Living south of the river, anything outside of Lambeth is a holiday. So I was pretty chuffed to get the chance to live like a visiting Scottish tech entrepreneur and stay for a night at a swanky hotel in Shoreditch.
The area might not have the nightlife it used to, but it still fascinates me. In what century will the Old Street roundabout transformation be completed? Has Brick Lane always inspired narratives of decline and the death of the curry-house? And why does one bloke seem to own all the garish neon bars?
Hotels are hardly new to the area. A site on Commercial Street was dubbed “extremely well adapted for the erection of a first-class hotel” in 1858. The Hart Shoreditch sits pretty near that on Great Eastern Street and, despite this being a whirlwind of traffic and drinkers, once you’re inside it’s a sea of tranquillity. Someone deserves a knighthood for the soundproofing job.
On arrival on a Friday night, my companion and I were welcomed with the tastiest premix cocktails I’ve had for a while. I hope they do that for everyone. The bar is sleek, quiet and probably too chic for me.
The rooms aren’t huge – land here ain’t cheap – but they are charming, light and modern. Oh, and some of them have Nespresso machines – ideal after a night out on the town when you can’t yet stomach talking to humans at breakfast. The giant telly in front of the bed is good for that, too.
If for some reason you are avoiding stray colleagues or the fun-seeker mob and don’t want to leave a hotel for the weekend, you can dine there too – not at a restaurant as such, but a “dining concept” called Mostrador – apparently inspired by the Latin American tradition of “mostradores” or counter-service eateries. There are DJs here at weekends, but during our stay it was a tad deserted.
We were told to expect “numerous and diverse salads” and proteins “cooked simply”. But the offerings don’t scream Latin America. Top choices on the set menu include fried squid and a burger, both of which, while satisfactory, didn’t showcase particularly inventive seasonings or sauces.
I scratched my head at the vegetarian starter – is pesto gnocchi Argentinian? It was perfectly tasty, even if slightly misplaced. The main aubergine dish felt more Thai-inspired, with coriander and a pleasant limey, chilli kick. It yearned for a yoghurt cooler to balance the heat. My companion’s burger lacked pizzazz.
Desserts always offer a chance for redemption. The dulce de leche was a knockout win – finally something that tasted Latin American. The tiramisu was good, though its Sog Factor was too high.
My advice? Go elsewhere for your evening meal, but spend several hours at the breakfast buffet, whether or not you’re staying at the hotel. The choice of fry-up fare and continental spread was a joy after several glasses of the house white the night before. Toasted granola, a top tier English breakfast, cakes, muffins. I was tempted to stuff my bags or book in for another night. London-lovers will enjoy the city view – a tableau of umbrellas, buses and that bar covered in plants on the busy high street.
What did I learn from my London holiday? Not a lot, as I was so safely ensconced away from the rain, the roads and the revellers. You don’t get stellar views from the rooms, but you do get comfort and, to wash off the soot, possibly the best hotel shower I’ve ever seen.
Were I that out-of-London tech bro, creative type or well-to-do artist pitching to galleries of a weeknight, I’d choose the Hart. It’s an urban retreat and, for this Brixton denizen. a world apart
Rooms average £260 a night in November. Cocktails are £12 in the bar/restaurant, and £6 for non-boozy ones. Hart Shoreditch is an eight minute walk from Old Street station. X/Twitter: Josiah Mortimor and On London. If you value On London and its coverage of the capital, become a supporter or a paying subscriber to editor and publisher Dave Hill’s personal Substack for £5 a month or £50 a year.