Stratford has never ranked highly on my list of sexiest staycation locations, that was until I booked in for a night at The Stratford, the skyscraper hotel making waves on London’s travel scene.
With ambition architecture, incredible art, Scandi-inspired interiors and exciting food and drinks options, the hotel, named for the neighbourhood in which it resides, is putting E20 on the map and honestly, it’s been years since I’ve been this impressed with a new London hotel opening.
It might not have the location of The Dorchester, the vintage charm of Claridge’s, the crowd of The Ned or the views of Sea Containers, but it is dripping in understated cool.
Granted, unless you live within a five-mile radius of the hotel (I’m a 15 minute Uber away in Hackney) or have a need to visit Westfield Stratford, you’ve probably not thought about the place since the 2012 Olympics – it’s a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park. But The Stratford is just one of many new pulls coming to the area, from the V&A East to Sadler’s Wells that are both set to launch in 2023, to a new London College of Fashion that will bring in the style set, there’s a growing list of cool reasons to head East, or rather further east for those that think Shoreditch is where London drops off.
Cool is exactly the word to describe The Stratford. It might not have the location of The Dorchester, the vintage charm of Claridge’s, the crowd of The Ned or the views of Sea Containers, but it is dripping in understated cool. Not in a try hard way, it just is. In fact, even amidst a global pandemic, that one night at the hotel felt like I’d flown to NYC for 24 hours.
Speaking of which, I checked into one of the Manhattan Suites – a light filled room with floor to ceiling windows, all Scandi-style wood, raspberry hued modular seating, stark white sheets against a chic grey fabric headboard, teal soft furnishings, chic golden lighting and heavy curtains that wrapped around two corners of the building. It reminded me of The Standard in New York – the preferred hotel of the style set, especially during New York Fashion Week – in short, a masterclass in how to do hotel interiors well.
The bathroom, complete with huge freestanding pebble bath, marbled walls, full-sized REN products and walk-in shower made staying in during a pandemic all the easier. I’d have quite happily hauled up in the room for the entirety of the stay, loaded up Netflix and sunk into the waffle robes (or soft hoodies also on hand) hanging in the wardrobe, but The Stratford has so much more to offer.
There’s the art, which nests into every corner of the hotel like it was made to be there, from the curious Anatomy of the Void, an art installation by Petroc Csesti – a spinning glass ball orb on a pole – which fills the central inner courtyard of the hotel and has rooms looking directly out onto it, to the cosy but cool 10-metre tall fireplace in the lobby, an installation called Gust of Wind by designer Paul Cocksedge.
Elsewhere, such impressive art might stand out like a sore thumb, seem pretentious even, but The Stratford’s bare bones can carry it. That’s down to the impressive architectural credentials that come with the property.
The building took 10 years to construct, all 42 floors of it, and was designed by the powerhouse Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, or more commonly known as SOM, who are responsible for other sky-high properties such as the Burj Khalifa, as well as mega refurb projects like the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and celeb-haunt, Chiltern Firehouse.
The sheer ambition of the structure has paid off – from the outside, the hotel looks broken in two, one part precariously sitting on top of the other. But from the inside, the cut-out is in fact a sunken rooftop garden, cedar-lined and landscaped within an inch of its life. It’s called the Sky Terrace and looks out onto the strange, almost dystopian landscape of Stratford itself and its high-rise structures that seemingly pop up on a weekly basis. The gardens are a calm oasis in an expanding part of the city and given the fact that we can only meet other households outside right now, are a key part of bringing clientele to the hotel who aren’t bedding down for the night.
Next to the Sky Terrace is Allegra, the hotel’s premier restaurant that deserves a review all in itself. Headed up by Chef Patrick Powell – he’s come from good stock and worked alongside the acclaimed Nuno Mendes at Chiltern Firehouse – the menu celebrates farm-to-table eating, sourcing many of the products from its own local, organic farm.
Never a bad thing to judge a restaurant by its bread, I knew I was off to a good thing with Allegra as it came soft, warm and served with the saltiest of butter and the house green sauce, a kind of salsa verde made from veggie leftovers from the kitchen – they are, rightly so, keen on as little waste as possible at Allegra. The confit chicken wing with parmesan dumplings, wild mushroom and sorrel was a another hit, as was the plump choux bun filled with pistachio, liver parfait and preserved kumquat – devilishly rich but thankfully ordered only one at a time.
For mains, the menu was seasonal with a bounty of autumn delights, from grouse with hispi cabbage, blood pudding and a bonus plate of a mini blood pudding and grouse sausage roll on its own with a dollop of homemade ketchup, to the creative and Asian-inspired Iron Age pork loin with butternut squash, ginger and pumpkin seed miso.
With inspiring food, service second to none, cosy snug tables, a COVID-secure setting (without feeling awkward) and interiors that will make you want to overhaul your own kitchen, this is without a doubt one of London’s most exciting restaurants right now and worth the trip out east, even if you live on the other side of the city. In fact, the manager made a point of telling us guests had travelled from West London just for the night, as if they had flown in from the other side of the world – I guess kind of the same thing during a global pandemic.
With the 10pm curfew there was no time for a nightcap in the hotel’s Mezzanine Bar, and being eight months pregnant, little want to either, but we did pop in for a drink pre-dinner. As with the rest of the hotel, it’s a chic, slick affair decked out in muted greys, sumptuous velvets and with a bar headed up by some mixologist pedigrees, with staff who have come from the likes of The Connaught and Dandelyan.
I might not be jumping on the next plane to NYC but The Stratford offers a little bit of Big Apple charm right here in London.
If someone had told me a year ago I’d be staycating in Stratford, I’d have laughed, but COVID has forced us all to be a little more open minded in how we spend our weekends – the pleasures of which are few and far between right now. I might not be jumping on the next plane to NYC but The Stratford offers a little bit of Big Apple charm right here in London and for any sceptical West Londoners, it’s really not that far, a mere six minutes on the fast train from Kings Cross and well worth it for a night of inspiring food, gorgeous rooms and interiors and art waiting to be snapped for your Instagram feed.
Rooms start from £105 per night.
The Stratford, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, London E20 1FD