When I arrived at Hyatt Place London City East I had no idea what to expect, one of the joys of reviewing hotels in London. Would it be a budget option, handy for the tube but lacking in charm? Or will it be a quirky boutique hotel, full of surprises but tucked away in a London back street?
My stay at Hyatt Place London City East
Hyatt Place London City East was a surprising combination of both of these and was a memorable stay for all sorts of reasons. Without a doubt, the stand-out highlight of the stay was PocketSquare, the 9th floor cocktail bar, with views stretching across London to Canary Wharf and a range of unique cocktails with many ingredients I’d never heard of, let alone tasted.
But the bedrooms, the public spaces and the basement Italian restaurant were all part of the Hyatt Place London City East experience. This recently-opened hotel is the first Hyatt Place hotel in central London and has made huge efforts to be influenced by the arty, creative vibe of Whitechapel Street and nearby Shoreditch.
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Cocktails and charm at Hyatt Place London City East
Getting to Hyatt Place London City East
The great thing about the location of Hyatt Place is that it’s less than a minute from Aldgate East tube station (make sure you take the Whitechapel Gallery exit). Turn left out of the station and walk past a range of shops including Tesco, and you’re there.
This means that you’re just around the corner from the world-famous Brick Lane, with its superb range of curry houses, bagel bakeries and independent shops including the former Truman Brewery site. Not only that, but Aldgate East is just 20 minutes walk from top tourist attractions Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, making it an ideal base for sight-seeing in London.
The downside is that Whitechapel Road itself, where the Hyatt Place London City East is located, has resisted all attempts of gentrification over the decades, so what some people might welcome as a lively, quirky, diverse and authentic part of London, others might be put off by the less-than-salubrious surroundings including piles of street rubbish and the roar of traffic. The good thing is that, thanks to some impressive sound-proofing, the outside noise doesn’t impact the hotel’s interior at all, so once you are inside the only sounds you hear will be the hiss of the coffee machine in the hotel’s café/restaurant.
Checking into the hotel
The entrance is on the ground floor but the reception is on the lower ground floor, so you can either take the lift or just walk down the stairs to your left. The reception is open plan and full of colourful furniture with plug points everywhere, handy for the digital nomads and business people tapping away at their laptops. There’s free wifi through the hotel and there are even two handy PCs in reception for people wanting to check their emails and local information, which was a nice touch.
What sets it apart from being an anonymous hotel which is, after all, part of an international chain, is the artwork which can be found throughout the hotel, having commissioned a series of London-based street artists to provide one-off pieces and local photography, so guests will find abstract murals from Brixton-based artist Olly Fathers, a spray-painted mural from street artist Jay Kaes and a geometric mural from Lothar Gotz to create a lively, contemporary feel.
Bedrooms at Hyatt Place
There are 280 bedrooms at Hyatt London City East which makes it seem like a vast hotel, but handily my room was just next to the lifts. All the rooms from the 6th to 9th floors have views of the London skyline, including my own room 803, which had a lengthy terrace running outside my room, which was perfect to soak up the sights and sounds of London from a height, including those icons of the nearby City of London, the Gherkin, Cheesegrater and Shard.
Guests not staying in a balcony or terrace room could also enjoy the views from the 9th floor bar PocketSquare, which faces towards the equally tall and impressive Canary Wharf buildings.
My room was good-sized for London, with a double bed at one end and a writing desk at the other, with a wardrobe containing an ironing board, towelling robe, Nespresso coffee machine, mini-fridge with water plus tea, coffee, milk and biscuits. The en-suite bathroom was small but very smart, with a walk-in shower, toiletries and lots of thick, fluffy towels. It also had a handy sensor light which came on automatically when you approached, so you didn’t have to find the light switch or wake your partner in the middle of the night.
PocketSquare skyline bar and terrace
On the 9th floor of Hyatt Place London City East is PocketSquare, the bar and terrace which is definitely a London ‘hidden gem’ and the highlight of our stay. Thanks to its innovative approach to drinks, from its six-legged cocktail glasses and esoteric cocktail ingredients, it proved to be an unexpectedly memorable visit, not least because it’s always a treat to drink outside at a rooftop bar in London.
