Sophie McIntyre experiences peace and opulence in a Georgian City retreat
The best things in life are unexpected. Tucked down a cobbled street and removed from the clamour of Bishopsgate and Commercial Street, where you least expect to find it, is the carefully restored 18th Century façade of Batty Langley’s.
Although grand – it’s a six-window-wide redbrick Georgian townhouse – the exterior is more akin to that of a museum. There is just a small round sign hanging from an antique gaslight to point the way – all very mysterious and Dickensian. Already, Batty Langley’s feels like a well-kept secret.
The hotel is quiet (nothing like its bustling contemporary neighbours, such as the Ace Hotel) but homely – there is an inviting fire in the lobby and the hallway is lined with portraiture. If it wasn’t for the reception desk, you could almost believe that you are returning home to your Georgian residence after a day’s work. (Perhaps this is what Bartholomew (Batty) Langley himself might have felt, upon returning from his studio to a similar townhouse. The hotel’s namesake was an eccentric Georgian gentleman, a maze-obsessed garden designer, architect and prolific author.)
We take the amusingly anachronistic lift to our rooftop rooms. The Kitty Fisher Suite is named after an 18th century courtesan and celebrity. Fisher was the subject of a Joshua Reynolds’ painting, who actively courted publicity and was well known for her affairs with wealthy men.
And I imagine Miss Fisher would have approved of the opulent interior. The apartment, complete with an antique four-poster bed upholstered in rich green brocade and velvet, has a small sitting room/library area and a fantastic, Parisian-style balcony, from which you can survey the East End. Televisions are hidden in panelling or cabinets, lighting is subtle and mostly in brass and antiques adorn the room.
As soon as the porter has left us, I hear a tap running in the bathroom, as I take a moment on the balcony. The French doors open dramatically and I am faced with my companion (MP), who is in usually high spirits.
‘You need to see the bath,’ he says.
Now, MP is a tall man. He is six-foot six/just over two metres. As you can well imagine, it is unusual for a gentleman of his stature to have any space by the taps in your average London tub, and the Georgian-style vat in front of us is swimming-pool-like in scale. This is a huge boon for MP. It also features a Victorian canopy bathing machine (a striking copper shower and guard attached to the bath) and ornate Georgian taps.
Dressed for dinner, we head downstairs to receive few guests in one of our drawing rooms (we are easily adjusting to the fantasy). We pop our heads into the Library, a cosy red sitting room, where one could get lost for hours with a pot of tea and a good novel, but decide on the more formal and aptly-named Tapestry Room. On the walls are tapestries of oaken forests – an era- appropriate motif that also features on much of the room’s upholstery. We pour ourselves gin and tonics from the honesty bar and spend a hour imagining life in 18th Century London. Leaving our Georgian idyll for a Friday night out in Shoreditch is something of a shock to the system.
The hotel is conveniently located for nightlife, however, and we barrel down the cobbles, and into bed a little later than planned. Fortunately, we awake in a glorious four foster bed with views out over the City and there is breakfast in bed. A knock at the door and we are presented with – smoked salmon, viennoiserie, granola, green smoothies and excellent coffee to revive us before we brave the real world.
Batty Langley’s is the romantic brainchild of Douglas Blain and Peter McKay. The pair is also behind the Hazlitt Hotel in Soho and The Rookery in Clerkenwell.
And the team’s historical project has been a great success. If you are visiting the City and want peace, opulence and something a little out of the ordinary, then a stay in the Batty Langley’s time capsule would be perfect.