The light-blue front door leads straight into the cocktail lounge, where designer Russell Sage has taken no prisoners. Miss Havisham meets Ms Westwood. Over a bottle of absinthe.
One long room is bar (which does good snacks such as courgette fritters, roast head of garlic, charcuterie), hotel lounge and breakfast room. Framed needlepoint, velvet couches, polished oak, a stag's head, stuffed birds in a Victorian glass case, and – a triumph of taxidermy this – a parasol-wielding cat in a crinoline.
The bar is fashioned as an apothecary's dispensary. Staff wear rustic cotton jackets and neckerchiefs. Any minute now, surely, they will burst into a well-loved tune from Oliver!
A trip to the basement games room (3D TV, Wii, table tennis) reveals a glimpse of 16th-century priory wall.
The decor at Townhouse embodies a ‘more is more’ philosophy. Every square inch of surface area is occupied by something lovely, as if a couple of eccentric collectors moved from a country manse and felt compelled to fit all their possessions into two rooms.
The result: one of the most beautiful bars in London, and certainly the most unusual-looking. We’d come here for that alone, but the cocktail list is of fittingly high quality – not surprising, since it was devised by Tony Conigliaro (of 69 Colebrooke Row).
Even though Conigliaro is known as a techno-wizard, the original drinks here are fairly simple and restrained. And wonderful. Among the house cocktails, check out the Köln martini, the Somerset sour, and the jasmine tea gimlet.
Service is friendly and helpful.
For four to six people, the table to the right of the front door (two comfortable, mismatched sofas) is heaven.