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‘I stayed at a fancy London hotel with a rooftop bar that’s cheaper than a Travelodge’ – Rachael Davis

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It’s not often you get to be a tourist in your own city, staying in a hotel just down the road from home and exploring a new area like a fresh-faced visitor.

This weekend I was lucky to explore Spitalfields and Whitechapel from the beautiful new Hyatt Place London City East hotel, which just opened in June, and it reminded me why London is the best city in the world – incredible food, the friendliest people and stunning city views.

You may well have walked past Hyatt Place without realising.

It blends in seamlessly on Whitechapel Road in East London but towers nine storeys high, topped by an almost-secret rooftop bar.

READ MORE: The London hotel room that is so big it has its own postcode

Hyatt Place London City East is perfectly located ‘where the City meets the East’ – just a few minutes’ walk from Brick Lane and the City of London

Inside it’s an unpretentious but classy base for exploring the city, just a couple of minutes’ walk from Aldgate East station, and it can actually cost less per night than the basic Travelodge down the street.

The Hyatt brand is fairly new to the UK, though it is popular in the US and Asia, and each of its hotels has a unique, modern touch relative to its location.

The newest London iteration – which is the first in the centre of the city – is full of East London charm, from murals created by local street artists to menu items inspired by East End icons and traditions.

The hotel’s unofficial tagline, ‘Where the City meets the East’, couldn’t be more apt.

The hotel's decor has a distinctly East London charm - this street art-style mural by local artist Jay Kaes can be found in the lobby

The hotel’s decor has a distinctly East London charm – this street art-style mural by local artist Jay Kaes can be found in the lobby

Hyatt Place perfectly blends the crisp, stylish elegance of London’s financial district with the cool, edgy vibes of East London.

The rooms themselves are modestly luxurious.

Ours, on the eighth floor, had a gorgeous king size bed with crisp white sheets and huge pillows, a small wardrobe for hanging a weekend’s worth of clothes, and a writing desk/dressing table.

It wasn’t the biggest room, but it had everything you needed for a peaceful night’s sleep and a base for exploring London, perfect for a weekend break in the capital.

The perfect base for a weekend exploring the capital

The perfect base for a weekend exploring the capital

Beautiful low lighting and a spacious shower made the en-suite feel so relaxing after a long day of seeing the sights, but the real highlight was the balcony with its stunning views of the City.

Despite staying over a weekend in one of London’s more raucous districts, our sleep was peaceful and uninterrupted.

Blackout curtains allowed us to sleep well into mid-morning, which was totally fine as breakfast – an classic buffet with Full English and continental options – went on til 11am.

Bed and breakfast rooms at Hyatt Place start at £95 per night, which is comparable to – or even cheaper than on some dates – the Aldgate East Travelodge just down the street.

I couldn't get over these balcony views

I couldn’t get over these balcony views

Dinner and cocktails

Down on the lower ground floor is Zoom, a casual but upmarket restaurant serving internationally-inspired dishes made with responsibly-sourced ingredients.

We were treated to a sneak preview of the restaurant, which opens fully in November, and I can honestly say this was one of the best meals of my life.

It kicked off with a roasted curry cauliflower, perfectly spiced and delicately balanced with sweet, juicy raisins, a lightly herbed yogurt and parmesan shavings. I never knew a cauliflower could be so flavoursome.

Probably smiling at the sight of the waiter bringing my food

Probably smiling at the sight of the waiter bringing my food

Panama line-caught sea bass was the main course, indulgently served with buttered curly kale and spinach, lilliput capers, cherry tomatoes and caviar.

The sea bass was perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin giving way to flaky flesh, and the saltiness of the dish paired beautifully with the bottle of New Zealand Leftfield Sauvignon Blanc we were treated to.

I had the apple pie with ice cream for dessert, which had a buttery, crisp crust, soft cinnamon-spiced apple filling and a refreshing scoop of vanilla ice cream, deliciously rounding off an incredible meal.

This sea bass was honestly the best I've ever had

This sea bass was honestly the best I’ve ever had – and the caviar was a luxurious little touch

I left feeling very satisfied, heading to the rooftop bar, Pocketsquare, for a cocktail or two and to admire the Canary Wharf views.

