Five new London hotels: reviewed

Mama Shelters London debut, the capitals first mindful hotel and revamped pubs with rooms are available in our picking of new places to stay, from 99 a night

Mama Shelter London, Bethnal Green, E2

What’s it like ?
” Mama loves you ,” my plate reads. The seemingly standard blue-and-white patterned china dish, on closer inspection, includes this tiny message. Behind me is a lamp with rabbit feet and ears and, by the reception, beaded Darth Vader helmets top birdcage-style cabinets. Across the restaurant’s black ceiling, graffiti by graphic designer and artist Beniloys is a mix of bright patterns and ancient city rules:” A Freeman of the City of London may drive a flock of sheep over Tower Bridge .” In the cellar , not a gym, but two karaoke rooms with 50 s-style microphones.

Karaoke
Karaoke room. Photograph: Francis Amiand

It’s these design touches that construction Mama Shelter different from other city hotels of the same size. The brand was created by Club Med co-founders the Trigano family and designer Philippe Starck in 2008, and there are now 12 globally. The group’s first UK hotel is a prominent, matt-black building with black-and-white striped awnings on a corner of Hackney Road, near Bethnal Green. The ground floor is a living space that doublings as the restaurant, with comfy sofas, Aztec prints, ceiling-mounted hearths and vintage lampshades. It’s a cabinet of curiosities with a buzzy, already popular restaurant and internal courtyard cocktail bar with a retractable roof. There are 194 en suite rooms, across four floors. Mine, a medium doubled on the second floor, is compact, modern and unfussy.

What about breakfast and dinner ?

Dining
Photograph: Francis Amiand

Food is built for sharing at Mama Shelter, with a range of smaller plates and platters, some influenced by the local area. My favourites include pork belly baos with char siu sauce, pak choi and ginger( PS6 ); tuna crudo with pickled kohlrabi, ponzu and calamansi dressing( PS12 ); and a truffle ricotta pizzette( PS9 ). Larger plates on the menu range from French classics and vegan dishes, to posh kebabs and a pie, mash and liquor platter( PS26 ).

There’s a lot of choice at the buffet breakfast( 7am-10. 30 am; a la carte breakfast 10.30 am-1 2.30 pm ): big trays of smoked salmon, tarts, muffins, cereals, yoghurt, a juice-it-yourself stand, and all the usual cooked suspects along with a vegan bean mix in tomato sauce and flavoured rice. It’s not included in the room rate, however- it expenses PS15pp- and there are a multitude of coffeehouses to explore along Hackney Road and Cambridge Heath Road.

What’s on the doorstep ?

Columbia
Columbia Road bloom market. Photograph: Alamy

Cambridge Heath Overground( two stops from Liverpool Street) is a few minutes’ walking, or get to Bethnal Green, on the Central line, in ten. E Pellicci( open since 1900) is the classic option for a fry-up and two famous 24 -hour bagel shops are on Brick Lane. Take a wander around east London favourites such as Columbia Road Flower Market, Broadway Market, and Hackney City Farm. The V& A’s Museum of Childhood is also just a few minutes’ walk away, or head to indie gallery land Vyner Street. There are plenty of places to drink, ranging from traditional boozers to taprooms and speakeasies. Notables include the award-winning Marksman saloon or Sager+ Wilde under the railway arches. For late-night beats, head to Oval Space and the Pickle Factory, or Metropolis for LGBTQ parties.

How much ?
Doubles from PS99 room-only. Two-course dinner for two from around PS6 0.

Value for money ?
Fun, affordable and stylish is hard to come by, and this has a great location, too, so yes- although it loses a point or two for charge extra for breakfast.
* mamashelter.com
Antonia Wilson

Inhabit, Paddington, W2

Double
Photograph: Tim Evan Cook
What’s it like ?
To get to” London’s first mindful boutique hotel”, as Inhabit calls itself, I walk from Paddington station, mid-construction frenzy, along some of the capital’s least zen streets, past fast-food joints, souvenir shops and roadworks. The hotel, set across six Georgian townhouses, is covered in scaffolding( the hotel is still in a soft-opening phase) but once I’m through the door, Inhabit’s Scandi-inspired interior dotted with plants exudes calmness.

