In fast-changing Shoreditch, Boundary is virtually prehistoric. Which is a compliment. Opened in 2009, the fact that this hotel – part of the Prescott & Conran empire – is still buzzing means it got its recipe for classy but unpretentious food, wine and bedrooms right from the off.
A former Victorian printworks, its neat but graceful red brick surroundings are latticed with large windows and topped by a bold but unshowy glass, steel and copper extension that’s home both to its duplex suites and to its rooftop bar and restaurant. And that Shoreditch location means it’s also a veritable narnia for visiting foodies.
Many hotels proudly shout about how individual their guest rooms are but the 17 bedrooms and suites here truly are distinct, each one inspired by a particular designer or design movement; take your pick from Mies van der Rohe, Charles & Ray Eames, Andree Putman and Eileen Gray. Most share a restful, simple colour palette and a restrained but very carefully curated collection of furniture. The Tang suite is an exception with its Chinese silk wallpaper and tassled green silk lampshades.
I plumped for the Priscilla Carluccio suite, a duplex with a large workspace and a fabulous pale grey carrara marble bathroom (fully stocked with smellies from local stores Aesop and Le Labo).
The hotel’s mid-afternoon delivery of a freshly baked brownie and a copy of the Evening Standard is a nice touch.
In the basement is a small bar serving classic cocktails, and the main Boundary Restaurant, an elegant, boudoir-ish, space that wallows in the gloom, with theatrical lighting bouncing off red velvet chairs, the glass walls of its kitchen and polished cutlery. The menu here also has a strong French influence, with dishes such as roast and confit duck with a cherry sauce and salardaise potatoes and herb-crusted rack of lamb, and a good-value menu du jour (there’s also a wine club, for tastings and events, should the all-French wine list not sate your thirst).
In summer the Boundary Rooftop is the ideal spot to rise above the streetside hustle and sip cocktails as the sun sets over a slightly hushed, 360-degree view of London. It’s by no means out of bounds in winter, though, with its heaters, blankets and covered pergola; shelter under a string of fairy lights with a seasonal cocktail and a sharing plate of octopus and chorizo skewers, or fish or meat dishes cooked on a Robata grill. Or just head up after dinner and sit by the outdoor fireplace nursing a digestive glass of vielle prune.
The real hub of the hotel, however, is Albion, an all-day café, shop and bakery on the ground floor, plus various other outlets around the city. For overnight guests, this is also where breakfast is served. There’s a grown-up vibe but an on-trend menu, stretching to a range of cold-pressed juices, marmite scrolls from the bakery and a ‘healthy’ range of cooked breakfasts. Bakeds good are really where it’s at, though, with a nostril-teasing choice of cinnamon – and pistachio and white chocolate – swirls, croissants and Danish pastries. My grilled sweet potato chilli hash with spinach and poached organic eggs was bland and too heavy on the sweet potato, though I was assured it’s normally more finessed.
Beyond the hotel, Shoreditch isn’t exactly short on eating spots. Whether you fancy a classic ceviche with seabass, lime, tiger’s milk, coriander, lime and sweet potato at Andina, mallard with celeriac and quince at Lyle’s or a bacon naan roll at Dishoom you won’t have to walk for more than a minute to reach them. Then there’s the Rochelle Canteen at about double that distance for the likes of roast partridge with red cabbage and hedgerow jelly, and plenty more besides. Visit Shoreditch on an empty stomach, in other words.
The shelves of Albion’s deli strain with treats in pretty packaging, alongside British cupboard staples (Jealous Sweets, Fine Cheese Co. biscuits, Mighty Fine honeycomb, Yorkshire Tea and HP Sauce among them). But step out of the door and you’ll find yourself faced with one of the most efficient foodie shopping opportunities in London; Redchurch Street is lined, awning-to-awning, with independent food, fashion and design stores, restaurants and cafes.
Spend a morning trawling them, on the hunt for fig or aniseed candles at Le Labo, enamel omelette pans, rotary apple peelers and all manner of pared-down kitchenware at Labour and Wait, chic candleholders and tableware at Modern Society, fresh pasta to eat in or take-away at Burro e Salvia and the first London outpost of Mast Brothers, where you can take a factory tour, warm up with a hot chocolate (or an on-tap chocolate beer) or simply shop.
Double rooms at Boundary start at £162, room-only (boundary.london). More info: visitlondon.com
Written by Rhiannon Batten, October 2016