The hotel has arranged an airport pick-up, so there’s a driver with a sign with my name on it at arrivals at Terminal 5. Unfortunately, because it’s the early morning rush hour, the drive to the hotel takes two hours, and by the time I’ve arrived I feel like I’ve re-acquainted myself with the whole of London. Yet the City of London is always a welcome sight to me and the hotel’s grand presence on the corner of Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street is balanced by a slick lobby with a cosy snug offering free coffee and cold drinks.
The hotel is next to Liverpool Street Station, near the boundary between the corporate world of the City of London and the hugely creative zones of Spitalfields Market, Shoreditch and Brick Lane. It's less than five minutes walk to Spitalfields Market.
Originally built as the Great Eastern Hotel and opened in 1886, the five-storey structure has a dramatic Gothic-style exterior. On the inside, about half of the hotel has retained its original features, mostly in the restaurants and grand staircase, and half has been modernised, most notably by Terance Conran in the 1990s, when this was a Conran hotel. It became Hyatt’s flagship for its Andaz lifestyle brand in 2006. Andaz, Hindi for “personal style”, is the company’s “lifestyle” brand and will open in Abu Dhabi in November when the Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi rebrands to Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi.
The public spaces in the hotel are adorned with local art and slogans. There is a Guggenheim-inspired atrium above the lobby and various quirky-but-slick touches such as signs projected onto walls and arty maps of the area.
The hotel has 273 rooms. Mine is a king room, which is one step up from a queen or standard. It’s on the second floor and is small, at about 25 square metres, but is well designed and feels quiet and private. Though my room is a complete remodel of whatever was there before, small design touches hint at the building’s history and that of the area, so I feel like I’m in a small studio apartment rather than a bland chain. I like the chrome light switches, dark colour scheme, and compact desk and minibar areas. The bathroom’s white tiled design is striking, but I’d have liked a bath as well as a shower. There's a free non-alcoholic mini-bar.
Calls are answered promptly and by a real person. My air conditioning doesn’t cool enough initially and needs to be adjusted. There’s also a persistent low squeaking sound coming from the bathroom sink, which doesn’t resolve, but fortunately I can’t hear it from the bedroom.
The hotel has an eclectic variety of restaurants, from a small Japanese outlet to an English pub. A good buffet breakfast (£20, Dh95) is served in the elegant, marble-clad ballroom 1901 Restaurant. In Rake’s, the salt and pepper squid (£7), muhammara, beetroot hummus and baba ghanoush (£9) and roast sweet potato, quinoa and mango salad (£9.50) are all delicious. The fish and chips in Lady Abercorn’s Pub and Kitchen (£16) is also great. The Japanese restaurant, Miyako, is also worth staying in the hotel for.
There is a good energy about the hotel and the different venues are fun to explore. Most extraordinary is a magnificent Grade II-listed masonic temple dating from 1912. The breakfast room, 1901, is exquisite, and the Friday night atmosphere in Rake’s bar is brilliant – classy, lively clientele in an aristocratic setting.
Given the size of the property I would have expected to find a swimming pool or at least a hot tub. There is, however, a good steam room and gym.
One of my favourite hotels in London, thanks to its location, history and balance between retreat and dynamism.
The bottom line
Rooms at the Andaz London Liverpool Street cost from £167 (Dh800) per night including taxes.
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