Patricia and Dennis Cleveland-Peck enjoy a no-frills stay at a hotel which is cheap yet very cheerful
Spitalfields is one of our favourite places. We find a visit to this fascinating part of London can be almost as stimulating as a trip abroad. It has an interesting history, eighteenth century Huguenot houses, trendy boutiques, a spacious covered market, lots of street art and the curry houses of Brick Lane, to say nothing of dozens of cafes where you can sit and watch the very diverse inhabitants pass by. We were often frustrated by having to rush for the last train home to Sussex after a meal there but until recently apart from some elegant houses suitable for family parties there were few reasonable places to stay.
The advent of the Tune Liverpool Street Hotel in Folgate Street has changed that so we decide to give it a try. We had no idea what to expect. Would it be like a hostel? Would we feel out of place? Would the rooms be minute, like those in some Japanese hotels?
What the no-frills concept means, we learned, is that for a very reasonable rate (£55-£90 depending on the day of the week and whether the room has windows) you can have a double or twin room with a comfortable Hypnos bed, air conditioning, an ensuite power shower and loo, 24-hour reception security and the use of a pleasant garden – but for everything else you pay a supplement. Towels and toiletries cost £2.00, television £4.00 for 24 hours, in-room wireless connection £4.00 for 24 hours, in-room safe and hairdryer £2.00 and £3.00 respectively for the whole stay. The rooms are only cleaned after every third night of your stay – if you require extra cleaning and clean linen you can have it – for £8.00 extra.
As most of us are used to these things being included in the overall room rate this does take a bit of getting used to – but it also reminds us that many of these things we don’t really need. Initially we slightly baulked at the idea of paying for towels – but you can always bring your own and, as we are all being made aware, laundry is perhaps the single most wasteful aspect of the hotel industry. Part of the Tune philosophy ( ‘Less Waste –More Earth’ is their slogan ) is sustainability and the loos are fitted with a dual flush system to save wasting water. Breakfast is not available although there is a little coffee shop in the reception area..
We would not consider taking a windowless room anywhere but that being said, we found staying there as good as in many of the more expensive hotels we’ve experienced – better in fact than some.
Our welcome was warm and efficient. The whole place looked clean and our room was surprisingly spacious with big windows affording a view over the pleasant garden. There were natty little touches such as a drop-down shelf which formed a little desk with the plugs for computers etc. concealed within. The lighting was good and the temperature control easy to manipulate. We had no complaints and although perhaps created with business people and young travellers in mind, there is nothing that need put off the more mature casual visitor to the capital.
One of the greatest bonuses was the situation. Tune hotels are to be found in city centres or near main stations and for us it was a huge plus that it is in one of the lovely old streets for which Spitalfields is famous. In fact the hotel is opposite Dennis Severs House, one of the leading attractions of the area – and in our opinion, of the capital.
It was here that the late Dennis Severs, an American, having bought this dilapidated eighteenth century house, decided to live in it without electricity or mod cons just as if he were still in the eighteenth century. He carried this further by creating what he called A Still Life Drama, imagining a resident family of Huguenot weavers and then inviting members of the public to step into their lives. During the candlelit visit, it was as if these previous occupants had just left the room, their meal half eaten, the smell of the food still on the air. They could sometimes be heard but were always just out of sight…. This experience was quite magical and it is to the credit of some determined people that the house and these atmospheric visits are ongoing although Dennis Severs died in 1999.
This is just one of the delights of Spitalfields. Its architecture is another for it is here that some of the best preserved Huguenot weaver’s houses are to be found and it is a pleasure just to wander amongst them. Then there is Christ Church, a splendid building by Nicholas Hawksmoor which dominates the area and, on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street there is another which embodies the various waves of immigration which have left their mark here. Now the Jamme Masjid or Great Mosque, it began its life as Huguenot Church, was later used as a Methodist chapel before becoming an orthodox Jewish synagogue. At 19 Princelet Street is an even stranger building for, although you’d never guess from the shabby front door, another synagogue was to be found in the back garden. Now it is houses the Museum of Immigration which will host two of its very rare openings in June.
After our explorations we were able to enjoy dinner in one of our favourite restaurants, Chez Elles. Run by two charming French girls, this little bistroquet nestles happily amongst the curry houses of Brick Lane – embodying something of the accepting nature of the area. Delicious, authentically French food is served, ( escargots, homemade rilliettes and terrines, moules et frites, tartare de boeuf, faux filet etc) the décor is charming, many of the customers are French and an enjoyable evening is almost guaranteed. Even more so in our case as we only had to take a leisurely stroll back to our hotel rather than a mad dash for the last train.
Yes, the Liverpool St Tune Hotel proved an idea base. There are however, other Tune hotels in London; at Kings Cross, Paddington, Canary Wharf and Westminster. In fact since they were first launched in Malaysia these hotels have spread all over the Far East and into India and Australia.
So the no-frills idea seems to have caught on – and why not?