Mama Shelter, Bethnal Green, London

Mama Shelter, Bethnal Green, London

Bringing together irreverent fun and affordability in
East End
, Mama Shelter proves that
affordable hotels can be anything but boring. Come for the offbeat
style and pocket-friendly price tag, stay for the comfort food and

Did you know that the head of a dead whale found on the British
coast automatically becomes the property of the king? Crane your
neck towards this Hackney Road hotel’s low-slung living room
ceiling and you’ll be enlightened with such facts thanks to the
scribblings of artist Beniloys.

It’s design touches like this that make Mama Shelter stand out
from London‘s
crowded budget hotel scene. The brand was created in 2008 by
designer Philippe Starck and the Trigano family, of Club Med fame.
Today it’s turning the luxury resorts’ hedonistic “sea, sex and
sun” mantra towards “out of the way” city neighbourhoods – albeit
at a less bank-breaking price point.

All matt-black and striped awnings, the group’s first UK hotel
stands out in its Bethnal Green locale. Inside, Parisian design
team Dion & Arles has created an Aladdin’s cave of kitsch meets
cool. All the trappings of your eccentric granny’s living room –
trailing succulents, rattan light shades, doilies, Liberty-print
sofas – are coupled with pop art, curios and birdcage cabinets
topped with Darth Vader helmets.

Thankfully, any gimmicks are balanced with a good dose of
quality, making Mama Shelter a light-hearted, breath-of-fresh-air
stay that we’d take over budget beige at every opportunity. This
hotel doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should


Mama Shelter is all about being fun and sociable; while communal
areas are a riot, private spaces are altogether more fuss-free and
functional, with enveloping beds, blackout blinds, rain showers and
on-demand porn (PG movies are also available).

Characterful “Mama” touches come in the form of cartoon masks
(ours were Tweety Pie and Sylvester) hanging on the bedside lamps,
and natural skincare products by French company Absolution
emblazoned with cheeky taglines such as “Mama wants to cream you

The 194 rooms are categorised into Small, Medium and Large – opt
for one on the top floor for views of London’s skyline. Accessible
rooms are available.

What’s for breakfast?

Not included in the room rate, the breakfast buffet is £15 per
head, which feels a little on the steep side compared to the
hotel’s budget-friendly room rates (and the cheaper cafés that
populate the surrounding neighbourhood). That being said, Mama’s
buffet is generous. Expect three large, long tables overflowing
with pastries, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, eggs, cured meats and the
like, as well as veg-heavy vegan dishes. The DIY juicing station is
a nice touch – and one that we feel especially thankful for after
the previous night’s libations.

How about lunch and dinner?

Dining here is all about comfort – the food is “just like Mama
makes”, after all – and available until midnight. Family-style
dishes include whole-roasted chicken, chips and “proper” gravy
followed by jam roly poly and custard, while smaller plates for the
table involve truffled-ricotta pizzetta (lovely) and crab doughnuts
(a charcoal-infused affair that proved a touch too much style over

Beyond sharing fodder, the menu is as eclectic as the
restaurant’s decor, running a global gamut from pork belly baos,
lamb shawarma and croque monsieur (a nod to Mama Shelter’s Parisian
roots) to the pie, mash and smoked-eel liquor that celebrates the
hotel’s East End location. There are some great plant-based options
to boot.

Is there a bar?

Please. Would a good Mama ever let her guests go dry? The Green
Room, an all-day, all-weather courtyard (thanks to its retractable
roof), keeps guests watered with craft beers, international wines
and a thoroughly British cocktail menu. We loved the earl-grey
infused “London Cuppa” and “Sundays on Columbia Road”, an
effervescent botanical blend featuring gin, elderflower and


Mama knows that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
While the hotel offers six atelier-style meeting rooms and
super-fast WiFi throughout (several suits with laptops made an
appearance at breakfast), it also encourages guests to really let
their hair down. Expect a giant built-in Twister board, retro video
games and tabletop football.

Should your self-esteem and vocal cords be on form (or not),
descend to one of the hotel’s two neon-lit, Japanese-style karaoke
rooms and belt out “Mama, I love you” into a 50s microphone that
wouldn’t look out of place in the hands of Elvis or The Everly

Things I should know

You won’t find a stocked mini fridge or tea and coffee equipment
in your room, but you’re more than welcome to bring up drinks and
snacks from downstairs.

Within a short walk I can find…

Should you tire of Mama Shelter’s wining and dining options, the
graffiti-flecked Hackney Road and its surrounds have some great
alternatives. Tuck into a full English at the century-old E Pellicci
, cosy up with British fare at The Marksman or dip into the sleek Sager + Wilde Wine Bar – all are within a
10-minute stroll.

Sated? Mama Shelter is a springboard into London’s East End,
flanked by Hackney
to the north, Bethnal Green due south,
to the west and Victoria Park east. Spend a
wholesome day at Hackney City Farm or, come the
weekend, hop across Regent’s Canal to Broadway Market and pick up
blooms at nearby Columbia Road.