Talk about London and Bethnal Green isn’t always a neighbourhood that first comes to mind. The area in the East End isn’t as glitzy as Mayfair or as buzzy as Oxford Street, but like many parts of London is rife with extremely trendy nooks and crannies that are screaming to be discovered. Case in point: Town Hall Hotel.
Quite obviously, Town Hall Hotel was named after Bethnal Green’s former town hall, a former 1910 Edwardian council building that was restored, refurbished, and reopened as a luxury hotel exactly 100 years later in 2010. Today, all the key architectural elements within this imposing building remain intact, from the elaborate ceilings and gold accents to the wooden doors that have seen a century’s worth of ins and outs.
It is, however, its strangeness – for lack of a better word – that makes Town Hall Hotel truly stand out from the dozens of heritage hotels in the city. There’s an air of eclecticism that’s hard to pin down. The entrance is flanked by a vintage safe before the grandiose sight of a grand marble imperial staircase hits you. Juxtaposing dark marble columns are accompanied by tropical greens and mid-century modern seating with props like a working retro TV box that make you feel like you’re part of an indie movie set.
Look to your right, and you’ll see a seemingly endless corridor that spans the length of the building. It’s both intriguing and slightly unnerving, almost like you’re being drawn into it. Cave to its magnetic pull and you’ll find more rooms, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, and fascinating nuggets of history on the property down this The Shining-esque walkway.
If anything, these are your first hints as to what you can expect from the rest of the hotel. Read on for our review.
Review: Town Hall Hotel, London
As always, the process starts with good old-fashioned checking in at the lobby, but while it was relatively fuss-free, the service here was lacking the flair expected of a five-star hotel and could be a tad brisker and friendlier.
The 97-key establishment houses 10 double bedrooms, with the rest being suites. Interestingly, the other 87 rooms all come with fully-equipped kitchenettes, which are perfect for those either looking for extended stays or are travelling with family and appreciate the added space and flexibility.
The Deluxe Junior Suite is spacious, and not just by London’s standards. Rooms in this category range from 37.3sqm to 49.1sqm, and come with not only a kitchenette but also a dining area, a bathroom (with a bathtub!) and a separate bedroom space that can be cleverly concealed with sliding doors. Light hardwood floors and one-off vintage furniture create a very stylish environment for all your Instagramming needs, more so with the floor-to-ceiling windows that let plenty of natural light in. The dining table is the perfect space to work or eat from, and there was even a vinyl player to set the mood (aesthetically that is, ours didn’t work).
The kitchenette was surprisingly well-equipped, with a hob, oven, and microwave oven to cater to all levels of cooking. Cutlery, plates, and several sizes of pots and pans are also provided, as well as a coffee machine that’ll make you barista-grade cuppas all day.
The same design language continues in the bedroom, where sprightly coloured pillows and wooden vintage-looking side tables do plenty to add character to the space. Staying true to the concept of a home away from home, the room came with a washing machine and dryer in the bathroom, which is extremely useful if you’ve already accumulated a mountain of dirty laundry.
Food & Drinks
Restaurant Elis is the brainchild of two Michelin-starred chefs Rafael Cagali, who offers a dinner menu inspired by his Brazilian-Italian heritage. This is Cagali’s second restaurant, and like his mother’s first jazz bar in Sao Paulo, is named after Brazilian singer Elis Regina. Within its cosy, homely confines and amidst tunes of old-school Bossa, the restaurant serves up laid-back interpretations of both cuisines. Sharing is the name of the game here, so the menu’s split into small plates and big plates.
You’ll get decent service here; our waitress was very patient with notes about food intolerances. Bread – Sourdough, Focaccia and Pão de Queijo – was served warm, and came with delicious cultured butter. As for the small plates, the Caponata came highly recommended, for the rich classic Italian dish here comes served with fresh Burrata for extra creaminess.
The Short Rib Pastél is another favourite, and the light, savoury Brazilian fried pastries here are packed with a flavourful short rib filling that’s perfect for snacking on all night long. The menu isn’t extensive; you’ll find only three pasta dishes here and another three fish/meat options, but each is as good as the last. You won’t go wrong just blindly picking a few, but be sure to include the Duck Leg Ragu Pappardelle and BBQ Mackerel with Fennel and Citrus Salad.
Your night should only end one way: with a serving of the Bolinho de Chuva. These little doughnut balls, filled with dulce de leche, are the perfect Brazilian send-off, as you wash it all down with Italian wine that’s been curated by the team. This a reminder of what Restaurant Elis is all about.
Breakfast is also served here, although you shouldn’t expect service here to be as friendly and efficient. We waited a good 20 minutes for black coffee to arrive, and another 20 for the food even though the restaurant wasn’t busy. You can’t go wrong with the usual morning options like a full English or pancakes though, but only if you’re not in a rush.
If you can, make a reservation at Da Terra during your stay here too. The hotel’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant is helmed also by Restaurant Elis’ Cagali and offers extensive tasting menus inspired by his heritage.
The Town Hall Hotel’s Edwardian facade might look imposing, but it’s not all work and no play here. A decently-sized basement pool is a welcomed surprise, especially if you’re looking to sneak in a quick workout before heading out for the day. A skylight lets plenty of natural light in so it doesn’t feel like you’re stuck in an underground cave. Besides, the space is quite a cute Instagrammable spot.
Workout buffs can expect a gym next to it, which is equipped enough to work up a proper sweat. Otherwise, a wander around the expansive property is a workout in itself.
Bethnal Green might never have the slickness of Sloane Street, or the buzz of Regent Street, but there’s still plenty of culture worth exploring. The Town Hall Hotel is a decent base for that; filled with history, the property is a delight to explore at every turn. Its restoration has, after all, won awards thanks to the painstaking attention to detail taken.
It’s also more convenient than you think – Oxford Circus can be reached in 12 minutes by tube, and Victoria Park is only a 10-minute stroll away. Beyond the hotel, you’ll find equally worthy dining options in the neighbourhood, like Venezuelan restaurant Arepas & Co., as well as the Mediterranean-focused Sager + Wilde. Young V&A is also just a short walk away, and you’ll find the largest collection of childhood objects in the UK in this branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
If anything, the hotel will open your eyes to a whole new side of London, and perhaps inspire you to add even more of these less touristy destinations to your next itinerary.
This story first appeared here.