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Hotel Town Hall Hotel and Apartments Hotel 5 star
Easyexperts
Patriot Square Bethnal Green London, United Kingdom -
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Amy Adejokun Section editor

This former town hall in East London represents one of the most remarkable transformations of any building in the capital. While most of the edifice's original architectural features have been guarded, this has not been seen as an obstacle to introducing a highly contemporary design into the hugely spacious rooms, world-class restaurant and divine pool and gym. Add to this a unique art project, great service and a vibrant history and you get one of the most unconventional hotels in London. Recommended for all types of traveller, especially those who are tired of staying in the town centre and are looking for an alternative location.

This hotel review is a translation from the French by the agency Traductéo.

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    Location 5.5 /10

    Situated in London's East End, this is not the first place you'd think of staying when coming to London. However, if you are a regular visitor to the city then it might make a change from being in the centre. Likewise, if you are a first time visitor but want a more authentic London experience then Bethnal Green would be a good place to consider. Today the area has been largely settled by Bangladeshis but it was once famous for its Jewish population whose influences can still be felt. In the hotels immediate vicinity you can find many Bangladeshi restaurants, trendy bars and restaurants as well as quite a few parks and gardens. Not far away are the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, the famous Whitechapel Gallery and the funky Brick Lane market. The closest Tube station is Bethnal Green (Central Line) while Cambridge Heath is the nearest rail station.

    Heathrow Airport is about an hour's journey away by road, although you can catch the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then jump in a cab, or take the Piccadilly Line from the airport to Holborn and then change to the Central Line. Driving from Gatwick Airport will take roughly 70 minutes, although the Gatwick Express gets you to Victoria Station from where you can take a taxi or catch the Circle or District Line Tube to Liverpool Street and get a cab or change to the Central Line. From London City Airport a taxi will take circa 25 minutes or you can catch the DLR to Bank and then take the Central Line to Bethnal green. Or if you are coming from Stansted either take a taxi (60 minutes) or a train to Liverpool Street followed by the Central Line.

    Accommodation 9.70 /10

    There are a total of 10 room types at the hotel, although most of these are apartments. Each one, even those within the same category, is different from the next as the pieces in each room are unique. The smallest rooms, of which there is only a handful, are nonetheless relatively spacious and bright and feature colourful, contemporary furniture pieces, sleek lamps and hardwood flooring. Amenities include flatscreen television and DVD player, tea and coffee facilities, safe, complimentary wifi and branded toiletries in the bathroom (with tub). The other regular guestroom category boasts a seating area.

    The executive studios are the most modest of the apartments, although quite frankly are big enough for extended stays. We loved the feature versions of this room which features a single unit comprising the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. At the centre of this raised white block is the bedroom which is accessed by climbing a couple of steps. The low bed is clothed is crisp white linen and has next to it an animal skin rug, iPod docking station and a flatscreen television and DVD player embedded into the back of the kitchen unit. This latter comprises microwave, oven, grill, dishwasher, fridge freezer and stone-top work surface and has everything you need in terms of crockery too. To the other side of the bed is the deep soaking tub and double vanity with Duravit fittings complete with rubber duck and l'Occitane toiletries (the monsoon shower and loo are separate). Filling the rest of the space around this central unit is a fireplace on whose mantelpiece sits old teapots and a mechanical clock, a round coffee table with three chairs, a small wardrobe, a full length mirror and a wonderful rocking chair with leather seat and back. Other amenities include a coffee machine, safe, robes and slippers.

    The rest of the accommodations, which range from the one-bedroom apartment to the immense De Montfort Suite, cease to be open plan but are all extremely generously proportioned and well appointed. The one-bedroom apartment has a simpler décor in comparison to the executive studios and is set out in a circular shape with the corridor leading to the salon which leads to the bedroom (on the small side), after which comes the bathroom and then back to the entrance. Although the living space seems a little bare, the apartment does have a fully equipped kitchen and separate bathroom. The executive one-bedroom apartment is very similar, simply affording a larger surface area, while the two-bedroom apartment is also available as a regular or executive room. Those travelling in a large group of around six should consider the three-bedroom apartment which has all the amenities of the other rooms with even more space.

