Michael Edwards lives like a fellow in The Fellows House, a new hotel in Cambridge
Ideas swirl in the Folio Bar at The Fellows House. Concepts cluster. Words fly. In fact, throughout The Fellows House, there are 163 quotes, from the great and the good of academia, scattered around the rooms and public areas.
A cocktail list, inspired by the publications of Cambridge’s illustrious alumni fires the imagination – and the taste buds. Attenborough’s “Life on Earth”, Hawking’s “History of Time” Turing’s “The Enigma”, Quentin Blake’s “Theatre of Imagination.”
Even though “If I May” is a tribute to an A.A. Milne collection of essays rather than his Winnie the Pooh opus, it’s hard not to imagine Winnie sat at the bar trying to console a depressed Eeyore.
With its bookshelves and sumptuous tan sofas, The Folio Bar has something of a Senior College Room aura. Though there is no hushed library silence here. The soundtrack is cannoning pool balls, a jazzy playlist and good times laughter. After all, it has a heady cocktail list.
Appropriately for a hotel where a double helix decorated wall celebrates Crick and Watson, the fellows who walked into The Eagle pub and announced that they had discovered the secret of life, Cambridge’s DNA is imprinted in The Fellows House.
Artwork celebrates the Colleges’ crests, gothic arches, boat races, equations, punting and epic poetry. Above all, there is the dynamic energy of a university that has been fuelling intellectual advances for more than eight centuries. It is less than a mile to the Trinity College study where Newton got a grip on gravity.
My one-bedroom Gormley apartment, a tribute to Cambridge graduate Sir Antony Gormley, has artwork featuring A.S. Byatt wisdom: “Art does not exist for politics or instruction. It exists primarily for pleasure, or it is nothing.” Guest don’t so much as check-in at The Fellows House, they enrol for the broadest of educations. And great cocktails. And fantastic food.
From the alphabet jumble inscribed on the twin copper columns by the entrance, a tribute to Turing’s code-breaking abilities, The Fellows House is a paean to academia.
Though Twenty2Degrees, the interior design company, prefer their poems deconstructed: on the pigeon-holes behind reception a poem has been filleted down to its individual words. The artwork on the Folio Kitchen’s walls dissects poetry too. Deconstruction is a major theme. From five bicycles rebuilt into a sculpture in reception to the deconstructed pear tarte tatin. Perhaps, dissection is an academic trait …
Like a college, The Fellows House is designed for long stays. In fact, the majority of rooms are apartments: studio, one-bedroom, duplex. Not that college rooms feature Hansgrohe rainfinity showers or Noir toiletries.
Some guests check in for a few days to explore Cambridge, others book in for months for work or to study. Gym, sauna, steam room and a small indoor lap-pool provide guests with plenty of opportunities to work on their health and wellness.
Cambridge’s historic, medieval centre, owned and dominated by the Colleges, is not car friendly. Beneath the hotel, there is a large, well-lit underground car park with plenty of electric vehicle charging points. This is a location where it is best to forget the car and appreciate morning mists rising from the Cam as you meander into Cambridge.
Most guests have the option to self-cater in studios or apartments with kitchens, particularly as they are a two-minute walk from a small supermarket. Though the hotel’s restaurant is always tempting.
The Folio Kitchen caters for long stay guests by ringing the changes with a fishy catch of the day, the butcher’s choice and the pie of the day. One of the great strengths of the menu is a wide range of plant-based options: gnocchi with burrata, cabbage cannelloni, Romanesco with cassoulet, tempeh and slaw.
At the front of the hotel, The Sage of Cambridge is a cafe for locals dropping in for breakfast, coffee or a light lunch, but it is also popular with residents grabbing a drink as they head out or looking for a snack on their return.
When the time comes to leave this elegant elegy to Cambridge, it is not so much a matter of checking out but rather graduating. A ritual given sanctity by the assured gaze of Dr Davidson Nicol, the first black African fellow at Cambridge, from his oils portrait.
The Fellows House provides an education, not just of Cambridge. It is a Darwinian experience, a lesson in how Hilton’s Curio Collection of Hotels has rapidly evolved to meet contemporary needs. You almost expect a gown and mortarboard as you depart.
Tell Me More About The Fellows House, Cambridge
Rooms start from £170 per night for two people staying in a Kipling room on a B & B basis