In the end we couldn’t resist the allure of Pocketsquare on both nights, which meant we were able to sample most of the signature cocktail menu.

The signature menu features cocktails designed specifically for Pocketsquare, inspired by the immediate East London area and local stories.

The rooftop bar, Pocketsquare, offers some incredible cocktails inspired by East London along with amazing views from the terrace

The rooftop bar, Pocketsquare, offers some incredible cocktails inspired by East London along with amazing views from the terrace

They all had a suggested food pairing from the bar’s light bites menu, which included snacks like plantain chips, tempura oyster and Brick Lane classic salt beef.

Our friendly and knowledgeable bartenders walked us through each cocktail as they served it to us, telling us the story behind the drink and its special ingredients, making it more of an experience than your ordinary night at the bar.

For example, ‘Mi irie’ is inspired by the Jamaican influence in East London, made with Appleton rum, Jamaican kombucha, orgeat (almond syrup – homemade at Pocketsquare from leftover almond croissants at breakfast) and lime.

Pocketsquare's cocktails looked as impressive as they tasted. Pictured: Eyrie

Pocketsquare’s cocktails looked as impressive as they tasted. Pictured: Eyrie

‘Eyrie’ is a mixture of Macallan 12 year Scotch, pear and thyme puree and homemade porter reduction – inspired by the local brewery Truman’s which created the world’s first porter beer – while the heady ‘Sedition’ combines Hendrick’s gin, absinthe, white port, champagne acid and herbal salt in honour of the Royal Navy who docked by the Thames in East London.

These were definitely drinkers’ cocktails – if you don’t like the taste of alcohol, these aren’t for you – though the expert bartenders can create pretty much anything you ask them to and there’s also an extensive selection of spirits, wines and a few beers.

The cocktails cost around £15 each, so this certainly isn’t a budget bar, but considering the talent, effort and quality ingredients put into the drinks and the stunning views from the rooftop, it’s more than worth it for an indulgent treat.

With the lights of Canary Wharf just out of shot, you really do feel like you're in the heart of the city at the hotel's rooftop bar

With the lights of Canary Wharf just out of shot, you really do feel like you’re in the heart of the city at the hotel’s rooftop bar

Exploring East London

The next morning, after recovering from our cocktails with some scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffet, I hit the hotel gym.

The fitness suite is a great addition to the hotel: it had everything you need for a quick workout including cardio machines, free weights and resistance equipment, and is open 24 hours.

In terms of things to do in the local area, you’re very much spoilt for choice. On Saturday afternoon we headed to the Truman Brewery for the Van Gogh Immersive Experience exhibition, which explored the works of the Dutch painter in a completely new way.

360 degree projections saw iconic works brought to life, 3D installations deconstructed paintings to be explored from a new perspective, but the real highlight was the VR experience which took you on an animated journey through the French towns and rural landscapes Van Gogh based his work on – almost like a look inside the painter’s mind.

Like being inside Van Gogh's Starry Night

Like being inside Van Gogh’s Starry Night

No trip to Brick Lane would be complete without a visit to Beigel Bake, where we picked up some smoked salmon bagels for a late lunch ahead of our dinner reservation at Pasta Nostra in Old Street that evening – which, for the record, was fantastic.

The pasta is freshly handmade on site every day, crafted into seasonal dishes and paired with delicious wines from independent wineries – and it’s all pretty affordable too.

A Sunday morning stop into Whitechapel Gallery, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the hotel, was a perfect way to round off the weekend before hopping in a taxi for a couple of miles to home.

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There’s plenty more to do in the area too: you’re just a short walk from the historic City of London and its iconic skyscrapers, with St Paul’s, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Tate Modern and more just a little further on foot.

Aldgate East station connects you to the rest of London via the District and Hammersmith and City lines.

Stylish, friendly, welcoming and offering incredible food and drink, Hyatt Place is about as East London as it gets – I can’t imagine a better place to stay and explore this amazing corner of the city.

Hyatt Place London City East and Pocketsquare bar can be found at 45 Whitechapel Road, E1 1DU.

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