The Hoxton hotel brand has made a move west from Shoreditch into central London and has done it with knowing, urban style while keeping prices keen
The new Hoxton hotel in Holborn, Central London
When we arrive in the early evening, the lobby of the new Holborn edition of the Hoxton hotel is even busier than the throbbing thoroughfare outside. We have to wade through a mele of wining and beering workers to find the reception. The reason for this is that the ground floor is taken up by Hubbard & Bell, a bar and restaurant owned by the Soho House group, which has managed in just over three months to become one of the districts liveliest after-work drinking and dining dens.
Some travellers might find the hubbub a bit much after, say, a transatlantic flight; but coming at the end of a long day of joyless work in a dank, dark London, I can take it as just a very warm welcome.
The first Hoxton, further east in Shoreditch, opened in 2006 and garnered attention for its fair prices and pared-down interiors. The move into central London has required a bit more polish, but the overall design ethos remains basic. Theres no pool or gym (though there is a nail bar). Carpets are grey, as are the walls. Furniture is low-cost vintage, including school chairs and those huge teak stereo cabinets that everyone had in 1978. Lighting cuts off when not in use, and even when it comes back on, the corridors remain dimly lit.
The Hoxtons lobby/reception
We walk down a very long one to find our room, buried away in a corner. Inside, the fixtures and fittings are skewed towards industrial-functional and on the bold side. Theres a huge circular mirror and metal floating arm lamps. A leather armchair and a massive leather headboard. Two copper-tone tables. This is set against bespoke Dickens-themed wallpaper the author lived nearby and bookish Bloomsbury is on the doorstep. There are a dozen old Penguin paperbacks, which provide illuminating reading as well as a nice orange glow. Theres a Minolta 7000 camera body, for show, and a black Roberts radio, for use. Complementing the greys, there are some browns, with heavy velour curtains that ensure zero light pollution at night (though, sadly, sealed windows mean zero air too).
Square metres in Holborn are expensive, and the planners have done all they can to squeeze 174 rooms into the five storeys of a not-particularly-vast former BT office block. The smallest category of room is Shoebox (about 12 square metres). Ours isnt quite that but instead of a wardrobe we have a black tubular metal hanging unit. Extra pillows are stored in drawers under the bed. The fridge is so deftly disguised that we dont find it for the first 10 minutes.
There are luxuries. The mattress is sumptuously soft and while the bathroom is your classic London shower cubicle, the tiling is smart and the blast from the overhead sprinkler powerful. The toiletries are decent. Fresh milk is provided, along with Clipper teas and coffee bags. There are free newspapers in the lobby and free Wi-Fi throughout. We dine at Hubbard & Bell, the in-house restaurant. Its a New York-style grill and the steaks are big, pungent and perfectly charred. The house wines are good, and the service brisk. Its all in keeping with the vibe of the hotel: no fuss, lots of fun, honest prices. (The Chicken Shop in the basement is even cheaper, and its spit-roast birds smell heavenly.)
Hubbard & Bell
The lobby is lively again for the morning shift though now the noise is of fingers clicking on Macs and the clatter and chatter of creatives having power breakfasts. None is included for guests. Carbs and hot food are being served at the restaurant but we pop outside and walk 10 metres to Holborn Grind, the hotels lovely little espresso bar, which serves generous bowls of fruit, granola and seeds, buttery pastries including a lush chocolate and pistachio croissant and excellent coffee.
The new Hoxton is quite a happening for central Londons hotel scene. It occupies an ugly edifice, but is anything but drab on the inside. Aimed at a certain brand of urban traveller, its the kind of skilfully curated work-eat-sleep space youd associate with Old Street and effervescent east London (and the sort of people who talk about curating spaces). But its exceptionally good value given its central location, and from the evidence of one short visit on a damp winters night, Holborns serious-minded lawyers, publishers and office clerks are already being energised by its social whirl.