For a cool city break, head to a quiet back street in Hackney where you’ll discover Nobu Hotel Shoreditch – the famed restaurant brand’s first London hotel. Jessica Jonzen checks in
Trying to find the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch is rather like trying to find your way through a hall of mirrors. As E1 transitions from edgy, ironic neighbourhood to hipster theme park via weekend hen parties and stag nights, it’s an endless forest of concrete and cranes.
And then you turn off Great Eastern Street down Willow Street and see that a UFO has landed between the warehouses and office blocks, and you realise that you’ve arrived. Huge metal joists jut out of stepped balconies, lending it an unfinished look in the Japanese style of Wabi-sabi – an acceptance of the imperfect and incomplete – perfect for this ‘under construction’ part of town.
Inside, the reception area is a sanctuary of sleek Japonism. Low-slung seating, jet-black cladding, screens and a terracotta brick mural lend texture and a sense of place. The atmosphere is calm and business-like (aside from the scattering of guests lounging around taking selfies; this place is catnip for Instagrammers).
The 150 bedrooms, which nod to their industrial London setting with their raw concrete ceilings, exposed lighting flex and sliding screens painted by local artists, are chambers of sleek sophistication. The whole effect is East by way of East London.
The bathroom, which is saved from being too clinically white by a bronzed glass basin and brass fittings, is small but perfectly formed, while the dressing area is an elegant touch. This is clearly a hotel where people dress up for dinner.
And where else to eat whilst staying here than in the 240-seat Nobu restaurant in the basement? What started life as an unlikely partnership between Japanese chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro back in New York’s Tribeca in 1993 has grown into a global mega-brand. The man who made Black Cod in Miso an A-list dish now has 33 Nobu restaurants, seven Matsuhisas (a spin-off) and 15 hotels to his name. He’s even got Nobu onto two cruise ships.
The restaurant is, of course, the centrepiece of the whole hotel. With a DJ hub at the summit, the staircase down to the restaurant was made for making an entrance. As guests arrive, all the staff – including the chefs in the open kitchen – call ‘irasshaimase’, the cheerful Japanese greeting.
As well as offering the signature Japanese-Peruvian fusion menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Nobu Shoreditch Hotel now serves an extensive and indulgent weekend brunch from 11.30am to 3pm.
For £45 per head you can have six ‘family style’ dishes and unlimited access to the brunch and dessert bar, and for £55, they’ll throw in a glass of wine or Veuve Clicquot. For £75, you can have all of the food you could wish for plus unlimited Prosecco, Aperol Spritz or Lychee Elderflower Martini for two hours. To avoid being stung by an eye-watering drinks bill (the bottled water costs £6.70 a pop), I’d recommend the third option. If you’re going for brunch at Nobu, you may as well go all out.
Brunch is clearly popular with the Shoreditch set as couples, friends and families arrived in a steady stream to fill up on Braised Beef Yaki Gyoza, Rock Shrimp Tempura and, of course, the famed Black Cod Den Miso. Every surface glimmered with chessboard-perfect plates of sushi and sashimi, noodles, Japanese Beef Stew and salads galore. The pudding station strained under the fresh fruit, macaroons, matcha tea crème brûlées and chocolate cones.
If the restaurant itself isn’t enough of a draw, the hotel also offers a brand-new spa, yoga classes and personal training sessions in the 24-hour gym. The warm and inviting spa is the perfect place to relax before a night out (or to atone for the excesses of the night before). The Citrus Essence facial left my skin glowing and revitalised.
The Nobu Hotel Shoreditch prides itself on being a place to see and be seen. Put on your highest heels or your sharpest suit and embrace the glamour.
Images: Will Pryce & Claire Menary (food photography)