Travel Review, Andaz, Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, London
PUBLISHED: 23:23 27 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:01 10 May 2013
Standing outside Liverpool Street station looking at the former Great Eastern Hotel, it's really quite bizarre to think that a Grecian-style Masonic Temple - apparently attended by Jack the Ripper - lies behind four bricked-up windows.
It’s even odder to think that the strangely eerie room - which boasts heavy mahogany throne-like chairs and was built using 12 types of rare Italian marble - lay unnoticed hidden behind a fake wall for years, after new owners took it on in the 90s.
Apparently when the hotel, which is now called Andaz, was opened up for English Heritage Open Door tours a couple of years ago, people were so intrigued to see inside the queue was huge.
So I felt really lucky to stay and take in these features of the remarkable building at my leisure, where state of the art modernity meets traditional 19th century.
The grand red-brick hotel was originally built by the Great Eastern Railway Company in the hey-day of locomotive travel in 1884, but over the years fell into disrepair as the industry became less lucrative.
The hotel shut its doors in 1996, but reopened four years later having been transformed into a luxury five-star boutique pad, then in 2006 Hyatt relaunched it under its Andaz brand.
The hallmark of Andaz is “personal”, and many of the uber-cool modern artworks in the hotel have been created by local artists.
The chain does not produce marketing brochures - which certainly gets the thumbs up from me on an environmental level.
And arriving for our stay in the hotel’s impressive state-of-the art lobby, we discovered another part of the concept is to have done away with the front check-in desk.
Instead you can register all your details on an iPad as you chill out in a super comfy chair, sipping a cup of fine Emeyu tea wrapped in muslin casing.
It’s all about relaxation and with ambient music playing in the background, the place feels more like a posh spa than a busy city hotel.
With more time on my hands I’d have liked to hang out here with some of the other guests reading the paper or hooking up to the web.
However we went to check out our large suite - which was impressive.
Its grand high ceilings and period charm mingled with modern features like a large dark wood cabinet separating the bedroom from the study and lounge area.
Although the room overlooks the bustling Liverpool Street, you can barely hear a faint hum of traffic and the bed was so comfortable I slept like an angel.
Interestingly each of the hotel’s 267 rooms have sewage systems taking the water upwards because the Underground train system made it impossible for engineers to let the plumbing system work with gravity.
It’s not only the hotel which has undergone a radical transformation in the last decade.
Shoreditch used to be a no man’s land on Sundays, and I have memories of searching its deserted streets trying to find a watering hole to no avail.
But the Sunday we arrived the streets were as packed as those in central London’s Oxford Street, with people making the most of the nearby Spittlefields Market, as well as the now notoriously upper-cool nightlife scene.
The latest trendy Shoreditch and Hoxton bars and restaurants are always making the glossy pages of Vogue and Elle, as Hackney hipsters have made this the in-place to hang out.
We didn’t need to venture far from the hotel up Shoreditch High Street to find an array of trendy restaurants – Indian food in Dishoom’s colonial Bombay-style café, South American in Barrio East with its beautiful multi-colour seating, and Yalla Yalla’s Beirut street food in the Hackney House pop-up, built specially for the Olympics.
We decided to take advantage of the live acoustic bands playing in the WigWamBam on top of the Queen of Hoxton bar and club in Curtain Road.
The cosy little tipi designed for the winter months had been extended to the Easter weekend and beyond, to compensate for the spate of never ending Narnia-esque weather.
As we tucked into delicious barbeque food cooked on the fire blazing away in the middle of the sawdust-floored concentric space, downing Mohitos and listening to the talented local singers, I was overcome with good Glastonbury-style vibes.
But if you don’t want to stray out of the hotel there’s a load on offer with its five restaurants and bars – Japanese fare in Miyako, fresh seafood in Catch, a brasserie grill at Eastway and traditional English pub food in George.
The 1901 restaurant in the hotel’s old ballroom is perfect for fine dining with a sustainable, seasonal touch, and the room which is adorned with a stained-glass dome centrepiece doubles up for breakfast.
Needless to say, breakfasts are my favourite thing at nice hotels and Andaz doesn’t disappoint.
The hotel serves up the best Bircher muesli this side of Austria and the Eggs Benedict from the a la carte menu was an indulgent treat.
As was the entire hotel stay – even for those already living in the capital, I’d say it’s well worth paying this English Heritage listed building a visit.
Accommodation rates start from £324 a night on weekdays (Sunday to Thursday) and £162 at weekends (Friday & Saturday), and include wi-fi, a non-alcoholic minibar and local landline phone calls.
For more information call 0207 961 1234 or visit www.london.liverpoolstreet.andaz.com.