Thanks to Covid, your office Christmas party is probably cancelled. At the time of writing, bars and restaurants are still open for low-key festive fun.
Want to celebrate, but feeling nervous about a crowded last train home? Consider booking yourself a central base for the night. You’ll get a nice lie in, a bacon sandwich on speed dial, and a seat on the train home the next day.
Cheap, cheerful but definitely still chic, crash at these central London hotels after a night of turkey and tinsel…
Mama Shelter, East London
A prime East London location, perennially buzzy vibe and high quality cocktail menu combine to make Mama Shelter a stellar choice for festive frivolity. Expect a dash of debauchery with no intimidating crowds. Staff are achingly cool, but kind – the type to refrain from eye rolling when you lose your luggage ID tag or room key card.
Post Christmas meal, have a nightcap in front of the vibey lounge fire, before crawling upstairs to flop onto 5* quality bedding. You can pay a little extra for late check out, which you might want to reserve for perusing the free movie channels (particularly the naughty ones).
Even the heaviest festive hangover will be cheered by Mama’s chi chi breakfast menu (get the bacon pancakes and a Bloody Mary). There’s even a small gym and Peloton in the basement, should you fancy sweating it out. If only fresh air will do it, Victoria Park is just a short walk away.
The Pilgrm, Paddington
Manned by a team of staff who know exactly what you need, when you need it, we love this gloriously well-priced – and surprisingly chic – little hotel. The Pilgrm is so close to Paddington train station you can practically hear the trains whistle, and so happens to be steps away from The Handbook’s favourite, Kioskafe.
The perfect pit stop for weary international travellers, its ethos is about stripping back the parts of a hotel stay you don’t need, and keeping the parts you do. So, no cosseting bathrobes or roll top baths, but a fabulously soft bed, huge Samsung flat screen and Marshall speaker (after party for two?).
Further draws include an excellent all-day brunch menu. The Pilgrm Bacon Butty is a soul soother, and the toasties are proper belly busters. You’ll find first rate coffee in the upstairs bar slash workspace and cheeky design nods abound. We loved the Victorian-style bathroom features (but modern plumbing!), and the lobby’s painstakingly restored Victorian staircase.
Leman Locke, Aldgate
We’re longtime fans of the Locke brand, their modern apartment-style hotels now present in London, Manchester, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Dublin and Munich. You can live like a proper local with all the freedom of your own place (complete with a full kitchen), while enjoying the feel of a boutique hotel.
Aldgate’s outpost is particularly convenient, minutes from Shoreditch and the City. Guests can bring friends home (up to six people) for a mini soirée, so why not eschew the dance floor for a quiet drink with friends? Next morning, grab a life-affirming Maple Latte and scrambled egg wrap from Shaman Coffee.
A colourful programme of events keeps things moving, should you extend your stay to the weekend. Get involved in yoga, craft classes, book club and even art exhibitions, or do as we did, and order in from the excellent Asian restaurant upstairs. Everything at Alter is vegan, and the flavours are incredible. Burn off the Christmas calories in the gym, or dutifully ignore that advice and draw yourself a bubble bath.
The Buxton, Brick Lane
On Brick Lane sits The Buxton, a candlelit bistro that’s at once a laid back cocktail bar and pub.
A cosy, candlelit cavern, it’s a welcome escape – and mere minutes from – the loud, abrasive bars most City Christmas parties end up in. You might know its sister venue, The Culpeper, just down the road. Start with a quiet drink on their pretty rooftop (the barman can knock up pretty much any cocktail from memory, if you ask him nicely) or book in for a festive feast. The leafy, greenhouse-style private dining space is just beautiful.
Sleep off the drinks at The Buxton, where fifteen small but stylish bedrooms are dotted along a steep staircase that seems to wind forever upwards (pro tip: heave your bag up before you’ve had a few wines).
In each you’ll find comfy beds, coffee machines, a TV and a power shower… AKA everything you need at 7.07am, when you jolt awake with one shoe still on, a fake eyelash glued to your chin.
Shuffle downstairs and a short but sweet breakfast menu awaits: we gazed vacantly into our flat whites, until fried eggs on brioche buns restored us. Dinner options are comforting yet fancy, should you extend your stay ‘til Monday. And why not? Stroll around Brick Lane, then round off the weekend with a glass of wine and plate of fresh day boat fish. Ours came with Shetland mussels (delish).
Generator, King’s Cross
Ideal for when you don’t want to pay through the nose for a stay that will be spent mostly unconscious, but quality is still important. Multi-award winning Generator hostels are vibrant and laid back, with super nice staff. Saunter in a little worse for wear and you won’t be shushed, but welcomed at the 24-hour reception (then pointed to the late night bar for a beer and pizza).
Sitting near Euston and King’s Cross, Generator is a quick taxi from most destination restaurants and bars. The least bougie option on the list, there are elements that are a little ‘uni’, but there’s a sense of fun and great service throughout. Complimentary eye masks and ear plugs guarantee some shut eye.
Go for a private room, and bring your own lush bath products and slippers to elevate your experience (we didn’t much fancy the all-in-one shampoo, conditioner and body wash). Enjoy a lie in (thank you, blackout blinds) then drink a gallon of water and you’ll be laughing all the way to the train station. Christmas celebrations: safely completed!