Escape to… Batty Langley’s, Spitalfields, London
Batty Langley’s is a new boutique hotel in the heart of buzzing Spitalfields, east London. Discover Britain pays a visit…
Batty Langley was a Georgian architect who published popular books advising the socialites of his day on how to plan the perfect, stylish home. His presence is felt as you enter the new boutique hotel, on a discreet Spitalfields street, that takes his name, with a huge portrait of the man himself facing that of his wife, in the entrance hall. His spirit lives on, too, in the decor of the hotel, which took Peter McKay and Douglas Blain, who also own Hazlitt’s in Soho and the Rookery in Clerkenwell, five painstaking years to complete, with each piece of antique furnishing lovingly sourced to suit the period. Which is not to say that Batty Langley’s is a stuffy museum piece – there is eccentricity and wit to be found in the most unlikely places, not least the bathrooms with their thronelike lavatories and period-style bathing machines.
The first thing that strikes you is the silence: though the buzzing restaurants and markets of Spitalfields are just outside, the hotel itself is a peaceful haven, with double-glazing blocking out the sound and the exquisite furnishings and soft lighting making you feel as if you have entered a Georgian time capsule.
Named after East London characters – from the courtesan Kitty Fisher to the silk merchant James Stillwell, the 29 bedrooms at Batty Langley’s are lavishly decorated with antique furniture and paintings and deep, comforting colours, such as plum, gold and rich green. The bathroom was a Victorian invention, so the bathing facilities at Batty Langley’s are a glorious contemporary interpretation of what Georgian bathrooms might have been, again with quirky period style but no comfort spared. In a similar way, technology is up-to-the-minute, but discreetly hidden, with flat-screen televisions tucked away in mirrors and cabinets.
One of the hotels most exciting “secrets” can be found in the Earl of Bolingbroke’s Suite, where a hidden throne room is accessed by pressing the spine of a book in the suite’s library. (The enormous antique bath was installed by crane before the roof was completed.) Conversely, the Box Room, for just one person, is designed like an old-fashioned ship’s cabin with a bijou shower and loo tucked away in mahogany-panelled alcoves.
Food and drink
Aspiring for the home-away-from-home feel, Batty Langley’s doesn’t have a restaurant or bar in the traditional sense; instead guests can pick something from the simple but tempting room service menu and dine either in their bedrooms or in one of the hotel’s stylish public areas – the Library, the Parlour and the Tapestry Room.
When we arrived, a freshly baked cake was a welcome sight in the Tapestry Room, where the hotel’s honesty bar offer local tipples such as Sipsmith gin and Bery Bros wines. And we took our morning coffee and bagels (a very East End snack) in the Library, leafing through a few of the hotel’s wonderful vintage books. For the more adventurous, just about every kind of food and restaurant is available just beyond the hotel’s doors.
Tucked away on a quiet cobbled street lined with elegant Georgian buildings and lit by old-fashioned lamps, the hotel offers the ideal base for exploring the lively neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where buildings such as Nicholas Hawksmoor’s 18th-century Christ Church, Spitalfields share the skyline with the famous Gherkin skyscraper.
Spitalfields is one of the capital’s trendiest areas, boasting bustling bars, restaurants, and boutiques, as well as its famous markets, historic churches and cultural gems such as Dennis Severs’ House, only two doors away, or the V&A Museum of Childhood just a short tube ride away in Bethnal Green.
In a nutshell
London’s East End is a spirited place, full of style and character. Batty Langley’s somehow manages to encapsulate this sense of personality – from the Dickensian pickpockets and vagabonds after whom the rooms are named to the hotel’s sense of wit – while still offering sublime comfort and the rare opportunity to make-believe you are a member of the Georgian gentry, whether sipping tea in the Parlour or something stronger in the Tapestry Room.
Added to which, the hotel offers a tempting combination of R&R, with its womblike bedrooms and sumptuous four-poster beds, with all the excitement of the city waiting just on the doorstep.