Thursday, 13 May 2010

Star in the East

The E2 area of London really has become the best place to stay when visiting the capital. With a huge pile of lively and unique markets, shops and bars on your doorstep, it feels cool, laidback and right on the pulse of the city. There's Spitalfields market, Brick Lane and Cheshire Street – with its great independent shops, including the brilliant Labour & Wait – and Columbia Road flower market. Then there are the many cool bars and eateries around Leonard and Great Eastern Streets, and exquisite cafe/delis like Verde, just opposite Spitalfields Market. And the good thing is the scattering of hip affordable hotels in the area, such as the Hoxton Hotel: rooms start from £59, but sign up on their website to hear about their regular sales, when you can book a room for £1 or £29. The next one is tomorrow, 13 May, at 12pm, and they sell out immediately. I managed to bag a room there for £29 last year, and it's the most brilliant bargain: rooms are small but perfectly formed, there's a coffee machine that's free to use, it has a really buzzy bar downstairs and you get Pret a Manger stuff for breakfast. I really can't think of any other hotel that offers so much for so little.

Nearby, Nick Jones of Soho House recently opened Shoreditch House, where rooms start from £75. This sounds like another great deal – it's bound to be fabulous as everywhere he touches turns to gold, whether it's in Balham or Manhattan.

If you're in the market for style and luxury, Conran's Boundary is a seriously memorable place to stay. Voted Best New Hotel in London by CondĂ© Nast Traveller this year, it is all about attention to detail. Staff are smart yet chilled in Joe Casely-Hayford-designed uniforms. The bright, fresh ground floor shop/cafĂ©, Albion, has its own bakery, and seats outside to enjoy a coffee or fine breakfast and some prime people-watching. The 12 hotel rooms and five suites are themed by designer or design movement, from Eames and Le Corbusier to Bauhaus, and are immaculately beautiful and luxurious. Plus there’s tons of REN stuff in the bathroom which, shallow as I am, would make me supremely happy all by itself. But the icing on the cake, literally, is the rooftop bar and restaurant, complete with log fires, comfy seating and rugs for when it gets chilly. It’s a great place to eat and an even better place to drink, with magical city views, though it doesn't stay open very late in the evening (as it’s a residential area), which is a terrible shame – it’s such a romantic setting. Rooms start from £140 per night, though you’re looking at £200 for one of the extra-spacious corner rooms on a Saturday night. For a touch of style in the city, it ticks every box.

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