    But by far the most impressive accommodation is the enormous De Montfort Suite which took our breath away. Housed in what was formerly a hall, it boasts so much space (both horizontally and vertically) that you won't know which bit to occupy first! On the ground floor you've got a lengthly dining table with a wooden structural base, two distinct seating areas (one with a round white couch on a blue carpet), a chess table, a Steinway and Sons piano, fully equipped kitchen, powder room and wine refrigerator. Then upstairs, staggered over several different levels is a work area featuring a stunning gold lamp, a deep soaking tub, a monsoon shower, the bedroom with a built in four-poster bed, fury armchairs and the incredible original ceiling. One very special element of the room is the stained glass window at the very top of the room through which a multicoloured light diffuses and lands on the room's huge surfaces.

    Overview 9.70 /10

    Despite having been added to during the restoration project, the former town hall is still an imposing structure. The Edwardian edifice takes up the entire block and is surrounded by private housing. You'll be further humbled, once through the side street entrance, by the huge white marble staircase and green marble columns that have been saved within the lobby area. To the left hand side you'll find the reception and concierge desks, manned by chirpy staff, while over to the other side is a seating area complete with designer chairs, Hollywood lights and flowers. Look out for the original safe and the square clock at the top of the room. Throughout the rest of the public spaces are other quaint features such as chess tables with green suede chairs pulled up alongside, old barber chairs, clocks, scales and sailing ships in bottles. However it's the art pieces which attract much of the attention: walkwalkwalk, a local trio of artists have created a series of text-based works revealing true encounters with local people; Claire Morgan has produced a free floating sculpture made from leaves for one of the stairwells; and Debbie Lawson has crafted a trompe-l'oeil piece from a Persian carpet and fabricated moose head. Getting around the hotel is a delight, not simply for what can be seen on the way, but also due to the wide corridors, lush blue carpet and well conceived lighting.

    While the hotel does not have a wellness centre, it does have a wonderful indoor pool and state-of-the-art fitness room. The former, to which only accompanied children are admitted, features tiny white spotlights, a glass roof and surrounding white leather armchairs. It also has changing rooms decorated in black and white, complimentary towels and will soon be offering swimming costumes (for a charge). The gym, which looks on to the pool, is kitted out with the latest machines, including treadmills on which on can run (virtually, of course) through a number of world cities.

    Food and drink 9.70 /10

    Arguably the biggest draw of the hotel, aside of course from the modern design in an Edwardian context, is its restaurant, Viajante (meaning traveller in Portuguese). Owned and run by internationally acclaimed chef Nuno Mendes, the passionate Portuguese offers an exciting cuisine based on seasonal produce and availability which means that the menu is constantly changing and evolving. As a result there is no à la carte option. For lunch guests chose either the three-, six- or nine-course menu (with the option of wine pairing if desired) and at dinner the six- or 12-course option. The intimate restaurant is beautifully decorated in soft pastel colours featuring elegant light wood tables each with its exquisite flower arrangement, comfortable and contemporary armchairs and soft lighting from imaginative lamps including a chandelier designed by Tzuri Guetta, who used to design jewellry for Gucci.

    Across the corridor is the hotel's bar whose staff is equally as courteous and professional as those at Viajante. As well as an extensive drinks list, including a rotating house cocktail (we tasted the Apple Martini: gin, apple juice, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white foam), the bar offers a snack menu featuring appetisers such as prawn samosas with coriander yoghurt, shrimp and leek pot stickers and the dry aged beef burger with vanilla onions and stilton. Both the bar and restaurant have become firm favourites of the newly trendy East End of London and we can see why.

    To know

    The building which now houses the hotel started off, you won't be surprised to learn, as Bethnal Green's town hall in 1910 and was seen as a sign of things to come in this ambitious working class borough. In the ?30s an extension was necessary thanks to the area's growth but then gradually the different departments were displaced until in 1993 the building was vacated. It was then used mainly as a film location before falling into disrepair and featuring on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk list. Thankfully Peng Loh realised the building's potential in 2007 and converted into a hotel.

    Equipment

    • Shuttle bus
    • Car park
    • Handicap access
    • Restaurant
    • Internet access
    • Air conditioning
    • Spa

      massage, beauty salon, keep fit, spa, Turkish bath

    • Swimming pool
    • Sports equipment

      gym, fitness, sports

    • Whirlpool bath
    • Safe
    • Non-smoking rooms
    • Meeting room

    advantage

    • Stunning design
    • Size of rooms
    • Quality of food
    • Service
    • Alternative location
    • Indoor swimming pool

    disadvantages

    • Distance from town centre

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    • Overall Score nc/10
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