The bar itself is full of warm, moody colours which make it a perfect place in which to work during the day, when you can really soak up those skyline views on the terrace. In the evening it has a perfect classic cocktail bar vibe, and the terrace has heaters and blankets so you can drink outside whatever the temperature.
It is the drinks which set it apart from other cocktail bars in London though, with eight signature cocktails containing delights such as tobacco bitters, Bergamot orange spray and mango and chilli marmalade. The bar staff are more than happy to explain any unfamiliar ingredients to you – mamajuana, tepache and Mikan essence to name but a few – and each drink comes in its signature glass and can be paired with any of the excellent bar snacks on offer.
We started off with the one with the wackiest glass: Chimera is served in a six-legged vessel which certainly caught the eye. It was powerful stuff – not as powerful as the Brutalism cocktail which we had later, which was completely over-the-top – and fun to drink, like a melted Haribo sweet, and paired perfectly with the inked squid – I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying the squid ink to the very last drop.
My favourite cocktail was the In2Art, which started sweet and then morphed into a lovely Campari-bitterness, and was the first time I’d tried either Mamajuana – a spiced alcoholic beverage from the Dominican Republic made by infusing a mixture of rum, red wine, and honey with tree bark and herbs – or Tepache – made from the peel and the rind of pineapple. I particularly liked the hefty blocks of ice – very Mad Men – and the dish it was paired with, a salmon and tuna mosaic, was the stand-out dish of the evening, if rather small for its hefty price tag.
It’s easy to drop quite a lot of money at PocketSquare – so-named, said bar manager Jem Luca, because it’s a smart, little detail – but every dish and drink was unique and memorable, from the Meiso which had fish-shaped ice cubes swimming around in gold leaf, and the 32 which came with an edible caramel spoon. We even tried the Basilicum, made especially for London Cocktail Week, and given the variety of cocktails and the passion for the drink from the bar staff, PocketSquare will be a must-visit for serious cocktail aficianados.
Zoom East restaurant at Hyatt Place
In the basement of Hyatt Place London City East is the Italian restaurant Zoom East, headed by Sicilian chef Vittorio Meli. We sampled our way across the menu, from a range of deli items including caponata, peppers and salami, to crispy fritto misto, arancini and creamy burrata and finally, a hefty sample of wild boar pappardelle. It was all classically Italian, tasty and delicious, and the bright colours and artful lighting made it feel much brighter than its below-street location would suggest.
Exploring Whitechapel Street and Brick Lane
This part of London is lively, creative and full of independent shops and restaurants. Just round the corner from the hotel is Brick Lane, full of curry houses and quirky shops, including the 24-hour Beigel Bake and vintage clothing store Beyond Retro, while next to Aldgate East tube station is Whitechapel Gallery, the ‘artists’ gallery for everyone’ which is free to visit and always worth checking out.
Just a short walk away is the historic Spitalfield Market, packed with bars and restaurants, and just off Brick Lane on Cheshire Street is the UK’s first plant-based cheesemonger, Fauxmagerie.
Breakfast at Hyatt Place
Breakfast the following morning was a good range of pastries, cereals, yogurts and cooked options, from fried eggs, sausages and bacon to onion bhajis, and freshly ground coffee, fresh juices and smoothies which seemed very popular with guests staying at the hotel.
With a late check out time of 12 noon, I was free to help myself to freshly-ground coffee and work from the open work space downstairs, where morning meetings were soon in full swing, although PocketSquare would have been a great place to work as well. It was time for one last view from my balcony before heading home through busy Whitechapel Street. I reckon Hyatt Place London City East will be a popular hotel with business people, students and tourists alike – and will soon find its rightful place on the London cocktail circuit.
Hotel information and to book Hyatt Place London City East
Hyatt Place London City East
Black Lion House,
45 Whitechapel Road
London E1 1DU
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