Town Hall Hotel, London

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


East End, did you say? That's right. The East End is increasingly trendy these days and you can expect this grand Edwardian building to sweep you off your feet. Clad in white Portland stone, with a neo-baroque facade and turreted dome, this is the 2011 winner of the Astonishing Architecture Award (Hotel Club) and the nearest five-star venue to the 2012 Olympic Stadium (about 10 minutes by taxi; and there are still vacancies during the Games). It's just a few minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube station and if you have business in the City, there's a complimentary shuttle bus to Liverpool Street.

So what's special about it? Heritage, glamour and art in a listed building. In 1910, the town hall rose as a symbol of civic pride in the East End but was later made redundant through borough reorganisation and abandoned. The glory was not over, though. Drawn by such magnificence - marble staircases, columns, wood panelling, art deco and cavernous halls - film and television crews moved in for a while, and many rooms have a story to tell. Think Spooks, Atonement, Brideshead Revisited. In all, over 300 films and television series, featuring a multitude of stars, have been shot here. In 2007, new owner Peng Loh, from Singapore, initiated a sensitive restoration and extension programme to convert the building into a five-star hotel, spicing up the original Edwardian splendour with contemporary works by upcoming local artists.

Fine, but what are the rooms like? Open plan, luxurious, flooded with light. As well as the usual rooms for two, there are one- to three-bedroom apartments with superbly appointed kitchens and all-revealing bathrooms - just a glass partition between bath and bed (and a curtain for shy guests). The turn-down service brings signature truffles, delicious with champagne, and if you need company, that can be arranged, too. For just GBP10 (HK$120) in-house 'gigolos', Nelson and Nancy, will spend the night in your room - but don't get excited; they are a pair of goldfish whose job it is to help you relax. The proceeds go to charity.

If you really want to impress, you could book the De Montfort Suite, a splendid concert hall in Edwardian times, with lofty ceilings, arched windows, stained glass, Henry Poole statues, mezzanine floors, two bathrooms and private dining for up to 20 guests.

In-house spaces worth a peep include the vast Bethnal Hall and the Council Chamber, with original panelling and green leather benches, where you might catch a glimpse of a fashion show, an auction or a bride.

Anything else to write home about? The Michelin-starred restaurant is rather special, so you need to reserve your table in good time. They call it Viajante, 'the wanderers', referring to head chef Nuno Mendes, who has travelled the world in search of flavours. The tasting menu changes daily, offering six or 12 tasters of audacious, extravagant food, with no hint of what is coming until your plate arrives. Signposted by a moose head on a Persian wall carpet, the cosy Corner Room (above right) serves breakfast and 'comfort food', such as cod with clam porridge or blueberries with goat's cheese caramel. Don't miss the dark, intimate bar - an adventure in itself - where the cocktail menu is as dizzying as the chandelier.

What else can we do? Relax in the slimline indoor pool or book an in-room massage and, if you can bear to step outside, jog in London's oldest public garden, Victoria Park, just down the road. On the way, you'll pass the V&A Museum of Childhood - adults allowed - and wander further to explore traditional East End markets and curry houses.

What do Mr & Mrs Smith think of it all? 'The Town Hall is still the hippest thing on its block,' say the boutique hotel reviewers, 'though it's a title contested only by the Museum of Childhood, a service station, a Nigerian restaurant and the Family Butcher. It is, in short, waiting for the rest of the immediate neighbourhood to catch up.'

Now tell us, what's the bottom line? Nightly rates start at around GBP145 for a double room and GBP412 for a three-bedroom apartment. The De Montfort Suite will set you back a hefty GBP2,500, but glamour is guaranteed.

The Town Hall Hotel is on Patriot Square, London E2 9NF, tel: +44 (0)20 7871 0460;