ANDAZ on London’s Liver-pool Street announces its boutique-chic credentials the moment you go through the doors and head for reception. Wrong.
There is no reception. Just a bright foyer “space”, with designer loungers, semi-abstract sculptures and ambient music. If Philip Glass designed hotel lobbies they would feel like this. Soon, somebody charming glides up with an iPad and checks you in. If they take a moment, you can help yourself to espresso and snacks.
The Andaz was the first of its kind when it opened in 2007, a bid by Hyatt to create a funky high-end brand to add to its portfolio. The building itself began life in 1884 as the Great Eastern, a grand redbrick railway hotel next to Liverpool Street Station. This is what you see from the outside. Inside, what you get is a fascinating slice of postmodern fusion, much of which is down to Terence Conran of Habitat fame.
During Conran’s refurbishments an old masonic temple was unearthed in the basement (more of which below), but the hotel mainly ticks the contemporary boxes. For example, it is now a venue for the East End Film Festival (“We showed slasher movies in the temple,” the duty manager told us), and it stages shows for the City of London Festival. It also teaches basic chef skills to homeless people through a charity called Providence Row.
WINING AND DINING:
Breakfast in the main 1901 restaurant is traditional English buffet or continental. We can vouch for the pancakes. All up, there are seven bars and restaurants, including Miyako for Japanese. The Eastway does all-day breakfast and brunch, and its salmon and crème fraîche bagel hits the spot. The hotel also houses a very English pub, which for a second you imagine could be an Andaz retro installation, until you discover that the George was part of the original Great Eastern. It’s a good spot for a pint.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?:
Essence of boutique. Andaz is a Hindustani word that means “unique style”.
There is nothing fussy about the 267 rooms – classy, modernist functionalism with a very comfortable bed. Just right. But a few come with an Andaz street-chic twist. In a collaboration with contemporary East End street artists, four of the large king-sized rooms are being decorated with bespoke artwork, one each quarter until April. We were lucky enough to stay in the Room With A View, with its inaugural hand-painted mural depicting a pearly king and queen against a background of East End landmarks by Chris Price and his wife and collaborator, Delisia Howard. This month, cityscape artists Patrick Vale and Paul Davis’s One Day Walk room has been unveiled, and there are two more to come.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR:
It’s not far to go to your very own temple, just down a winding staircase and into the basement. Originally built for the clients of the Great Eastern in 1912, the neo-classical “Grecian” masonic temple is breathtaking: it is all marble and mahogany, with an organ, hand-carved chairs, bronze claw-foot candelabras, a blue and gold zodiac dome and a chequerboard floor. The Andaz will tell you that every couple of months a local lodge still gathers in the temple. The hotel itself mainly uses the space for events. In July, for example, one of Britain’s great jazz pianists, Julian Joseph, played an Ellington concert down here as part of the London Festival, complete with candles burning around the chamber. Surreal. Slightly further afield are Shoreditch and Brick Lane, where a curry followed by a wander through London’s frenetic clubland gave us a flavour of the capital’s more edgy side.
The mini-bar. Unless you like to incinerate cash, hotel mini-bars usually squat in the corner silently goading you. Here, soft drinks and snacks are included in the price of the room.
For a short, high-end stay near the East End, and for something a little different, the Andaz is highly recommended.
• Andaz, Liverpool Street, London (0207 961 1234, www.andazliverpoolstreet.com)
Room With A View large king room, from £348 (Sunday to Thursday) and £246 (Friday/Saturday) until July 2015. Standard rooms from £330/£180