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Hyatt Place London City East: A Little Taste Of Sicily

Yes, Hyatt Place London City East is a mouthful. But it's a rather tasty one - especially if you like Sicilian food.
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If you’re looking for a cool, relatively inexpensive hotel with a creative vibe in London, the Hyatt Place London City East might tick all your boxes.

Location wise, the Hyatt works for us. We’ve stayed in this area several times before and it’s a great place to base your exploration of east London. We take the underground from Paddington and it’s around a twenty minute straight through journey to Aldgate East. For reference, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the Thames are less than twenty minutes away on foot. Being a mere two minutes away from the hotel, Aldgate East tube station is your gateway to central London and beyond.

Courtesy of GWR (bandits on the line in Gloucester allegedly) we were delayed setting out so arrived late afternoon on the Friday – still enough time to have a wander around the area before dinner.

Balcony room

Our room was tastefully designed with a very contemporary bathroom complementing the design. No bath but a fab shower that was large enough for two. Add cool contemporary chrome fittings, moody tiling and fluffy, uber soft white towels and the scene is set. The shower, by the way, was excellent.

Room with a view

The room itself felt a little Scandi and, like the hotel, conveys modern, understated coolness. The king size bed was very comfortable, and a duvet adorned with super soft cotton completes the experience. Handily, the sockets feature USB ports for charging – another tech box crossed. The TV was easy to use too – worth noting – more often than not they’re a nightmare. But not here.

Our eighth-floor room was blessed with a balcony, including Conran-esq seating and a low table, and the views are pretty amazing, especially in the evening as the sun dips and London’s lights perforate the skyline’s silhouette.

Living low as we do in the Vale, the minute we elevate at any hotel we instantly become enthusiastic voyeurs – scanning everything within eyeline and below. People become ants and there’s something fascinating about just watching them go about their business. To be completely honest, that’s why we visit London – it’s a world away from our coastal and countryside home, and it’s just fun experiencing a different way of life.

There’s a subtle battle of converging cultures going on in Whitechapel. London, unlike US cities, doesn’t seem to rise, it appears to spread. Cultural influence is like the tide, it ebbs and flows and it’s usually the one with the most money that wins. Is that a bad thing? Only time will tell. What it does mean is that within a five-minute walk you can transition from an edgy, graffiti filled street (good graffiti too) to a slick, stylish bistro filled suburb. That’s London, and we like that.

Dinner booked, we freshened up before heading down to the lower ground. You might be forgiven for thinking it would be dark and oppressive but no, the smart design continues, and it shares the same level as reception (sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can rise again – therapy note to self). But for the next two hours, rock bottom, it turned out, was a very good place to be.

As therapy has raised its ugly head, and food mood is on the menu, the restaurant manages the schizophrenic transition between breakfast venue and cool evening eatery exceptionally well. It’s design, combined with its lighting ensures the transformation works particularly well. The scene as they say was set.

The restaurant is called Zoom East Kitchen & Bar. It’s open to everyone for lunch and dinner. Its Sicilian authentic menu was full of tempting sounding dishes, so over a cocktail (for me) and a super smooth, Sicilian Merlot for Jennifer we made our choices.

As we don’t eat Italian food much (we do really), we suggested the waiter choose for us – it seemed like a fun thing to do.

Aperitivo (from the deli): Caponata to kick things off – chef’s own family recipe. Sicilian relish, aubergine relish, raisins and pine nuts. Not usually a fan of aubergine but it was delicious. Quite a surprise. We would certainly never order it ordinarily. A very good start.

Antipasti (sharing plates): Fritto Misto. There are a couple of options (including vegan/veggie), but not being vegan or veggie, we munched our way through crispy tempura market seafood and courgettes. The tempura was divine and the black ink aioli that accompanied it was just sublime. I was tempted to ask for a jar to take home. I could have eaten it all night.

Primi: Jennifer enjoyed a lovely steak (from O’Shea Butchers) with an Italian Salmoriglio sauce which was superb. It certainly made the grade, and the steak was perfectly cooked. For me, Beef Shin Mafalde. The pasta that means “Little Queens” after the Princess Mafalde of Savoy (an interesting wartime story – look it up). Beautiful ribbon pasta, flat and wide. With braised beef shin and porcini mushroom ragu. Weirdly I can smell it and taste it now as I’m typing (never had that before!). Wow, it was, unbelievably good. I would certainly order it again.

We closed this particular Sicilian chapter with a couple of desserts. A very rich chocolate orange flourless cake and a silky-smooth Almond Biancomangire – both were the perfect end to an excellent meal. We agreed that leaving the choices to Monika (our server) had worked out well. We had rolled the foodie dice and won.

The following day, after an excellent buffet breakfast, we decided to walk to the Thames (about twenty minutes away) and follow it west then for a few miles. There’s plenty see along the way (Tower Bridge and the Tower of London) and if you enjoy people watching, well, London ticks that particular box – all life is here.

We passed St Paul’s Cathedral along the way, walked up Fleet Street (a shadow of its former self but, nonetheless, fascinating) and headed for Seven Dials, an area we’ve visited previously. It’s packed with boutiques, eateries and indie businesses and has a buzzy, cool vibe. It’s not far from Covent Garden. We had a mooch around Chinatown and ended up having a late lunch in an Angus Steak House. I’ll hold my hands up, we used to turn our noses up at them until we actually tried one a few years ago. Wow! They know how to cook a steak. Since then, we’ve been huge fans and we returned again this visit and weren’t disappointed. Great food, great staff, great service. “Did somebody say just meat!” Yes, we did, and it was excellent.

As we stepped out into the summer sun, we noticed everyone looking up. No UFOs fortunately – thankfully the fake invasion wasn’t happening today, but for the next twenty minutes we had the most amazing air display. Of course, it was the Coronation flypast! Jennifer said seeing the Spitfires, Hurricanes, and Red Arrows going over and London draped in Union Jacks really brought a lump to her throat. She said it made her feel quite emotional. I agreed. It’s not often you get a free show in the West End and what a treat. It made our day, and our stay.

We were going to get a tube back to the hotel but thought we could walk it in under an hour, so we did, and, of course, that was interesting in itself. We got back to the hotel and had a quick freshen up before heading up to the rooftop bar, PocketSquare.

Sitting, cocktails in hand, watching the sun go down with some chilled grooves being handed out by an equally smooth DJ was the perfect end to a lovely mini break. The Hyatt was glowing gold in the setting sun, and we had a little glow about us too.

There are lots of hotels to choose from in this area, but the Hyatt Place London City East’s ingredients should certainly put it on your radar. It’s always nice when a hotel lives up to your expectations and, in this case, exceeds them.

As we do, we always doff our headwear to the staff who can certainly make or break hotel experiences. At the Hyatt Place London City East (yes, it is a mouthful), they were exceptionally accommodating and made our stay a pretty pleasurable one.

Special mention for the breakfast team, Monika (I don’t believe she sleeps), she reminded us of that film ‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’. She was there in the morning, the evening, the afternoon and never seemed to stop – respect. And, last but certainly not least, Michael, the General Manager, who has clearly built a team to be proud of.

Jennifer enjoying the balcony life in east London

Would we return? Yes, definitely. It’s a lovely hotel, with cool views, and conveniently located. And we hadn’t really scratched the surface locally. There is so much to see and do within a short walk or a tube journey. We’ll certainly revisit.

Hyatt Place London City East
Black Lion House
45 Whitechapel Road
London E1 1DU
020 8159 1234

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