Each time I think of London, the rather judgmental voice in my head goes, “The weather is miserable, the fish-and-chips in Covent Garden are made from frozen fillet, and the locals won’t stop asking, ‘Have you been to Primark?’ ”
Yes, it’s all presumptive and unfortunately, as real as #Brexit.
Still, I love how London has enjoyed a long-standing reputation as a social hub for the world’s most critical and sharpest minds. She remains highly sought-after for her creative soul, her diverse personalities and
hard-to-get classy manners.
Despite her top three ranking on The Telegraph’s list of the most expensive cities in the world, she never fails to impress in terms of capitalistic trend-setting. Which goes to explain the slew of left-field hotel and design concepts that have opened in the last few years.
The Town Hall Hotel, one of the jewels in the Unlisted Collection of properties owned by Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng, is established in Bethnal Green, a once scrubby neighbourhood that’s caught in the throes of a revivalist movement thanks to a colourful influx of boutique hotels, art galleries, authentic weekend markets, and creative start-ups.
The original Town Hall opened in 1910 in the Borough to much fanfare, and the iconic building was extended in the 1930s to reflect the prosperity of the times. Refreshed as the Town Hall Hotel in 2010, it was reborn as a sensorial delight for the taste-craving traveller. Movies like Atonement and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels were also filmed within her halls.
The affable staff is knowledgeable and conversational (as Europeans can possibly be). They’re quick and efficient with queries as they look up maps and ring up numbers for dinner reservations and shows. The porter walks you through the halls, explaining carefully in a quirky manner the heritage of the hotel, its bar offerings and her breakfast hours. If you had loved Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, you would be thrilled staying here.
With her grand staircases and high-ceilings, the Town Hall Hotel marries Edwardian structure with Art Deco flair, an enduring idea conceived with the utmost respect for its original architecture and purposes. Just walking through her halls will demonstrate how legacy colour and materials are synonymous with the most iconic spaces.
Australian walnut wood was used to panel the Council Chamber, mahogany in the mayoral office, while beautiful green and while marble line the staircases. A patterned metal veil, laser-cut with a design inspired by the Council Chamber, was used to ensure every room was flooded with natural light.
The contemporary finishings create photo-worthy alcoves in this hotel. For design lovers, the disciplined preservation of the building’s original sensibility is a discovery in itself. It’s no wonder the rejuvenated property has won the RICS London award for Building Conservation.
The most pleasurable parts of the hotel are the restored public areas which hint at the building’s prestige. The De Monfort Suite – used for corporate parties and events hosted by luxury brands – with its triple-height, ornate molded ceilings and high-arched windows, is testament to the beauty of classic modernity. The cerebral architectural practice, Rare, used a series of glass partitions to create the open-plan room.
At the cosy breakfast area called the Corner Room, meals are served to allow seasonal produce to be enjoyed at affordable prices (compared to lunch around Selfridges anyway). The breakfast here is so popular that walk-ins are a common sight and advance bookings have to be made on the weekends. Intimate and informal, the wall of industrial lights has since inspired countless restaurants from Albania to Australia.
The epicurean delights translate into surprising local spins on seasonal produce and bespoke drinks offered at The Typing Room and the Peg + Patriot bar. The former is a restaurant with an open-plan kitchen and a staggering wine list named after the building’s original typing room, where all major council and judicial communications originated from, while the latter is a clever little space filled with punny and adventurous cocktails such as Sumac My Bitch Up and The Brew Testament. Suitably British, chic, and ironic at the same time.