It all started with avo toast.
My love affair with The Hoxton hotel, that is. I’d go as far as saying I’m something of a connoisseur of this particular foodstuff, a regular and passionate consumer at the very least, and theirs is the ultimate: two poached eggs with yolks of the deepest orange, just the right amount of citrus and salt cutting through the creamy chunks of avocado, and a slab of umami-rich sourdough.
When I was a freelancer living in East London I would often hunker down in The Hox’s (to those in the know) cavernous lobby, ideally bagging a armchair beside the open fireplaces, which look like they’ve landed in Zone 1 from a Tudor hunting lodge. This became one of my writing sanctuaries. Typical millennial ‘creative’ that I am, the unlimited free Wi-Fi, casual convivial atmosphere and general free-ness were major lures – even if the amount I cumulatively spent on cold-pressed juices, Flat Whites and aforementioned avo toasts probably could have rented me a desk in some trendy warehouse office.
Now, returning to the city as a visitor (let’s not say tourist, please!), I decided to see what lay beyond the comfy seats and artisanal coffees, to check into the hotel as a fully-fledged guest…
Launched by Pret a Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham back in 2006, The Hoxton was one of the pioneers of the ‘budget boutique’ concept. Those words alone are going to leave a certain type of traveller cold – anyone whose definition of a hotel involves a bell-boy sweeping up their luggage the moment they arrive, and big buffet breakfasts followed by swimming pool and spa sessions. Quite simply, The Hox (which now has younger siblings in Amsterdam and London’s Holburn) isn’t going to be their cup of tea. Instead, the 210-room property cuts the fuss to concentrate on what most Millennials prioritise in a hotel stay: styling, comfort and atmosphere, without a huge price tag.
The aesthetic is pseudo-industrial vintage, lots of greys and browns, with dashes of Instagrammable décor. I pass locally-made art prints and mid-century furniture in the corridor to my room, as well as glimpsing a utility room where guests can replenish their water bottles for free or iron clothes. Inside my ‘Cosy’ pad, again the effort has been put in where it matters: a comfortable king-size bed with leather headboard, Frette bed linen and waffle-knit blanket.
A shelf of well-thumbed paperbacks, a DAB Roberts radio and Chesterfield armchair bring a homely vintage vibe, while the chic black and white-tiled bathroom boasts a powerful rainfall shower and Pen & Ink toiletries. There’s fresh milk in the minibar for tea and coffee, but instead of those extortionate little bottles of Bombay Sapphire you’ll find a sticker reading: “Hungry for more? The Hox Lobby Shop won’t rip you off”. It turns out you can order full-size bottles of wine and snacks at supermarket prices from downstairs.
The scene from my window on the sixth floor is unprettily urban: the covered roof of the courtyard restaurant below and concrete-block office buildings, but who stays in Shoreditch for the views?
Exactly. I’m in one of London’s coolest and liveliest neighbourhoods, sandwiched between the tech hub of ‘Silicon Roundabout’, the bars and galleries of Hoxton Square and Commercial Street, and the Square Mile’s skyscrapers. This was my old stomping ground and I headed straight out to the street food market on Whitecross Street and then the Barbican. For guests who don’t know their Drunken Monkey from their Hoxton Pony, each room comes with a handy fold-out area guide.
Then again, it’s tempting just to linger in the downstairs lobby, as nightfall sees a live DJ and chinking cocktail glasses replace the daytime soundtrack of fingers clicking on Mac keypads. The place becomes positively clubby with a mixed good-time crowd, from casually-dressed local creatives to glammed up Essex girls in London for a night out. It’s not just about the bar, though: the Hox caters to culture vultures with a changing programme of on-site exhibitions, film screenings and quirky craft classes – this month’s included sessions on leatherworking and kokedama (Japanese moss balls).
Whatever Shoreditch delights lure guests in (or out) during their stay, there’s no stress about breakfast as a light goodie bag awaits outside the bedroom door. I left it on the peg the evening before and woke to find it filled with a smoothie, fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, like a hipster Christmas stocking.
Avo toast and Flat White downstairs by the fire: optional extra.
For more information about The Hoxton, including details of rooms, dining and events, visit www.thehoxton.com.