Shoreditch’s Andaz hotel combines street art with slick service – and a hidden Masonic temple only adds to the fun – says Scott Manson….
London’s Shoreditch has long been a barometer of what’s cool. Granted, the area that began its fashionable journey as a place where artists could rent cheap spaces to live and work may now be more corporate, but it still has an edge – if you know where to look for it.
We came across some of our favourite bits of Shoreditch while following the trail set by an East London graffiti tour app we’d downloaded. Darting here and there around backstreets that looked very far from gentrification, we discovered some great street art (including a Banksy) – and felt a million miles from the financial towers and smart restaurants that have come to dominate the area.
Our room for the night was at the Andaz hotel – a Grade II-listed Victorian building originally built in 1884 as the Great Eastern Hotel. Fittingly, it combines the best of the old and the new – from the oak-panelled George pub to an atrium that could have been designed by Escher. Fine old fixtures and fittings still dominate, from its marble staircases to mosaic floor tiling and a perfectly preserved Masonic temple featuring a stunning Zodiac-designed ceiling. It’s usually reserved for meetings but ask nicely and one of the staff will let you in for a quick look.
Our suite had a contemporary feel and featured walls decorated with artwork from local street artists. There was a large L-shaped couch that was perfect for lounging and, wonder of wonders, a free minibar. No alcohol in there, mind, but plenty of soft drinks, juices, crisps and chocolate. A separate bedroom offered a supremely comfy king-sized bed, flat screen TV and a great view of the busy streets below. And despite it being a Friday – party night in Shoreditch – we could hear nothing of the bacchanalian roars from below.
Dinner that night was at Rake’s Café Bar, one of seven restaurants and bars in the hotel – from a traditional pub to Miyako, a well-respected Japanese restaurant.
Rake’s is an easy-going affair, with a comprehensive all-day dining menu that covers off plenty of crowd-pleasers (burgers and steak were present and correct), together with a few more eclectic offerings, all served in a buzzing room filled with lush foliage.
A delicate starter of calamari and shrimp – covered in a crispy semolina coating alongside dips of saffron alioli and chilli gremolata – felt like a neat take on fritto misto. It was crunchy, salty and a perfect accompaniment to the spicy bottle of shiraz we’d ordered. Despite seeing some seriously good-looking burgers being ferried past our table, I resisted the urge to order one for my main course – instead going for the coffee crust Welsh rack of lamb, served with truffled mashed potato, lemon garlic asparagus and mint. The medium-rare meat was heavenly, while the truffled mashed potato could be my new favourite side dish. I made a mental note to order some truffle oil pronto.
That relaxed vibe continued throughout our stay, from the complementary glass of prosecco while checking-in, to the offer of a late check-out – some hotels will almost make you beg for this – the Andaz is a slick but convivial affair. And while it might sit next to the shining steel and glass of London’s financial district, it’s clear from our stay that, despite being part of the Hyatt group, this venerable property is no corporate clone. For a day (or big night) out in East London, this is where I’d like to wake up the next morning – a place with a style all of its own.
Andaz Staycation Special:
• Right now, the hotel is running a special Staycation offer where guests staying two nights receive £100 of hotel credit for just £1.
• There’s also an extension of the Andaz Wine Hour to the whole day, so all hotel guests can indulge in a complimentary daily glass of wine at their convenience.
For more information and to make a booking, click here.