If you’re looking for something closer to central London and quieter than the Ned, the team behind Experimental Cocktail Club has opened their first-ever hotel in the city. As we’ve visited their first hotel project in Paris,
The Grand Pigalle, we were curious to see if they could replicate its success—and that of their wildly popular bars and restaurants. Our takeaway from a recent visit, in fact, as the first-guest ever at the new 18-room Henrietta Hotel: it’s going to be a best-kept Covent Garden secret, as intimate as a B&B but offering some of the best food and wine options in the West End. And unlike the approach from bigger hotel brands, this recent expansion doesn’t feel formulaic at all despite cameos from longtime collaborators like interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon. Henrietta is a standalone that shines, and it most likely has to do with how much the Experimental Group members love London—so much that three out of the four moved to the city from Paris—and how they treasure a friends-and-family vibe above all.
Much smaller than the Grand Pigalle, this property links two adjacent townhouses (one of which used to be a publishing house office) on a quiet, well-kept street that somehow manages to avoid the international crowds making their rounds through Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, and Soho; Southbank Centre is only a bridge walk away, too. Outside, Henrietta still looks like two separate townhouses, and next door are good friends they’ve known for years: Max Sardi at vintage store The Real McCoy’s London outpost, and Greg Marchand’s Frenchie Covent Garden restaurant.
The location on Henrietta Street was carefully thought out; especially considering the fact that 3 of the 4 Experimental Group partners live in London (though they still return home to Paris at least once a week for business)—Romée de Goriainoff actually lives in Covent Garden and has been walking to and from the hotel during opening preparations. They’ve already opened three bars—including an Experimental Cocktail Club—in their adopted city, and the wine bar, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, is a sweet 7-minute walk from the hotel, in the cozy Seven Dials neighborhood. The bar’s sommelier Roman Jaën oversees the exciting wine list at Henrietta as well, where most of the offerings do not overlap with CVS at all. Rounding out the perfect food and drink options at the hotel’s eponymous, glass-roofed restaurant: Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous‘ menu of fresh mains with British and French flair, and cocktails by drink historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller of Mixellany.
Inside, top to bottom, Dorothée Meilichzon—the 2015 Maison Objet Designer of the year who has left her touch on most of the newest boutique hotels opening in Paris—does the most in the hotel rooms, which are on the smaller side. Her elegant design surprises in subtle ways, without ever being cumbersome: the statement-making, custom-produced headboards center the room. A floating wooden closet hides the mini bar. Two vertical split doors open into the bathroom like French windows. The marble edges of the room meet a patterned green carpet in the middle. There are no door knobs on the front door—you open with the old-fashioned metal key and by pushing. The top rooms on the 5th floor each have their own balcony and the view of the London Eye is a continuous reminder that you’re in this city, not anywhere else.
The mini fridge (Mezcal Amores, selects from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Sipsmith London Dry Gin, to name a few that you don’t see often) is a source of pride to the Group, who’ll never forget their cocktail roots. The same goes for the assortment of bathroom amenities. The lack of a proper-sized desk or table in the room will make it difficult to get much work done on a laptop, but the hotel’s mezzanine area has the sun streaming in through the glass roof if you must send those emails.
That’s where we met with de Goriainoff, the partner who lives in the neighborhood, to ask him what drives the Group to open a new location. “Everything we do, every place we’re finding—this is a place for you. Like, a [place] we wanted to be a client of. We’re never going to go to a city just for business, just for work. We go to places we love. We love Ibiza, we went to look for a place in Ibiza. There was no partner or business or anything. The same with the restaurants. We always wanted to work with Oliver Dabbous. We wanted to do a really cute beautiful hotel in the middle of London,” he tells CH. “Our brand is definitely leaning toward international, [but] at the end of the day, we still have this little French DNA—which is in the way you receive people. Every one of our clients, we consider that we are receiving at home, so we pay so much effort to the design, quality of the plates, etc. Also, we are obviously super into food.” Which is why at any of one of their hotels, it’s always more than just the room: it’s the food, it’s the drinks, it’s the area, it’s the friends they have over that night.
The Experimental Group isn’t one to rest on its laurels, keeping up with the frenetic pace of city life all the while, well, experimenting themselves. They’ve just opened
The Balagan in Paris, partnering with Chef Assaf Granit of the insanely popular, award-winning London restaurant
Palomar—seducing the 1st arrondissement (across the street from Colette) with bold Middle Eastern spices and heart. Experimental Group’s second Paris hotel, the Grand Boulevard, is also set to open by the end of this year; and the team—under strict secrecy—is constantly scouting for that right building, that right street, that right surrounding in cities where they feel something is lacking. Sight unseen, it’s safe to say that it will be a destination worth adding to your list.
Rates start at £250 for the Covent Garden rooms; reserve dates at the Henrietta Hotel online.
Room images by Cool Hunting, all others courtesy of Henrietta Hotel