Still Cool After All These Years: The Original Hoxton Shoreditch
When we were young we’d stop off at Shoreditch on the way to visit our granny in Twickenham, always buying second hand bits and pieces from the pavement sellers at Spitalfields Market, which no longer exists in that original form, and bagels in the bakery. This was before East London became cool. Back then it was an interesting but struggling area, combining working class with immigrant communities and no trace of the beardy hipsters of today. We were fed little nuggets of history by mum, such as the thin, shuttered houses built for the French protestant silk-weaving Huguenots, the first immigrants to arrive in the 1600s followed by Jews and Bangladeshis. Their combined cultures defined this small part of London. The East End has always been my favourite part of London, probably due to these early stop offs with their familiar formula of market and food.
My daughter was born in Hackney and lived there until she was three when we moved out to Essex. But I want her to have the same experience I did, so one balmy Friday summer’s night we took the train from Essex to Liverpool Street to stay at the Hoxton, ten minutes walk from the station.
With a successful formula of no frills hospitality married with a retro interior style, the Hoxton opened in 2006 to fill the gap between budget hotels and those that offer extras you don't necessarily need, packaged up in a fun-filled building that revolves around its core, the Hoxton Grill, a clubby diner-style area leading into an open-plan lobby with a reception I mistook for a bar, a couple of desks illuminated by the familiar glow of a MacBook and a photo booth.
The Hoxton had a makeover last year and looks as good as new despite an intentionally industrial look (exposed pipes snake/wind their way across the ceiling), low key (and very low lit) and vintage. It’s also fun. A word that may be a bit naff, but as you walk into the hotel there’s an energy the more sedate lobbies favoured by grander, posher hotels just can’t offer. Especially on a Friday night, with a DJ playing old school sounds some of us grew up with, you feel like you’re having a night out (although you’re technically staying in, if you’re a hotel guest).
Rooms divide into three categories, starting with the Shoebox; the Cosy, (pictured, above) and the largest, naturally called the Roomy. Smaller styles have showers only but our Cosy had a generous bathroom (although cocoa-coloured tiles are a little too dark for me in a room without a window) with equally generous Pen & Ink amenities (top marks also for stocking a brand that is paraben and animal cruelty free as well as a cheeky nod to Cockney). Books above the television aren’t pretentiously chosen (I hope), and include a Catherine Cookson novel, a collection of fantasy stories and a Spanish-language guide to London.
We ate well in the American-style Hoxton Grille,operated by the Soho House Group. Perfect for my taste, the service is speedy but not rushed. Well, who needs hours between courses (but to their credit the waitress asked if we were ready for the main)? The menu is pretty minimal, which may help the plate-to-table flow and we soon ordered mac & cheese bites, £6, and avocado dip with corn chips and salsa, £8. The small balls of crumb-coated macaroni cheese fried until crispy with a with hint of heat in the smooth harissa dip on the side was a pretty inspired move, while avocado and salsa was something I’ve eaten a hundred times before but each element was well prepared and full of flavour (perhaps a hint of heat in the avocado would have made it for me). Maya persevered with a veggie burger with quinoa, beetroot and arugula, £12, which turned out to be like the weather, dry and in dire need of moisture. My smoked aubergine (eggplant on the menu) chickpeas, bell peppers and pistachio, £14) had moisture and flavour, so perhaps the better vegetarian choice with its multi-coloured mix of vegetables and textures.
Stays at the Hoxton don’t include a traditional ‘full English-style fry up, although you can head down to the Grille, instead a paper breakfast bag with juice, a banana and a granola-yoghurt pot did us fine (we had to rush for the train so breakfast to go suited us just fine). As I put out the recycling back home in Essex (the room has complimentary water in cardboard cartons although uses plastic in the bag), I noticed a sticker on my bag, giving a tip for a place to go in Shoreditch. Thoughtful and well-meaning hospitality in my favourite part of London - what’s not to like?
* If you’re partial to the style, the growing tribe of Hoxton hotels include Holborn, Amsterdam and Paris with new openings in Brooklyn and Portland. Doubles from £99 including light breakfast bag, thehoxton.com
Greater Anglia runs regular services to London Liverpool Street. Adult single fares from £5, children travel for £2 with an adult and under fives travel for free. Tickets can be bought online from www.greateranglia.co.uk or via the Greater Anglia app.