Situated along the gritty main road in Stepney Green, just a short walk from the tube, 40 Winks is like one of those hidden bars with password-protected entry. In fact, we were sent a clue prior to our evening and were told to be prepared with the answer before we could cross the threshold.
The home of interior designer David Carter, 40 Winks is a Queen Anne townhouse built way back in 1717, offering an opulent oasis of historic London in the most modern of high streets.
Not just a hotel, this romantic, beautifully-decorated house is also a much-used backdrop for fashion editorials thanks to its unique and undeniably quirky interior. Think antique furniture, sumptuous fabrics, atmospheric lighting and hidden treasures in each room, from candy-hued pom poms to creepy dolls and vintage teddy bears. It’s a one-off and an Aladdin’s Cave of eccentricity – the perfect setting to enjoy a bedtime story.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Mr Carter and whisked upstairs to the boudoir to slip into our silky pyjamas (the more glamorous the better – there was a prize for best-dressed guest), and asked to join the rest of the party in the cosy basement kitchen, where nibbles and deceptively-strong Hendrick’s gin cocktails were served – in tea cups, of course.
Then, the story began. We were asked to join the very theatrical storyteller, Katrice Horsley, in the drawing room, where everyone sprawled across the floor on cushions, lolled on pouffes and reclined on fur-covered sofas to enjoy the story. The theme this month was ‘Stories to make you Weep’, and we were instructed that tears would be expected…
The first half of the story took in an absorbing, dramatic and intriguing 30 minutes, before we were given another gin break and the chance to explore the house a little.
After refreshments, the story resumed for another half an hour and came to its tear-inducing conclusion. A slightly odd, but heartfelt story which completely captured the audience, the party was entranced by the lovely Katrice.
Once the story was told, prizes were given to the most glamorous and flirtatious guests and next we were serenaded by the brilliant Tom Price-Stephens, who rounded off the evening with the most-moody of his love song repertoire.
So with the evening having drawn to a close, we reluctantly swapped our PJs for outdoor attire and left 40 Winks feeling like we’d just stepped out of a weird and wonderful Alice in Wonderland-style experience. And despite its trippy nature, Bedtime Stories was the perfect way to soothe away the excess of the night before.