The first thing I notice is the wellness programme at the front desk( of which more later ); the reception, dominated by a woollen wall hanging, results into the library, painted gray and blue, and furnished with Danish chairs, and bespeak pieces by Goldfinger Factory, a local social enterprise. Cushions are by Hertfordshire-based Aerende, which sells homewares made by vulnerable people in the UK. The hotel is clearly paying more than lip service in its commitment to wellbeing, thinking about its responsibilities beyond its guests: during the renovation, a link-up with Globechain helped reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill; in keeping with its aim to be single-use plastic free there’s bottled water on tap on each floor and re-useable glass coffee cups for sale in reception.

Daily wellness conferences include morning meditation( free ), yoga( PS10 a class) and guided strolls( PS10) into nearby Hyde Park. This week, meditation pods with headphones are being installed a space for guests to have a 10 -minute guided conference. I’m booked in for a Yin yoga class, which involves lying down for a series of very gentle stretches- or” constructive rest” as the educator puts it. It does the trick: the muscle tightness after a day sat in front of a computer screen disappears. A session in the infrared sauna( free) compounds my sense of relaxation. I’m all set for an early night- and to see if Casper mattresses live up to the hype.

What about breakfast and dinner ?

Library
Photograph: Tim Evan Cook


Food is by
Yeotown Kitchen– a spin-off of the Devon-based luxury retreat of the same name- and is mainly plant-based, healthy and seasonal. Instead of the usual cereals and tarts, the breakfast buffet offers rice porridge with coconut milk, roast vegetables and frittata. I pour what I think is orange juice but get a surprise when I take a slug of tart, tumeric-infused ginger “elixir”. I decide I like it. Tumeric appears in several of the a la carte breakfast dishes, too( such as eggs royale, which comes with a dairy-free hollandaise, smoked salmon optional, PS9 ).

Smashed avo is a given, of course, but there are more exotic dishes too that take almost as long to say as to eat: orange bud tigernut-flour muffin-top pancakes with coconut yoghurt and berry compote, for one. The drinks are even more intriguing: a” medicinal mushroom latte” attained with mushrooms and maple syrup. I have a moment picturing Patsy from Ab Fab ordering a smoothie the morning after the night before, and I acknowledge, I ordered a plain old coffee with normal milk, but as more of us give up meat or take a flexitarian approach, it’s refreshing to see a hotel offering something other than croissants and fry-ups.

If you’re on the hotel’s room-only rate, and don’t want to pay to eat breakfast in( PS15 for the buffet or dishes from PS6 on the a la carte menu ), there are plenty of nearby options: giant sticky pastries at Bonne Bouche on Praed Street, and an array of artisan coffee shop around Paddington Basin and Little Venice, including the Departmentof Coffee and Social Affairs and Beany Green. From next month the hotel restaurant will offer a dinner menu( until 9pm ). Until then recommended eateries are in your room directory.

What’s on the doorstep ?

Scenery
Little Venice. Photograph: Getty Images

Some of London’s most tranquil spots are within strolling distance: Hyde Park is a 10 -minute stroll south, with acres to explore plus the Serpentine Gallery, the swimming and boating lagoon and Princess Diana Memorial Fountain; and Kensington Palace is in the adjoining in Kensington Gardens. Walk by the water from Paddington Basin( now a popular SUP spot) to Little Venice, another enclave where you virtually forget you’re in the city; a saunter north-east along the canal, past John Nash’s grand Regent’s Park houses and London Zoo, brings you to Camden.

How much ?
Doubles from PS150 room-only.

Value for fund ?
The area has cheaper alternatives if a bed for the night is all that’s needed( relative newcomer Pilgrm, for example) but I checked out feeling like I’d been on a mini-retreat- and that seemed like a outcome considering I hadn’t left London.
* inhabithotels.com
Isabel Choat

The William IV, Kensal Green, NW10

Pub What’s it like ?
A handsome 200 -year-old pub on the Harrow Road, which had already been a main highway out of London for centuries when this establishment opened during the year of William IV’s death in 1837. Ground-floor spaces now flow into one connected bar and dining region, where low lighting gleams off polished timber and the patina of vintage-style leather sofas. Nautical knick-knacks, including splendid model ships, are a nod to the eponymous monarch, called the Sailor King.

Three venerable Harrow Road pubs closed recently for redevelopment as flats, so the determination of the William IV’s new owneds late last year to recreate a pub from what had become a shisha bar, DJ venue and grotty bedsits is to be applauded. The 15 spacious en suite rooms are plain and simple, with feature fireplaces and pale walls. They have carpets so thick you could virtually sleep on them rather than in the comfy beds. White tile-and-marble bathrooms are also minimalist. Ask for a room at the back if you’re a light sleeper: the Harrow Road traffic is noisy.

