In London's East End, this former Victorian pub brings an airy escape to the streets of Spitalfields. Ideal for staycationers, solo travellers and loved-up duos alike, The Buxton hotel invites you to explore the streets of Shoreditch before heading to its panoramic rooftop for sundown cocktails.
We love a rags-to-riches story, so this Eliza Doolittle-esque tale of an East End boozer given a modern East London makeover warms our Cockney cockles. Housed in a former Victorian pub, The Buxton is a big-hearted homage to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, a 19th-century MP and previously the owner of the nearby Truman Brewery (itself now a hub for creative businesses and a weekly street-food market). In his day Sir Thomas was committed to abolishing slavery, founding the RSPCA and raising money for the local weaving community - acts of generosity that The Buxton nods to through its work with neighbourhood charity Cardboard Citizens, which uses theatre to tackle the issue of homelessness. Its present incarnation is the work of the team behind nearby Spitalfields gastropub The Culpeper, of gigantic rooftop-gherkin fame. Architect Gareth Roberts and business partner Nico Treguer have revamped the building by adding two extra floors, a rooftop terrace and a stonking street-level restaurant/bar, a much-needed addition to the kebab shops that more commonly characterise this end of Brick Lane.
Interiors avoid the traps of steampunk junk and Edison bulb-lit bareness, instead balancing whitewashed walls and potted plants with cleverly sourced vintage elements such as a Rosso Levanto marble counter, sapphire velvet chairs in the hallways and a 50s terrazzo-patterned floor. While the rooms are compact to say the least, for a flat rate of £100 (including a welcome drink and breakfast) it's a seductive option for staycationers, solo travellers and loved-up duos who fancy travelling no further than a few flights of stairs when going from dinner to duvet.
The 15 bedrooms branch off from pleasingly retro salmon-and-navy corridors but are themselves white, bright and cheerful, despite their pocket size. A blocked-up Victorian fireplace is topped with a radio playing jazz, a capsule coffee machine and a jar of homemade shortbread, plus there's a small collection of books about East London tucked underneath the windowsill. The bathroom consists of a walk-in shower and loo separated by a sliding glass door (that doesn't quite close, so you're going to really want to like whoever you're sharing with...), but there are also plenty of mirrors to apply make-up/ check yourself out. Woven artworks by local artist Margo Selby punctuate the ivory colour scheme and hark back to Sir Thomas' patronage of the weaving community, as do the loom-punched leather room-key tags.
What's for breakfast?
On a sunny morning the doors are thrown open to the street outside, providing a perfect people-watching position astride one of the countertop tables. Locally roasted Exmouth Coffee is available alongside freshly squeezed juices, kombucha and bloody marys, and in addition to a breakfast buffet guests can order cooked options including English ham with potato rosti and mustard mayonnaise, cured salmon and eggs on toast, and harissa tomato with baked egg.
How about lunch and dinner?
The bar is the star at The Buxton, with an emphasis on regional European/ British cuisine and responsibly sourced meat and fish from the UK. Counter seating means you can watch the chefs at work and test out their experiments - a bag of homemade cheese and onion "crisps" was generously tossed in our direction, wolfed down alongside fresh bread. The menu is small but perfectly formed - we tucked into the gnocchi with wild garlic pesto, langoustines, hake with shellfish sauce and samphire and pillowy doughnuts injected with the house jam and lemon curd, all delectable.
Is there a bar?
As well as turning out beautiful plates of food, the bar also serves a list of natural wines (we tried the dry white by Davenport Vineyards in Sussex), locally brewed bottled beers and seasonally changing cocktails created using herbs grown on the rooftop kitchen garden, such as the punchy Red Torch. Nibbles include cheese and charcuterie boards, radishes with smoked cod's roe and a scotch egg that's already passing into local legend.
Sadly, there's no room service, but there are tea and coffee making facilities as well as a sweet treat from the kitchen upon arrival. While there are no wardrobes there are hooks for your clothes and ample room beneath the bed for suitcases. Light sleepers should be warned that there's currently no air con (although fans are planned) and the location means that it can be a tad noisy with the windows are open.
Things I should know
There's a rooftop exclusively for guests' use with a 360-degree view of the city, surrounded by herbs grown for the use of the kitchen downstairs. Although there's no service on the roof, it's well-worth spiriting a cocktail from the bar up the flights of stairs to bask in this early-evening sun trap.