Whitechapel remains one of London’s most vibrant and multicultural neighbourhoods, home to the Whitechapel Gallery, arthouse cinema Genesis and now the New Road Hotel.
Housed in a former 1950s textile factory, the New Road Hotel sits opposite the Grade-II listed (and now abandoned) Royal London Hospital building. Though the hotel is, of course, an example of increasing gentrification, it’s not out-of-place on these streets. Owned by three Bangladeshi brothers, Monsur, Masrur and Moksud Malik, whose father moved to Britain in the 1960s and was a factory worker in the very same building, the property was empty for more than a decade before the Maliks decided to take on the project. And they’ve done a very good job of it.
The New Road Hotel is smart, but not ridiculously overpriced or pretentious. In fact, the ethos is minimal living: everything you need, nothing you don’t. There’s a little bit of leniency there as one could definitely argue that a cereal bar with multiple choices of toppings is pretty unnecessary, but the rooms themselves stick to the theme with just a bed, shower, TV, and small hanging rail for a few clothes.
Instead of a minibar, there’s a snack station with free tea and coffee and a vending machine with a selection of normal priced products (no artisan water for five quid a pop). You can also make use of the communal iron, desks, yoga mats and weights. Kind of like a posh hostel, but without the loud music and shot tokens.
There are different room categories, the top being the Loft with a terrace and jacuzzi bath, but our favourite is the Warehouse rooms with corner beds. Two-metre-square, and taking up most of the room, with headboard-style padding on three sides, these beds are probably not ‘necessary’ but they’re extremely comfortable and a lot of fun. We use it as a sofa with pillows lined all along the edges to watch TV before dinner. Whilst some of the rooms can feel a little dark, our room has two walls of glass, looking down into the courtyard which we would recommend picking even over the higher category rooms with terraces that overlook the skyline.
The style of the rooms, as throughout the rest of the hotel, is industrial-cool, which may feel like a bit of an old trend these days, but it works perfectly here since a lot of the original features have been retained such as the beautiful old fire doors, large metal windows, and parquet panelling. The furniture is retro — think velvet blue and yellow armchairs — and the heaving piping is exposed in the ceiling above the dining tables in the hotel’s restaurant: the Marco Pierre White Chop House. The celebrity chef isn’t actually in the kitchen, but is behind the menu and helped to source the Irish beef. I and my guest are pescatarian and perhaps not the restaurant’s target clientele but there are still plenty of excellent options. We devour our starters of calamari and smoked mackerel brandade, and agree that the grilled salmon steak with chyron sauce and vine tomatoes couldn’t really have been better. Make sure you’re hungry when you go, the portions are hearty and richly flavoured. Breakfast is served here too with all the usual suspects (minus sausages and bacon since the hotel is pork-free), but as we’re both in a rush to get to work we sit in armchairs by the front window for a quick croissant and coffee.
What makes the hotel stand out though isn’t the design or the food, but the attitude. We tend to find that hotels can go two ways in London: over-the-top luxurious (amazing on the right occasion) or hipster cool (also fun if you’re in the right mood), but the New Road Hotel sits between the two offering guests a comfortable place to stay in a convenient and interesting location, and more importantly, there’s a certain kind of freedom and calm that comes with everything being stripped back. Here’s a luxury hotel, which, for once, is trying to encourage interaction and community. You’re more likely to experience real London here, whilst making your morning coffee at the snack station than you are in an executive club lounge of a high-rise business hotel.
Make a booking at the New Road Hotel.