Short stay: The Fellows House, Cambridge, UK
“Feel at home, feel inspired, feel like a fellow,” invites the hotel’s mantra. Strategically positioned, a mere eight minute stroll from Jesus Green, The Fellows House is the very essence of Cambridge.
Symbolically, Crick and Watson’s DNA double helix is imprinted into The Folio Bar’s walls. Whilst the heritage of Cambridge’s esteemed academic fellows flows through the hotel’s DNA. Featuring 131 bedrooms and apartments this is a home-from-home and not just for a short stay.
Guests range from families exploring Cambridge for a few days, through business folk based in Cambridge for months and onto mature students studying for a masters degree at the university.
In a city where parking is at a premium, the Fellows House has a large, well-lit underground car park with a lift to reception on the ground floor. Friendly formalities are quickly completed and we head to our apartment.
The Fellows House offers Kipling rooms, evolving through to Darwin duplex suites. Our Gormley – named after Trinity College artist Sir Antony – is a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen area, a lounge and a bedroom.
Both lounge and bedroom have wall-mounted 49 inch TV screens, plus individual climate control. Light wood flooring and a palette of greys, with a suggestion of minimalism, give guests the space to relax.
A black-and-white photographic collage of Cambridge architecture – college crests, peaceful quads, wooden bridges over The Backs evokes the city’s academic heritage. The kitchen with fridge, hob, microwave, kettle, toaster and dishwasher is ideal for a quick breakfast or cooking in the evening.
The hansgrohe rainfinity showers are thoughtfully designed. There is room to push the on button and set the temperature without being deluged by cold water.
Villeroy & Boch basins and WCs with Noir toiletries by The White Company complete the high specification bathrooms. Apartments with baths are also available.
Deep tan leather sofas combine with bookshelves to give an air of a College’s Senior Common Room in the Folio Bar. A display of Japanese gin distilling copper and glass, a pool table and a jazzy playlist remind guests that this is actually a bar.
Academia inspires an original cocktail list, based on the published works of Cambridge alumni. Not only is “Life on Earth” a vibrant creation of vodka, banana and honey-infused vermouth, it is also topped by a bee hand-drawn by mixologist Gabie. Other cocktails celebrate the works of Quentin Blake, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, A.A. Milne and Alan Turing.
Plant-based dishes appear on the Folio Kitchen’s menu alongside fish, meat and poultry. Carnivores and vegans are equally cared for. Sous-vide cooked rump of lamb competes against gnocchi with burrata. Prime fillet of beef vies for diners’ attention over cabbage cannelloni. The fishy catch of the day, resting on risotto, takes on baked Romanesco with cassoulet. It’s an imaginative menu offering specials providing variety for the long-stay residents.
Thinking health and wellness there is a very well-equipped gym, a sauna and a small lap-pool. The Sage of Cambridge is a cafe at the front of house, where locals drop in and guests grab a tea or coffee on their way out or back in.
A fifteen-minute walk takes guests to Cambridge’s historic centre. A walking tour, given by a Cambridge graduate from Alumni Tours, is a fascinating introduction to almost two millennia of Cambridge history.
Since the days when Queen Boudicca gathered the Iceni tribes on the banks of the Cam to attack the Roman occupiers, Cambridge has had a rich history. University days began in 1209. Then in 1543, Henry Vlll planned to close the universities.
Fortunately, the king changed his mind to found Trinity, the richest college of all, where Newton worked out his theory of gravity. Walking tours take in The Eagle pub where Crick and Watson announced that they had discovered DNA, a laboratory where the electron was discovered and Fitzbillies serving Cambridge’s finest sticky buns since 1920. The view across The Backs, towards Kings College with its grand chapel, is the quintessential Cambridge scene.
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Other nice touches
Cambridge colleges give students reading lists. Fellows House places books on bedside tables. The Folio Bar, living up to its name, has shelves full of tomes, many published by Cambridge alumni.
Thoughtfully, apartments with kitchens are equipped with a cookery book. Long-stay residents receive hampers to help with their self-catering. Down in the basement there is a laundry for their use.
Rooms start from £170 per night for two people staying in a Kipling room on a B & B basis.
The best bit
From the copper-clad columns by the entrance, their jumbled alphabet celebrating Turing’s code-breaking talents, The Fellow’s House décor pays homage to Cambridge. Thick oil layers of a portrait of Dr Davidson Nicol, the first black American fellow at Cambridge, dominate reception. On the opposite walls, bicycles have been deconstructed to create a wall sculpture marking Cambridge’s love affair with the bicycle.
Interior design firm Twenty2Degrees has created a tribute to Cambridge. Throughout the hotel there are 163 quotations from Cambridge alumni, running the theme of academic curiosity and creativity through almost every room.
The final verdict
The Fellows House is a member of Hilton’s Curio Collection. It’s a distinctive luxury brand where thoughtful interior design reveals the very essence of the location.
Guests don’t check out from Fellows House, they graduate: usually a little better read and with deeper knowledge of the historical gem that is Cambridge.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by The Fellows House and Alumni Tours.