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BARBICAN LIFE


to St John’s Square. The Zetter Townhouse


to travel. The menu comprises small plates that can be easily shared as well as supper bowls of more hearty fare


Furniture, paintings, books and ornaments throughout the Townhouse are from many diverse places, themes and styles and took Russell Sage a year and a half to collect. Attention to detail is everywhere. Glass topped coffee tables and cabinets hold collections of shells and geometry sets. Oriental ceramics come in all shapes and sizes. Stuffed animals can be seen here and there – the cat in light blue Victorian dress complete with parasol and handbag by the fire in the lounge; the boxing wallaby in the ground floor dining/meeting room and a selection of fish and antlers throughout. The second dining/meeting room also becomes the games room (bare brick walls, big black leather sofa, paintings with oriental or animal themes, small outside patio) hosting a table tennis table on the first Monday of the month where you can come and play with other visitors. Upstairs the hotel bedrooms are either a traditional antique style or more unusual. All have reconditioned vintage radios and REN toiletries. Complementary Pashley bikes are available as a green alternative to getting about the city.


Zetter Townhouse entrance


The Artillery Arms Photo by Ewan-M


An understated light blue front door opens into a lounge visually rich in colour, textures and curios. Walls are hand painted in deep dusty terracotta-pink. Russell Sage is the Interior Designer and he has created the Townhouse in the style of a eccentric relative’s home, the fictional Aunt Wilhelmina, who’s large portrait by local artist Thomasina Smith (famous for the moving portraits in the Harry Potter films) graces the north wall. The south windows of the lounge and hotel bedrooms look on


The staircase walls are papered with 1940’s and 50’s newspapers – Winston Churchill looks proudly out of his birthday portrait from November 30th 1954. We have brunch. The Full English Breakfast has perfectly poached eggs, tasty strips of crisp streaky bacon, plump pork sausage, baked beans, thick springy brown toast, two slices of smooth almost crumbly black pudding (no fat in site) and a couple halves of juicy roasted tomato garnished with thyme and a little thinly sliced garlic. The bacon sandwich has plenty of crispy bacon in thick slices of fresh white bread with HP sauce on the side.


Scrambled eggs with toast and smoked salmon is garnished with flat leaf parsley. The full veggie breakfast has eggs, avocado, spinach, roasted tomato, field mushrooms, baked beans and toast. Cornish Tregothanan Earl Grey tea (the only tea grown in the UK) is a blend of Assam slightly scented with bergamot. Other options, also from Rare Tea co, are Green Leaf, Jasmine Silver Tip (good with sweet dishes), RAF, Turkish Camomile and Cornish peppermint.


Bread and butter pudding is the best I have ever had. The bread has been soaked in crème anglaise, it is soft and springy, not wet. There are lots of raisins and a sprinkle of small pieces of chopped apricot that gives


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a subtle flavour variation and adds colour. My companions have apple crumble made with a delicious apple puree, served with custard.


Booking is essential for evening visits, lunchtimes are quieter. Tony Coniglario, of 69 Colebrooke Row cocktail fame, has created the cocktails and drinks menu. He invents and reworks beverages in his laboratory above his cocktail bar, 69 Colebrook Row, Islington. Food prices are extremely reasonable. While most small plates are in the region of £4.50-£7, even the slightly larger supper bowls are not much more – for example the most expensive of these, the wild rabbit casserole and herb dumplings, comes in at only £7.50.


The Zetter Townhouse certainly achieves Russell Sage’s intention of feeling like the carefully and tastefully decorated home of a well-travelled eccentric relative with eclectic tastes. And having such a marvellous breakfast for Saturday brunch completed the picture. Aunt Wilhelmina is obviously quite a cook! Address: The Townhouse, 49-50 St


John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ, Telephone: 0207 324 4545. It’s an autumn Sunday lunchtime in early November. There’s a chill in the air so we are sitting by the fire in the Artillery Arms looking out on the trees in Bunhill Fields. I have a glass of Fuller’s Discovery (a lighter, chilled bitter) but you could equally partake of five or six other stronger Fuller’s bitters or even the visiting guest ale that lovely Landlady Caroline has in at the time. The Artillery Arms is CAMRA and Cask Mark accredited and Caroline has just finished hosting a beer festival.


Olivia, Alex and I are here for a Sunday roast. Caroline brings us generous plates of roast pork with all the trimmings. Alex loves the roast potatoes, which are cooked in goose fat and are soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. Yorkshire puddings are big and light, roast parsnips are well roasted and broccoli and carrots are nicely cooked with enough firmness to not quite have a crunch. Olivia and I agree that the homemade breadcrumb-based rosemary and thyme stuffing is outstanding. Olivia and Alex have Jude’s strawberry ice cream for dessert, I have vanilla with spotted dick. If you fancy food from the bar menu there are home cooked mains like fish pie, cassoulet and steak and guiness pie as well as daily specials and sandwiches. Children are welcome to eat at Sunday lunch times


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