Letter from London: East London’s boutique beds
This month, Jane Egginton visits an old post office, an unloved Victorian residence and a disused Edwardian town hall in London’s east end. All have been brought back to life, reinvented as some of the capital’s most exciting places to stay
In the 2012 bid process, London’s Olympic legacy was a big vote winner, but hosting the games in East London was a gamble. The capital has plenty of hotel rooms, but most are far from the sprawling, deprived Olympic boroughs. Factor in the predicted transport chaos, and the recent flurry of new east end hotels looks like a good business bet: beds within striking distance of the facilities will be gold dust. But what’s good for Olympic journalists and sports fans is great for locals and overseas visitors now and in the future.
The Town Hall Hotel (www.townhallhotel.com) is a spectacular example of a venerable old building given a new lease of life. A Grade II listed building, Bethnal Green’s old town hall has been lovingly – and extravagantly – restored, and the result is something special. Fashionable visitors practically float through the doors of this grand neoclassical building, on their way for a standout cocktail at the bar before dinner at the Michelin starred restaurant. They retire to spacious, vintage-furnished rooms and suites to await the ‘tea lady’ and her nightcap martinis. Pinch yourself, you are in Tower Hamlets.
By way of a contrast, guests at Russell’s (www.russellsofclapton.com) can cuddle up on the sofa with the hotel mascot, a pet whippet called Reggie. This oh-so-modern update of the traditional B&B was once just a tatty house on Chatsworth Road, a lovable high street where Jamaican take-aways happily coexist with cupcake emporiums and a burgeoning weekly market. Owner Annette claims her quirky bolthole breaks new ground in London – the sort of 21st century bed & breakfast that has been such a hit in cities like New York and Barcelona. Her guests are testament to this. They range from young Japanese tourists eager to sample the nightlife of nearby Shoreditch to relatives of local families and business visitors heading to the square mile. What they have in common is a thirst for the new and exciting, eschewing scruffy hostels, bland chains and impersonal service.
Somewhere in the middle of these two, but equally focused on getting under the skin of the locale is Avo (www.avohotel.com). It’s a family affair – the Kotechas converted the building from the post office they ran for 18 years. The name means ‘welcome’ in many languages and guests here get a real sense of what it means to live and breathe the real London. At the same time, they can enjoy international standard luxuries – elegant memory-foam beds, free DVD and complimentary Elemis toiletries. Found in oh-so-cool Dalston, Avo is certainly at the epicentre of the regeneration of east London.
Of course, with the Olympics around the corner, everyone is looking east but there is no sign that interest will wane post games – The Guardian has even called Hackney ‘the cultural heart of London’. Each of these inspiring hotels has something unique to say. They speak to an international audience while remaining quintessentially British and they do so while getting the essentials right: crisp, high thread-count bed linen, spot on service and attention to detail. Great accommodation, reasonable prices, funky locations: what’s not to like?