Terence Conran's latest London project is at home in one of the capital's trendiest locations.
Boundary hotel: luxurious living in London
Terence Conran's latest London project is a handsome five-storey building on the corner of Boundary Street and Redchurch Street; the entrance to the restaurant and "rooms" part of the hotel, as opposed to the large airy Albion cafe, is in Redchurch Street. There's a narrow, low-key and somewhat dark reception area but I'm swiftly welcomed and checked in; an American woman is already at reception extending her stay ("I just love the roof terrace; I can't bear to go back to Surrey yet!"). It's 2.40pm and my room isn't ready, so I'm urged to take the lift to the roof terrace to wait for 20 minutes. It's a fine day and the views are great, so I don't mind.
Close to both Brick Lane and Liverpool Street, the area around Boundary has a distinct "Shoreditch" edge about it. Time Out London rates the grungy-but-hip Redchurch Street as London's best shopping street; in front of the hotel is Shoreditch House private member's club (part of the Soho House group) and directly opposite is the Biscuit Building, an old print works that houses the London headquarters of Mother, an advertising agency. Shoreditch's other creative pockets, including Hoxton Square and the "Shoreditch Triangle" area between Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Great Eastern Street, are just five minutes' walk away.
It's a Thursday afternoon, so there's that almost-the-weekend feeling up on the huge roof terrace, where an early sunny evening brings a rather corporate crowd who fill almost all of the tables and lounge seats, but the breeze is very pleasant. Just as we head down to our table in the basement restaurant, a slightly more alternative crowd arrives. The restaurant, all bare brick walls and banquettes, is cooler than its clientele, who seem to be mostly middle-aged and middle class, though there are some young couples and female-only tables. The snug bar is full but coolly relaxed. There's a younger, more creative-looking scene in Albion, the cafe upstairs.
Boundary has 12 bedrooms and five suites, four of which are duplexes. Each room is unique and inspired by a different designer or design movement. Mine is a "large" duplex suite, which at 52 square metres doesn't feel very large, but it can still comfortably host two. It's designed by Priscilla Carluccio and its theme is "Modern Italian", which is hardly cutting-edge but, with its clean minimalism and splashes of colour, is (like Carluccio's restaurants) just the sort of thing that makes me feel at home. There are blond wood floors, white cupboards, a large white table and a desk area filled with coffee-table design books, copies of Italian Vogue, chrome light fittings and a red sofa. Suspended from the upper ceiling is a large silver lampshade made from silver sheets of paper clipped to pieces of wire; upstairs on the mezzanine level, my favourite part of the room was the bathroom, which had great mirrored sliding doors and a lovely rolltop bath.
A Russian-sounding member of room service came like lightning to rectify a failed attempt to use my espresso machine and later delivered a complimentary chocolate brownie; service on the rooftop was also good and a number of tables are reserved for in-house guests. The service in Boundary's restaurant was swift and attentive; in Albion, it was a little slower but the food was quick to come once ordered.
I found the French-dominated menu at Boundary rather limited and very heavy on shellfish, but dishes do change daily. We ordered the charcuterie (£9.50; Dh55) and found the succulent game terrines and chicken and duck pâtés, served with fresh French bread, delicious and enough for two to share. For mains, I loved the blanquette de veau (£15.50; Dh90), a veal breast stewed until meltingly tender, served with a sauce of cream and veal stock. I found the piece of almost foam-like pan-fried neck meat that came with it slightly off-putting and I was glad we had ordered side dishes of Jersey Royals and broad beans and peas (£4.50; Dh26 each). My friend's Manx Loaghtan lamb (£22; Dh128) was tender and well-cooked but not spectacular. The fish and chips in Albion (£10.25; Dh60) was a nicely firm, large piece of haddock cooked perfectly but encased in slightly-too-heavy batter. Breakfast was my favourite meal - a selection of sweet and savoury pastries (from £1; Dh6 each) chosen from the in-house bakery - the croissants were crusty on the outside, fluffy and buttery on the inside, the hot cross buns plump, moist and fruity, the marmite roll was the perfect anytime snack and the honey and pecan bun the ideal accompaniment to a cappuccino.
The sense of living luxuriously, if only for one night, in one of the most creative parts of Shoreditch. The proper teapot and glass bottle of fresh milk in the room, Albion cafe, with its retro Thomas Turner knives with yellow handles evoking the East End; the Ren-branded Moroccan Rose Otto body wash, which doubled as a luxurious bath foam.
The wardrobe in my room was small and downstairs and upstairs in the bedroom, I could hear the sound of furniture being moved around on the roof terrace at 11.30pm. A bar of chocolate from the mini bar was priced at £6.50 (Dh38).
A very smart hotel in a less-than-smart location: the perfect way to immerse yourself in London's creative hub.
The bottom line
Double rooms cost from £164.50 (Dh957) per night, including taxes but excluding breakfast. Boundary, 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, London (www.theboundary.co.uk; 00 44 20 7729 1051).