Cool, Cheap, London, Hotel. Pick any three. Every couple of months we get an email from a far-flung friend or colleague saying something like: “Can you recommend a cool hotel in London that’s not too expensive?” Having lived in London for a few years, we can say that this is no easy request, especially for those travelling under their own steam (ie: not on expenses) and carrying a weaker currency. When our friend John Ryan sent us the usual hotel/London/CanYouRecommend? email. We sent him a bunch of ideas, and he ended up at the Hoxton in Shoreditch. Here’s what he had to say. (Note: keep your eyes peeled for the Hoxton’s forthcoming venture in Holborn.)
The public restaurant/bar area at the Hoxton is beyond hipsters – fairly pricey food (and average, although it is London I guess) and dumb beautiful people giving service. But the hotel side is just lovely. Very friendly staff (like, not ‘Have a nice day’ types… friendly like your friends … conversational, not transactional). There’s also the lovely attitude: when I booked, the invoice had a line item that said something like “Pointless taxes” with a “0″. When I checked out, the account was headed “The Damage”. And every little sign and instruction had that same tone and voice. A sticker on the window showing you how to open it was titled “Stupid Sign #41″…
A great spot, made even better by their z-card brochure featuring their recommended places around the neighbourhood. It’s available on their site too. Super! How else would I have known where I could get a 50 quid shave?! (I did get the shave; don’t tell my wife!)
What We Love
The rooms are stylish, small, very comfortable. Hand-etched art on the wall! Lovely toiletries. And – almost best of all – you get a little brown bag in your room and hang it on your door, and in the morning there’s a fresh OJ, a banana and a yoghurt with muesli (from Pret). It’s yum.
But best of all was the price. I looked for places within 30 mins travel time of [my conference] with free WiFi. That was my search. The Hoxton was EASILY the cheapest I could find, aside from slum houses totally discredited on sites like Trip Advisor (God love ’em). I was totally price-conscious, and not looking for a status joint. Turned out I stayed at a pretty cool joint.
If you’re quick on the draw, register for the Hoxton’s £1 room sales. If you stay here, our favourite haunts in the ‘hood are: Coffee: Story Book Cafe: noisy, bar-meets-coffee shop with board games and ping-pong (100-106 Leonard St, EC2A 4RH) Baked goods: Leila’s Shop: cool, organic style homely cafe that has great coffee, slabs of cake and cheese platter meals (15-17 Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch, E2 7JP London). It is just near the White Cube gallery on Hoxton Square (17 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP, London).
Cheap & Cheerful Dinner: Cay Tre: Cool, reasonably priced and very tasty Vietnamese restaurant which offers the usual classics plus some more original house specials, eg: a quail and aubergine curry hot-pot (yum) (301 Old St, EC1V 9LA, London; Tel: +44 20 7729 8662) or try their unimaginatively named but more glamorous premises nearby at Viet Grill.
Drinks: for a casual sporting atmos, try Bar Kick, featuring table foot and reasonably priced cocktails (127 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JE, London, Tel: +44 20 7739 8700); for speakeasy with a jazz twang, try The Night Jar (129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB, Tel: +44 20 7253 4101).
A cool night out: Bistroteque: hipster restaurant and bar in Hackney (take a cab). The bar is like Cuba circa 1960. The restaurant is a white, concrete loft with some of London’s cutest looking waiters. They have good menu du jour deals for early diners. Book ahead. Ideally combined with an art gallery hop along Vyner St as part of First Thursday openings (23-27 Wadeson St, E2 9DR, London; Tel: +44 20 8983 7900.)
Reviewer • John Ryan
John Ryan is a travel content veteran and all round digital guru. He was the managing editor of Lonelyplanet.com and the site received several Webbys during his tenure. He also co-authored the very odd and shamelessly eccentric Micronations about real life non-UN recognised countries, such as the self-proclaimed empire, the Republic of Whangamomona, where the presidency was shared between a poodle and a goat. These days John can be found in Melbourne where he runs his own website strategy agency, the hiply named Sitegeist. He also does a mean air guitar.