Double What about breakfast and dinner ?
The walk along Harrow Road from Kensal Green station( Bakerloo line and Overground) yields not a single coffeehouse, tavern or restaurant, so the imaginative gastropub-style menu is particularly welcome. A starter of wild mushrooms with crispy kale and white bean hummus( PS5) is so tasty I forget it’s vegan, and my husband’s chorizo and cannellini on sourdough is like beans on toast’s more delicious ego. Sunday lunch is particularly good, with meat for the whole table on big platters, with tureens of veg. Dorothy’s Gin Garden offers outdoor seating, exotic gins on display and an interesting cocktail list.

Breakfast in the dining room is excellent: coffee, with sourdough bread and tarts, plus a good cold selection of cheese, meats and fruit.

What’s on the doorstep ?

Victorian
Kensal Green Cemetery. Photograph: Alamy

Opposite stands verdant 72 -acre Kensal Greencemetery, inspired by Paris’s Pere Lachaise, with the Grand Union canal on one side. Notable residents include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace Thackeray and one WH Smith, “merchant”. The stucco manors and leafy squares of Notting Hill are about a mile away. Buses run from outside the saloon to Wembley Stadium( 25 minutes ).

How much ?
Doubles from PS110 B& B.

Value for money ?
Pretty good given the period surrounds and friendly welcome, particularly for those who need to be in west London.
* williamiv.london
Liz Boulter

The Buxton, Brick Lane, E1

Pub
Photograph: Veerle Evens

What’s it like ?
A red-brick and stone building on Osborn Street at the lower end of curry mile Brick Lane. It’s a new venture by the people who run
The Culpeper, less than 200 metres away on the corner of Commercial Street. The handsome late-Georgian building has been smartened up, with a bar-restaurant on the ground floor and 15 bedrooms spread over the upper four storeys. The bar region is now light and airy with floor-to ceiling windows, yet retains the feel of a tavern- open doors, and stools round the bar, with a good opinion of the small open kitchen, and at a handful of high tables. Once the Archers Tavern, it has been renamed after Thomas Buxton, campaigner against slavery and capital punishment, co-founder of the RSPCA and all-round good egg, who lived up the street. The bedrooms are bijou, with a clean, functional feel: bare brick painted brilliant white, wiring hidden in aluminium tubings, Tv, coffee and tea things on a small chest of drawers. The washbasin is in the room, attaining the shower and loo less of a squash- the obscured-glass sliding door on the loo/ shower affords, well, only minimal privacy, however. Despite the urban place, double-glazed sash windows keep the night passably peaceful.

Double
Photograph: Veerle Evens
What about breakfast and dinner ?
Busy leather-aproned chefs in the open kitchen create modern European dishes from a short menu, including a fish of the day dependent on what has just been landed on the south coast. Bar snacks are a million miles from the East End’s traditional pickled eggs: rillettes( PS5 ), terrine( PS6 ), radishes with cod roe- though there is a portion of chips for PS4. From four starters we opt a chilled pea soup( attained extra special with perfectly roasted hazelnuts ), and scallops with garlic butter and samphire. Equally seasonal is a plate of fresh tagliatelle with courgettes, ricotta and shaved raw asparagus. Husband’s fish of the day( PS15) is a good-looking chunk of cod in a profoundly sweet-savoury shellfish jus, but I do find the lack of any vegan main astounding given this is east London in 2019.

Breakfast is equally imaginative- though with nothing for vegetarians or vegans: ham and eggs with ethereally light and crispy rosti for him, while I make a veggie option by declining the merguez sausage with my tasty harissa-baked eggs. Excellent coffee and nice tarts, though.

What’s on the doorstep ?

High
Brushfield Street, near Spitalfields Market. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/ The Observer

It is Ramadan when we stay, so there is a celebratory air at sundown as Muslims break their fast and head to the mosque on Brick Lane, which is also, in sharp contrast, home to late-night bars and clubs such as Big Chill and 93 Feet East, as well as myriad curry the homes and two famous bagel joints. By day, Petticoat Lane and Spitalfields marketplaces are minutes away, as is WhitechapelGallery.

How much ?
Doubles PS1 00 B& B.

Value for money ?
Excellent, given the location close to the City and party-central Shoreditch, particularly with breakfast included.
* thebuxton.co.uk
LB

Red Lion, Leytonstone, E11

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