’s.
I enjoy the glamour of the Soho Hotel and I was recently thoroughly seduced by the chic cosiness of the Dean Street Town House. But what of Hazlitt’s?
Well, it’s the real deal, a far more genuine, amusing and revealing hotel than Dean Street or the Soho could hope to be.
It is named after the great radical essayist and master of English prose William Hazlitt, who died in poverty, in 1830, at No 6 Frith Street, one of three adjoining town houses that Peter McKay, an expert on the Georgian era, fashioned into a hotel in 1986 (he also owns the Rookery in the City).
Last year, a fourth building behind the original three was converted to create more reception space, a sitting room with honesty bar and an additional eight bedrooms reached, unlike the others, by lift as well as stairs.
In Hazlitt’s day, No 6 Frith Street was a boarding house. Keen to relet his room, his landlady had his body stored under the bed until he could be buried in nearby St Anne’s churchyard, where his grave can still be seen, recently embellished with a new headstone. As befits an establishment with such literary connections, the hotel is popular with authors, who leave signed copies of their works when they depart.
Expect authenticity. The sloping, creaking floorboards have been retained (it can be an uphill walk to your bed) and the rooms decorated with antiques, busts and prints. Named after people who frequented the houses in Hazlitt’s day, the rooms are delightfully different from those in most London hotels, all individually furnished, with free-standing bathtubs and Victorian fittings in the bathrooms.
In my new, luxurious junior suite, Mrs Teresa Cornelys, maroon-painted panelling, heavy damask curtains, an ornate French bed and romantic period portrait set the scene. But there are other features – surprising secrets that the guest must reveal for himself. A gilt-framed mirror hides the television; a panelled wall springs open to reveal a frothy gold and white dressing table and mirror. Upstairs, the bathroom has a classical statue, urns of orchids in wall niches and a silver swan for a basin tap, but I can’t find the loo and have to be told that it’s hiding in the carved Jacobean style piece of furniture that I thought was a romantic seat for two.
At bedtime, it’s hard to sleep, thanks to raucous noises from either Soho’s denizens or its visitors. But one can’t complain: that’s why there were never any hotels here – too unruly. Nothing’s changed.
No 6 Frith Street, Soho, London W1 (020 7434 1771;www.rookeryhotel.com). Doubles from £220 per night, including breakfast. Not suitable for guests with disabilities.