Review by Fiona Duncan, published 11th March 2007.
If I were on business in the City and my employers had booked me into the Rookery, I would jump for joy. Just a glance through the windows of its three adjoining, faithfully restored 18th-century houses into the warmly lit drawing room beyond, and I would know I'd been sent not to the usual bland box of a business hotel but to a quirky period home-from-home.
But then, I love quirky. Especially in unexpected places such as the City, or, to be precise, Clerkenwell, just outside the Square Mile. In Dickensian times the area was known - for its thieves, vagabonds and prostitutes - as the Rookery, from which the hotel takes its name. Nowadays Clerkenwell is more hip and edgy than edged out, although history has a way of repeating itself: not long ago the Rookery hit the headlines when Pete Doherty was arrested there after a fracas.
But I suppose the Rookery wouldn't suit everyone. Where we found charm and integrity in the owners' love of all things Georgian and Victorian (wooden panelling, heavy four-posters, oil paintings, dimly lit, shadowy rooms), others might bemoan the lack of extras (if the purist owners had their way you wouldn't even have a telephone; as it is, there's a minibar, flat-screen TV, wireless internet and air-conditioning, but no more).
Maybe they wouldn't be amused, as I was, to ransack the room for the hairdryer, unearthing it at the bottom of the huge old wardrobe in the hallway of my room (like a pied-à-terre, on two floors, its subterranean bathroom complete with internal sash window and panelled door, Pepysian bust, roll-top bath, brass shower and matching heated brass towel rail for the fluffy towels). And they would surely side with the Tripadvisor correspondent who said he would never return to the Rookery because of the noise from the creaky floorboards above and below. Our floorboards creaked too. So did those of the room above: creak all you like, I say. My only serious complaint concerned the naked skylight that caused us to wake at dawn.
So, quirky, creaky, admirably unfussy - and cosy. You can curl up by the fire with a drink from the honesty bar, or in warm weather sit in the sliver of garden, wittily enlivened by a mural of cows being herded by two smocked peasants, portraits of the hotel's proprietors (who also own the equally excellent and quirky Hazlitt's in Soho). There's no restaurant, but who'd stay in anyway, when happening Clerkenwell beckons? We chose Portal, a few paces away in St John Street, and we chose brilliantly. Traditional warmth and contemporary chic collide in a stunning glass and chrome space where the Correia family offer Portuguese hospitality and produce delicious Mediterranean dishes, including braised bisaro (a rare Portuguese wild pig). We've since crossed London to return there.
Back at the Rookery, the morning reveals the unexpected sight of fellow guests Chantel and Preston (Celebrity Big Brother, remember?), who plainly have more sense than you might expect if this is the sort of hotel they like. Which reminds me: the Rookery isn't just for City types; it's perfect for romantic weekends too.
12 Peter's Lane, Cowcross Street, London EC1 (020 7336 0931; www.rookeryhotel.com). Doubles from £186 to £240, including breakfast. For reviews and recommendations by Fiona Duncan, visit www.thehotelguru.com.