Sexy in the city: A review of the Mondrian Shoreditch London hotel, an Accor Live Limitless property
On a related note, before booking any travel, be sure to keep up to date with our country-by-country guide to pandemic-era travel restrictions and requirements.
When global hotel chain Accor took over and fully renovated one of the best-known boutique hotels in one of my favorite London areas, Shoreditch, I jumped at the chance to check in and check it out. While I might never be able to join the exclusive members' club that shares the same building (and rooftop), I was still able to experience a beautifully refreshed luxury hotel with its own unique personality.
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After just four years as the popular Curtain Hotel, Accor has revamped this recognizable brick façade into the European flagship of its Mondrian brand, imbuing an element of luxury into London's edgy but chic Shoreditch neighborhood in the city's East End. The area is abuzz with both young creatives and ambitious entrepreneurs planning their next industry disruption over espressos or champagne.
While you'll struggle to wheel your suitcase around the tight bedrooms, it's worth the space crunch to enjoy the moody décor by Goddard Littlefair, the design firm responsible for projects like the Mandarin Oriental Vienna and the iconic Gleneagles Scotland.
The hotel's rooftop, where à la carte breakfast is served daily, is a sanctuary decorated with tropical plants, vibrant fabrics and eye-catching geometric patterns that provides a colorful respite from the bustle of the city below. Unfortunately, this relaxing space, as well as the small rooftop pool, are off-limits to guests from noon onward. This "half-amenity" is a frustrating and perplexing tease to guests at this otherwise terrific property.
The Mondrian is located in Shoreditch on London's east side. