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Hotel Review: Hoxton Southwark - a London love letter from the hip hotel chain

Pól Ó Conghaile checks into Hoxton's latest love letter to London, housed in a slick reboot of a Southwark building

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The Hoxton, Southwark

The Hoxton, Southwark

Smart use of space: the rooms at The Hoxton

Smart use of space: the rooms at The Hoxton

A 'Biggy' room at The Hoxton

A 'Biggy' room at The Hoxton

An in-room 'Survival Guide' at the Hoxton Southwark

An in-room 'Survival Guide' at the Hoxton Southwark

The Seabird Rooftop Restaurant

The Seabird Rooftop Restaurant

A rooftop terrace at The Seabird

A rooftop terrace at The Seabird

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The Hoxton, Southwark

Back in the early noughties, BMW had a tagline for its new 5 Series: "Everything we know about the car, in a car".

It springs to mind as I step into a rebooted industrial building in Southwark, threading my wheelie case through pods of retro lounge chairs, by some edgy art and an open kitchen, towards receptionists standing in T-shirts behind their iMacs.

You could say Hoxton wrote the hipster hotel playbook. Along with other 'lean luxury' groups like Ace, its Shoreditch original, opened in 2006, took a hammer to hotel moulds, breaking down walls between food, drink and public spaces, focusing on how we actually live, work and play (think 'living rooms' instead of lobbies) - a breath of fresh air among chain hotels and boutique bore-fests.

Today, Hoxton has become a mini-empire, expanding first to Holborn and then Amsterdam, Paris and the US - much-referenced (not least by Ireland's Press Up Group) but rarely equalled. 'Hip' has also become a loaded word. So what can the new Hoxton Southwark offer? I think back to that BMW ad... only now swapping the word 'hotel' for 'car'.

The rating: 8/10

Arrival & Location

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A rooftop terrace at The Seabird

A rooftop terrace at The Seabird

A rooftop terrace at The Seabird

Southwark is full of former factories and warehouses taking on new lives as galleries and restaurants. The Hoxton's open-plan lobby is in full swing on a Saturday evening; it's the kind of place where you might pass a modern cast of Friends meeting for after-work drinks, or media types tapping on laptops. Tunes throb. Cocktail glasses clink.

I like how warm touches like potted plants, globe lamps and honey-hued brickwork play off harder concrete ceilings and marble counters. Those receptionists turn out to be super-friendly, too, with a warm welcome and unpatronising explanation of how things work, from the usual (free Wi-Fi, no cash payments) to the unusual (breakfast delivered in paper bags, 'HoxShop' snacks for sale at supermarket prices to avoid "rip-off" mini-bars). 8/10

Service & Style

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An in-room 'Survival Guide' at the Hoxton Southwark

An in-room 'Survival Guide' at the Hoxton Southwark

An in-room 'Survival Guide' at the Hoxton Southwark

I love how Hoxton plugs into its neighbourhoods, from the curated in-room map to well-drilled staff who'll point you from top galleries to the best custard-filled doughnuts (St John's at the Maltby St Market). A set of shelves is a lesson in savvy hotel retail, selling limited-edition products by local makers - collar pins of brutalist buildings by Beach London, for example, or spent coffee grounds repurposed as body scrubs by East London's Montamonta.

Sure, it can feel a bit too on-point ("We're buzzing to have you with us," as my 'Survival Guide' quips). But I'll take it any day over a generic hotel with no interest in its community. Locality brings the place to life. 9/10

The Rooms

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Smart use of space: the rooms at The Hoxton

Smart use of space: the rooms at The Hoxton

Smart use of space: the rooms at The Hoxton

192 rooms range from tight 'Shoebox' (15m2) spaces through options like 'Cosy' and 'Biggy'. Such names are starting to sound silly all over again, but my 'Cosy' (a standard double) makes smart use of space - with lots of hooks and a solid rain shower.

The queen-size bed is too small (bigger rooms have bigger mattresses) and there are no robes, but the room is really well thought-through, from seamless Wi-Fi and an unobtrusive flat-screen TV to truly fluffy white towels and full-length mirror.

The design blend is bang-on... think parquet floors, brass accents, old-dolly light switches and big, Crittall-style windows playing off funky art prints and exposed concrete. Bonus? An hour of free phone calls is permitted "to pretty much anywhere, except the moon", and there are no single-use plastics in evidence (complimentary water is refrigerated in tetra-pack cartons). 7.5/10

Food & Drink

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The Seabird Rooftop Restaurant

The Seabird Rooftop Restaurant

The Seabird Rooftop Restaurant

Breakfast comes in a little bag hung by the door - an allergen-free bar or pastry, local fruit and a juice shot. Or you can pop downstairs for cooked options (charged extra) at Albie, where all-day dining includes pastas, eggy breakfasts and Riviera-inspired sharing dishes.

At the other end of the lobby, a menu of "forward-thinking drinks" puts non-alcoholic cocktails front and centre - refreshing to see. It's a super space, though beware London prices... two G&Ts and a jasmine tea cost us north of £30, with a service charge added to the bill.

Seabird is the rooftop restaurant, with cinematic skyline views and a young staff breezing between wicker chairs, tall ferns and London's longest oyster list. It's a noisy space, with seafood a speciality and Iberian influences in its sharing dishes, charcuterie options and grilled plates. A half-lobster (£28) gives just a few forkfuls and a claw of meat with a chimichurri dressing, but a whole mackerel (£18) is perfectly delicious. I only wish we'd been told everything would arrive together before ordering. 7/10

Insider tips

A small number of Hox bikes are available for free… but nab one early. A new 'FlexyTime' offering allows you to check in and out at chosen times. There's no gym, but reception has passes to some nearby.

Local 101

A short stroll away are the Tate Modern, the Young and Old Vic, Shakespeare's Globe and the brilliant Borough Market (about 1km), as well as olde worlde bars like The Ring or The Blackfriar. Hit up @hoxfriends on social for more tips.

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A 'Biggy' room at The Hoxton

A 'Biggy' room at The Hoxton

A 'Biggy' room at The Hoxton

The bottom line

Yes, Hoxton can be so hip it hurts. But there is substance to its style. Local engagement feels genuine, it remains within reach, price-wise, and it continues to game-change without being garish or gratuitous. Here is a polished, gentle evolution of its Holborn and Shoreditch editions: "Everything we know about the hotel, in a hotel', in other words."

Rates

Rooms start from £119 for a 'Shoebox' rising to £160 for a 'Cosy' and £265 for a 'Biggy', with a basic breakfast bag included. Pól was a guest of The Hoxton. +44 (0)207 903 3000; thehoxton.com

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