It’s a funny old thing but I’d obviously walked past Qbic Hotel many, many times and not noticed it opposite the Altab Ali Park en route to my friend’s flat quite literally around the corner. So, when the opportunity came to review the hotel and I established that it was literally minutes from my friend’s place and an area I’ve finally embraced more than a smidgen. (East End friend will be LOL’ing at this West End girl who sees Holborn as a stretch, finally saying that).
The area isn’t quite surrounded by the type of bearded hipsters as downtown Hoxton and is a tad more real. And with Commercial Road’s rag-trade wholesale stores, the Mosque, the Tesco-disco-Metro on the corner and the various high-street, one man band purveyors of PC technical equipment you may think it’s more Acton/wrong end of Hammersmith than hyper hip East End. But this girl likes it like that. It reminds me of Notting Hill before the Eurotrash bankers and ‘Made in Chelsea-via-Argentina’ types moved there. When Portobello Road was still a bit of a danger to walk alone. Aldgate East not only is bang on dead central with shiny new skyscrapers everywhere and a kick-in-the-pants walk to ShoHo and it’s rooftop pool. Also, the area boasts Brick Lane (currently on a par with Portobello Road in terms of vintage), the incredible Whitechapel Gallery and the renowned CASS school of architecture and design which is a leader in its field.
Qbic Hotel and it’s quirky European approach (the company is originally Dutch) makes perfect sense amongst this raw but very much ultra relevant vibe. In fact, the Dutch element is perfectly in keeping with the 17th Century Huguenot influence of Brick Lane so even the heritage as well as the concept seems to perfectly match the area’s European history. Neither too boutique’y to be intimidating or overpriced (for that matter), with a genuine ‘can do’ zestful approach to service and putting the client first, Qbic Hotel won me over when Ms West End is more accustomed to plush rather than pleasing.
The quirkiness hit me straight off. I arrived later in the evening just as it was turning dark as Qbic’s patrons and a number of external guests were spilling out into late London drinking after work beers. The denizens of Altab Ali Park were joining their brand of late night drinking with Tesco carriers flooding the green but that only added to the East End feel. The hotel entrance is has natural wood, street-sculptures by Sander Bokkinga as well as flat screen TVs. The check-in is of a work-station type with busy and enthusiastic house greeters who were so helpful as to appear un-London. This is the good thing re having a European influenced hotel.
The hotel though appearing small, is deceptively large, with 171 rooms of various sizes (Smart, Cosy and Fun – no, that’s the names!) all with distinctive personalities. The quirk here is that each room has a different picture as a head-board to match it’s persona. Mine’s showed an urban graffiti artist. The room, while appearing as unconventional as the hotel was relaxed and contemporary fit for purpose with a large shower room and bathroom and one of the most comfortable beds that I’ve slept in.
The long chartreuse and dark grey coloured corridors with occasional modern textile artworks on the wall, have free tea and coffee stations. A welcome approach to this hotel’s ‘cheap doesn’t have to mean not-chic’ approach.
The breakfast room (in the ‘Parts & Labour’ restaurant area was welcoming, discreetly buzzy and with a wide selection of either continental or cooked choices. The room is furnished with 1950s and 1960s furniture alongside modern art and street-art sculptures, murals and bookcases. Close your eyes and the traveller (I noted Irish, French, Canadian and Dutch) could be in Amster or Rotterdam. Again, service from the young, buzzy staff was neither too ingratiating but met the balance of helpful yet informative. These were young people actually taking a pride in working for the brand and doing their jobs which was refreshing to encounter.
This hotel is a find for the long-weekend Euro traveller and city breaker. And, while I didn’t seem many business types lounging around the hotel, this could be seen as a bonus. Indeed, more fool them for not knowing of its bright, cheerful whereabouts and its proximity to the City. They’re missing out as this is fun. And everyone needs a bit more upbeat fun.
Qbic Hotel is on 42 Adler Street, E1 (Tel: 020 3021 3300). Room prices start from only £69 per night. Nearest tube: Aldgate East. All guests are entitled to a grab-and-go breakfast of fruit, cereal bar and organic juice, or they can pay £7.50 for a continental breakfast with food sourced from local suppliers.