I went to something wonderfully odd recently. It was a regular Thursday evening and a friend and I ventured off to 40 Winks, a fabulously upmarket B&B on the Mile End Road, where we were greeted by Mr David Carter, the eccentric proprietor. Once we'd revealed the correct answer to the secret riddle (received by email a few days earlier), he ushered us upstairs where we changed into our jim jams, then joined a bunch of strangers for cocktails and canapes whilst being read scary stories. An adult version of Jackanory if you will.
40 Winks is situated in an elegant Queen Anne townhouse built in 1717. With just two gorgeous rooms, it can either be considered a very tiny boutique hotel or a wonderfully lavish B&B. The interior is a real mixture of old and new, full of antiques and Bohemian decor, whilst exuding glamour and decadence with a large dose of Mr Carter's very apparent sense of humour. When you walk through the front door, you'll see Jesus adorning the hallway wall - wearing red slippers and a top hat. There are mannequin hands in the fruit bowl, interesting wall murals and a crown-toting ornamental dog. These are just a snippet of the curiousities that fill this wonderful house. There is even a sweet little courtyard garden full of greenery, where you can sit and sip tea and cocktails. It's David Carter's home and with his warm and theatrical flair, he certainly makes you feel very welcome and at home.
Bedtime Stories is an idea that Mr Carter came up with a few years ago and has proved to be a huge hit. Around 30 guests arrive at 7pm in time to change into their pyjamas and nighties. As David mentions, this dress code is strictly enforced by the highly-trained Pyjama Police! Glamour is also encouraged, so I opted for a negligee. Everyone then gathers to enjoy Hendrick's gin-infused cocktails in teacups and a table spread with tasty nibbles. Mr Carter gives his witty introductory talk, before dividing the guests into two teams. Each team is allocated a room where they retire to and relax on cushions whilst being read a story by a professional storyteller.
We started in the upstairs drawing room where a brilliant Danish guy called Kasper Sorensen read us an intriguing, dark tale called 'The One Handed Murderer'. Each Bedtime Stories night has a different theme - ours was 'Murder & Mayhem'. Kaspar had everyone gripped with his gruesome tale, it sent shivers up our nighties! It was then time to return to the kitchen for round two of cocktails and snacks, before swapping rooms with the other team for the second story of the evening. This time with Cat Weatherill who read an equally brilliant and suitably chilling tale.
The evening ended with all the guests congregating in the main drawing room for a spot of music. A man played merrily on his accordian whilst a pretty chanteuse sang enchanting French numbers, adding perfectly to our slumber mode. It was then time to get dressed, bid farewell to our host and step out onto the Mile End Road and back to reality.
I thought Bedtime Stories was a very enjoyable evening and certainly different. There was even a prize for the most Glamorous Nightie Award (alas, someone pipped me to that one). I highly recommend you give it a whirl, but do note that these evenings are very popular so you'll need to book well in advance. Meanwhile, if you want a night away somewhere a bit bonkers, why not book into the 40 Winks B&B. You'll love it!
109 Mile End Road
London E1 4UJ
020 7790 0259
Nearest station: Stepney Green
Bedtime Stories £25 per head
To book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org