It might not be located in the most beautiful part of London, but Qbic Hotel London City in Aldgate, East London, scores highly on all the essentials: price, location and cleanliness, not to mention a friendly and relaxed vibe.
Just across the road from Aldgate East station, where the Tube will whisk you straight to Tower Hill, Westminster and Victoria in a matter of minutes, Qbic has been a welcome addition to the borough since it opened at the end of 2013, tucked away in a park just off the admittedly pretty grotty Whitechapel Road.
The Dutch company, which also has a hotel in Amsterdam, has a wacky website which proclaims its hotel philosophy thus: ‘A place that celebrates life rather than sucks life out of it. A hotel that’s built on creativity and a belief that you don’t have to accept the conventional.’
However on the ground this just means that it’s like a very smart backpackers hostel: friendly staff, young people sitting around the bar checking emails, plus self-consciously groovy art installations dotted here and there, not to mention inspirational notices in the lift.
But it is all in good fun and the room could not be faulted: a massive double bed, sensible things such as clearly-labelled light switches, and a pod-like bathroom which was connected to the bedframe in an ingenious way which presumably made it very easy to fit out the rooms (and to give the hotel its cubic/Qbic pun).
There were inspired touches such as teddy bears rather than a bland notice to hang on the door to say you do not want to be disturbed, and wi-fi was free and easy to sign on to. There was also a smart-looking (and free) coffee machine on every corridor.
If I was being picky then I’d say that my rainfall shower wasn’t particularly powerful (particularly as the company says one of its core essentials is to provide a ‘great shower’), the sliding door to the bathroom doesn’t offer total privacy if you’re sharing a room and the flatscreen TV attached to the bed meant it was really close when watching television in bed, but those are minor points: I also really liked the bleached floorboards which gave it a Scandinavian feel.
It was pretty loud and lively at the restaurant downstairs – which has the daft name of Parts & Labour – as my visit coincided with its monthly live music night, but all three bands were great and the crowds of locals gave it a very neighbourhood vibe, rather than feeling touristy. Both the food and service were excellent.
We started off with the bread basket with hard-to-resist wild garlic butter (£3.50) and then had the salmon fishcake with spinach (£11.50) and the glazed beef short ribs (£16.50). The prices weren’t budget but then neither was the food, and if the alternative is taking your pick down Whitechapel Road then Parts & Labour is definitely the better choice.
The drinks list was good too, with an impressive array of local craft ales, and I finished the night with my first ever amaretto sour which sounded like a oxymoron but which was very nice indeed.
Breakfast the next day (after an extremely comfortable night’s sleep in my vast bed) wasn’t bad either, with a buffet of cereal, pastries, toast and cooked options too, although being in East London I should have known that the coffee was going to be the ghastly sweet-cherry-style coffee which is all the rage and in my view totally undrinkable.
However overall it treads the line between boutique and budget well, and one could feel at home here very quickly. And hopefully the neighbourhood will improve to match the smart hotel in its midst.
Qbic London City Hotel, 42 Adler St
London E1 1EE
020 3021 3300
Rooms from £69 per night, including wi-fi.