The smoky 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 had a lot of fun making the restaurant and bustling bar stand out with slate ceilings scrawled in Technicolor graffiti, bold Liberty London prints, pinball machines and of fringed lampshades straight out of the 1970s. Come for a stay and you’ll have character, tangy cocktails and, if you’re feeling brave, karaoke night.
Main photo: The reception at Mama Shelter London Shoreditch
Double rooms only from £180
Frenchman Serge Trigano is the founder of this mini-chain which started in Paris with the aim of creating a hotel that combines quality service with a touch of cheekiness. His two sons joined the helm and the brand has now grown with outposts across Europe and America covering seven countries and thirteen cities, with its London branch opening in 2021.
You are here in the heart of East London, halfway between Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Fine dining can be booked at The Laughing Heart (you’ll need to reserve a tablet at least a few weeks in advance) and many bars promise a good night’s dip and hangout nearby; try Satan’s Whiskers for hip-hop tunes and equally upbeat cocktails. If you’re staying a weekend, take some time to pick flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market, just a ten-minute walk from the hotel. Lunch is best taken at Broadway Market, but be warned: there’s a ridiculous amount of choice, so your decision won’t be easy.
The ’70s theme continues upstairs in 194 retro rooms that contrast peach tones on the walls with swirling monochrome rugs and wooden benches to perch on. Here it’s more about comfort than luxury, but the rooms have everything you need and there are three options to choose from: small, medium or large (sleeping up to four people). Expect plenty of reminders of where you are with cheeky do not disturb cactus signs and signature Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat face masks. Blackout blinds ensure a good night’s sleep, and TVs have plenty of free movies, including adult options — we mentioned there were cheeky encores on Mama — and compact bathrooms.
Services and facilities
This is where mom really shows up. You have 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, seating leopard-print plush and 10,000 songs to choose from (£20 pp for two hours; six people minimum). Check Mama’s events page to see what’s happening before your stay – you might get lucky and time it with a DJ event.
Food and drink
The main restaurant is one of Mama’s quirkier spots, lit by edgy lamps and where diners can choose from long tables with fun mismatched chairs or more intimate nooks with comfy sofas. The menu features a hand-picked selection at Mama’s from around the world: think main courses of comforting 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 offers a cozy place to sip one of Mama’s fun cocktails – try a Gunpowder Grog (£11.25) for three-year-old rum mixed with liquor banana and charcoal. -blackened pineapple cordial. There are also brilliant alcohol-free options ready to shake; The Spritz of Wisdom (£8.50) is the perfect mix of Armarico, orgeat syrup with a rosemary and grapefruit tonic.
Value for money
Rooms start from £180 per night with breakfast available for £15 per person (available until 11am daily). A great east London location, fun rooms and affordable dinner menu make this a high-scoring all-rounder.
There’s not much to say when it comes to durability. Bathroom odors are still plastic, although there is a shampoo bar to encourage multiple uses.
Each of the 12 large bedrooms are accessible and equipped with roll-in showers. Be sure to mention that you need an accessible room in the “special request” box that will appear when booking online.
Friendly and family
Cots are available for £15, as well as rooms with two double beds or three single beds. There are a few touches some families may find off-putting, like X-rated movies on TV and sex toys for sale in display cases at reception.
A great option for couples or friends looking for a fun weekend at a hotel that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t cost much.