The humbug-striped awnings and all-black exterior of Mama Shelter, just a ten-minute walk from Bethnal Green tube station, is your first clue that this hotel likes to do things differently. Your second is inside, where Parisian studio Dion & Ayres have had a lot of fun making the restaurant and buzzy bar pop via chalkboard ceilings scrawled with technicolor graffiti, bold Liberty London prints, pinball machines and fringed lampshades taken straight from the 1970s. Come for a stay and you’ll get character, zingy cocktails and — if you’re feeling brave — a night of karaoke.
Main photo: The reception at Mama Shelter London Shoreditch
Room-only doubles from £180
Frenchman Serge Trigano is the founder of this mini-chain that started in Paris with the aim of creating a hotel that blended great service with a touch of cheekiness. His two sons joined at the helm and the brand has now expanded with outposts across Europe and America covering seven countries and thirteen cities, with its London branch opening in 2021.
You’re in the heart of East London here, halfway between Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Fancy dinners can be booked at The Laughing Heart (you’ll need to book a tablet at least a few weeks in advance) and there are plenty of bars that promise a good night to dip in and out nearby; try Satan’s Whiskers for hip-hop tunes and equally upbeat cocktails. If you stay on a weekend, carve out some time to pick up some blooms at Columbia Road flower market, just a ten-minute stroll from the hotel. Lunch is best taken at Broadway market but be warned: there’s a ridiculous amount of choice on offer so your decision will not be an easy one.
A large bedroom at Mama Shelter London Shoreditch
The 70s theme continues upstairs in 194 retro rooms that clash peach tones on the walls with swirling monochrome carpets and wooden benches to perch on. It’s more about comfort here than luxury but rooms have all you need and you’ve got three options to choose from: small, medium or large (which can sleep up to four). Expect plenty of reminders of where you are with cheeky cactus do not disturb signs and the brand’s signature Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat masks. Blackout blinds guarantee a good night’s sleep and TVs have plenty of free movies including some adult options — we did mention there were cheeky reminders about Mama — and compact bathrooms.
The Lucky Voice karaoke rooms at Mama Shelter London Shoreditch
Services and facilities
This is where Mama really shows off. You’ve got the usual features — a gym and laundry service, photo booths and free wi-fi — then you have two Japanese-style Lucky Voice karaoke booths with neon rainbow lighting, leopard-print squashy seating and 10,000 songs to choose between (£20 per person for two hours; six guests minimum). Check Mama’s events page to see what’s on before your stay — you may strike lucky and time it with a DJ event.
The restaurant at Mama Shelter London Shoreditch
Food and drink
The main restaurant is one of Mama’s quirkiest spots, lit by avant-garde lamps and where guests have the choice of long tables with fun mismatched chairs or more intimate nooks with comfy sofas. The menu has a cherry-picked selection from Mama’s across the world: think mains of soul-warming fish and chips from the UK (£17.95) and refreshing rainbow salad starters from California (£7.95). A more private, boujee option is the courtyard, a covered island bar that provides a cosy spot to sip one of Mama’s fun signature cocktails — try a Gunpowder Grog (£11.25) for a three-year-old rum mixed with banana liquor and charcoal-blackened pineapple cordial. There are some brilliant non-alcohol options ready to be shaken too; The Spritz of Wisdom (£8.50) is the perfect blend of Armarico, orgeat syrup with a rosemary and grapefruit tonic.
Value for money
Rooms start from £180 per night with breakfast available for £15pp (available until 11am every day). A great East London location, fun rooms and an affordable dinner menu make it a high-scoring all-rounder.
Have a game of pinball at Mama Shelter London
There’s not much to shout about when it comes to sustainability. Bathroom smellies are still in plastic, though there is a shampoo bar to encourage multiple uses.
Each of the 12 large rooms is accessible and come with roll-in showers. Be sure to mention that you need an accessible room in the “special request” box that will show when booking online.
Cots are available for £15, along with rooms with two doubles or three single beds. There are a few touches that some families may find offputting such as the X-rated movies on TV and the sex toys for sale in glass cabinets at reception.
A brilliant option for couples or friends looking for a fun weekend away at a hotel that doesn’t take itself too seriously or cost the earth.