I lived in Bethnal Green during my second year at university. And although I left after a year, it still has a special place in my heart as it was the first area that I lived with a friend in a (rented) flat after enduring the squalid living conditions of rancid university halls.
At the time I wanted to get away. Apart from a few pubs down to road in Shoreditch and some extraordinarily grungy clubs in Dalston, there was nothing else for me in the area. This was before the ‘foodie’ regeneration of East London. When I lived in the area, there was no Kêu!, no Shoreditch Grind, no Allpress Espresso, no Albion – you get the picture.
There was also no Town Hall Hotel, although unbeknownst to me work had already started on the regeneration of the building to turn it into one of London’s most desirable hotels with a Michelin starred restaurant to boot. The building had lain dormant for 10 years before Singapore hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng bought it and spent the next 5 years renovating it. And I’m so glad he did.
Situated on Cambridge Heath Road, Town Hall Hotel sits proud in the old heritage listed Bethnal Green Town Hall and features Michelin starred restaurant, Viajante by Nuno Mendes, a separate hotel bar across the hall and the newly opened Corner Room (also by Mendes). I have dined at Corner Room a few times for lunch recently but I’ll save that for another post.
I was invited to review the hotel and I decided to do it the night before my trip to Hong Kong as I had booked the next day off. It was also a night that I’d booked tickets to see Baxter Dury at Hoxten Kitchen down the road so it worked out perfectly. I had planned to have a quick meal at nearby Busaba before heading to the gig but my mind was changed after checking into my room following a lunch at Corner Room that afternoon.
After being greeted by a wonderfully polite bell boy who carried my suitcase up the stairs to reception, I checked in and was shown to my room. As I entered I immediately felt a sense of calm. The high ceilings, white walls, mid century modern furniture, polished wooden floors and total cleanliness and simplicity of the room won me over. The small room is multifunctional and the architects (Rare) have made incredible use of the limited space, making it feel bigger than it actually is. The bathroom opens out to the bedroom and is separated only by a large glass wall. At first I was surprised how open it was, until I discovered a hidden door and a white curtain to shield you from the world. All amenities are crisp white and complimentary L’Occitane toiletries stand on top of the sleek sink unit. A large column runs down the middle of the room from floor to ceiling, which houses a concealed kitchen on one side and the bathroom on the other. Open a set of folding white doors on the left hand side to reveal a kitchen with ALL of the mod cons – microwave, oven, pots and pans, even a dish washer and washing machine! I couldn’t contain my excitement and changed my mind about dinner immediately. With a quick stop off at a local supermarket on my way back to the hotel from the office, my dinner plans were sorted.
As I was cooking a dinner of pan fried sea bass with chilli and garlic tender stem broccoli and creamy mash, I heard a knock at the door. I hastily opened and was greeted by a huge silver tray full of truffles. The two members of staff that were delivering them excitedly placed four in my hands and were off in a flash, giggling down the hall. The truffles were enjoyed with an espresso from a nippy machine in the room after our dessert of tart au citron with fresh raspberries. Ok so I cheated with the mash and dessert but it was cheaper and more satisfying than dining out. Any hotel that includes a kitchen in your room is a complete winner for a keen cook.
We arrived back from the gig at around 11pm and decided to make use of the swimming pool located in the basement, which stays open until midnight. The pool room is beautiful – white with splashes of gold and dark blue pool tiles, which make the water look moody and inviting. The water was just warm enough to slip straight in and after a few lengths we retreated to bed.
We awoke early for breakfast (which is not included in the price of the room) at Corner Room. We were presented with a choice of a continental buffet (£6.50) or dishes off the menu. Dishes varied from roasted mushrooms with hash brown & duck egg to homemade muesli with yoghurt. We opted for the avocado on toast and poached eggs with chorizo & paprika. I wasn’t so sure about the sunflower seeds on top of the avocado and I thought that the chorizo dish should have come with a slice of toast, despite the addition of tiny chunks of potato, but the small dices of oily rich chorizo and perfectly cooked poached eggs definitely awoke the taste buds. After grabbing the newspapers from the desk at the entrance, we sat down and enjoyed breakfast at a leisurely pace as the sun shone through onto our faces. We didn’t touch the continental breakfast, although I was lusting over the mini rich and buttery pain au chocolate and croissants and the most fantastic raisin and walnut bread.
Check out time at Town Hall Hotel is midday, which gave me enough time to have a rest in the room before heading to the gym for a work out. With state of the art equipment, I was wishing that I could get the lift down to that gym every morning!
I reluctantly left the hotel dead on midday when I was thinking to myself ‘what would it take to LIVE somewhere like this?’ This is my perfect hotel. Quite literally everything is excellent – the service, the furniture, the vintage music playing in reception, the marble staircases, the feeling that you’re in an old black and white film, the high ceilinged rooms, the beautiful pool and gym, the exquisite food, the free house cocktail at the Viajante bar – I could go on. If you don’t live in London, I advise you to stay here when you visit. If you do live in London, book a staycation. I promise you, it will be one of the most calming hotel stays of your life.
Food For Think was a guest at Town Hall Hotel.
Rooms are priced between £290 and £2,500
Town Hall Hotel & Apartments
London E2 9NF
020 7871 0460