Stratford. So say most people when asked about this
so-called “leisure hub” out in East London. Other pockets of the capital are
known for their niches. You want arty endeavours with a dusting of
urban grit? Stoke Newington. For a lesson in old-school glamour?
Notting Hill. Anyone who isn’t seduced by
Richmond’s deer-strewn wilderness and delicious Georgian terraces
is a cyborg in our books. Stratford’s niche? As it stands, quite a
noisy shopping centre and a headache-inducing tangle of transport
While Stratford’s not breaking any hearts right now, big plans
are in motion. The Stratford hotel is but one gleaming,
polished-concrete cog in the area’s hefty regeneration project – a
project which will eventually see a new V&A Museum outpost, a
Sadler’s Wells dance theatre and a London College of Fashion campus
move in. In short, the area is picking up. It’s clear, even before
being sucked into The Stratford’s glassy whirlwind of a lobby, that
this shocking palpitation in the cityscape – designed by SOM, the
same architects behind the Burj Khalifa – is as much a wickedly
luxe place to bed down in the city as it is a statement of
The Stratford isn’t trying to be nicey-nicey; it’s a
rule-breaker. Its tagline is “spend the night, stay the week or
move in for good,” owing to the mish-mash of short- and long-term
lets which are staggered among the building’s 42-storeys. If you’re
paying a flying visit, you’ll be put up in one of the lower six
floors. Though the other 36 are for those moneyed few who plan on
hanging around a while, the building’s Scandi-lously nonchalant
restaurants and bars are open to all – temporary keycards
notwithstanding – and soundtracked by residents’ artsy
The immediate surroundings are still, er, let’s say in their
awkward phase, but The Stratford’s position at the intersection of
London‘s most prominent underground and
overground train networks, combined with its world-leading design
credentials makes this place a real boon for creative city breakers
looking to break away from London’s typical touristy haunts. East
London (proper East London, not Shoreditch) is just there beyond
your floor-to-ceiling glass windows, while you can zip into the
glorious chaos of Oxford Circus in 20 minutes flat.
Before reaching the bedroom, the tone is set in the foyer.
There’ll be no concierge bells or paperwork here; charming staff in
asymmetric, designer uniforms swipe and tap on their tablets before
escorting you to your room.
Stepping out of the lift and into the hotel corridor is like
entering an alternative space-time continuum. Corridors carpeted in
variegated shades of taupe and spotted by moody light fixtures
revolve around a perfectly cubic, multi-storey courtyard framed by
seamless sheets of glass. At its centre, Petroc Sesti’s Anatomy of
The Void, an ever-swirling vortex of water which spins furiously
within an orb the height of a double-decker bus.
The hotel was designed by Space Copenhagen, the studio behind
some of Copenhagen‘s most quintessentially Scandi interiors,
and the bedrooms carry its trademark finishes: elegant triptychs of
mirrors; contemporary parquet floors; a palette so carefully
subdued it’s impossible to imitate; and furniture that makes you go
“ooo” both for its sharp aesthetics and sheer squishability.
Rooms ascend in price and size from double to studio, and each
come outfitted with a tablet that handles everything from room
service to background musak. We opted for the Manhattan Studio, a salaciously large sprawl skirted
almost entirely by glass with a bathtub big enough to sleep three
itself, though rooms facing into the centre courtyard are decidedly
less scenic and a little darker, so do enquire when making your
What’s for breakfast?
An important question. Sorry buffet enthusiasts, The Stratford
treats breakfast – the most important meal of the day – with the
respect it deserves, by dishing out an à la carte menu at The
Stratford Brasserie on the ground floor. Don’t expect any big
surprises. It’s a best-of-the-best round-up of old classics such as
avocado toast and bircher muesli alongside a rainbow of freshly
pressed juices. What breakfast lacked in eclecticism it more than
made up for in people-watching. Overheard by the bar stools: “Are
you exhibiting at the [Venice] Biennale this year?” The
tracksuit-clad chap on the adjacent table to ours was the head of
Jordan’s National Olympic Committee, no less.
What about lunch and dinner?
You might think it strange that a hotel surrounded by such urban
hubbub would pride itself on its farm-to-table offering, but
Allegra, The Stratford’s fine-dining restaurant, is up there with
the best of them. The interiors have been designed in various
shades of sourdough beige, a retiring backdrop for the
zingy-looking dishes that come spinning out of the open kitchen.
They’re eye-catching, artfully dishevelled little sculptures –
artichoke velouté, pickled-seaweed tartare, smoked-eel pithivier –
each deserving of wall text. Starters range from £12 to £16, while
mains sit around the £17 to £30 mark. We didn’t order a tasting
menu, but wish we had. Each is made bespoke for your table so needs
to be requested in advance.
For a more casual bite, pull up a chair at The Stratford
Brasserie which serves an unfussy bevvy of proven crowd-pleasers
(think wood-fired pizza and organic burgers) alongside some more
adventurous fare. Grilled peach, hazelnuts and burrata, anyone?
Is there a bar?
Not just any bar, but a no-waste cocktail bar. It’s called The Mezzanine and prides itself
on its eco ethos. The life cycle of a humble tonka bean here is
quite something, I’m told by one of the clued-up, bottle-flinging
bartenders. For the most part, it’s grated into the “Rhythm in
Cognac” cocktail along with spiced coconut, grilled pineapple and
Rémy Martin cognac (of course). The remaining sediment is roasted
then pulverised and used as a garnish elsewhere on the menu.
That’s just one of many bright ideas woven unassumingly into The
Mezzanine’s menu. Overall, its division into emotional groupings
like “euphoric” and “revelatory” feels a tad cringe, but the actual
drinks are real taste-bud bamboozlers made with bizarre ingredients
– CO2 and citric bubbles, for instance – which sound both dangerous
yet beguiling. We recommend getting chummy with one of the
bartenders who’ll help demystify the less obvious juices.
Unfortunately, plastic straws punctured a slight hole in all the
eco spiel, but could easily be fixed.
Hotel gyms are often disappointing hovels, outfitted with little
more than a janky treadmill and some beleaguered resistance bands.
The Stratford’s is split into three rooms, with a soft-mat area,
weight racks, a yoga studio and a rich arsenal of muscular black
Technogym machines. Glass stretches the length of the gym, flooding
it with sunlight, while complimentary bottled water (still and
sparkling) can be picked up along with sweat towels and a squirt of
hand sanitiser upon entry. Serious gym goers will rejoice.
Things you should know
If you’re exceptionally nosy, ask the concierge to whisk you up
to the gardens on the 36th floor for Insta-worthy views across
London. Only long-term residents are technically
allowed up there, but you’re more than welcome to catch a breather
on Allegra’s garden terrace up on the seventh floor which is still
pretty, if less dramatic.
Within a short walk you’ll find…
A short walk’s pushing it. Within just a few steps you’ll find
Stratford International train station – a gateway into central
London (hop on the central line and arrive in Shoreditch 20 minutes
later) and out, towards Greater Anglia.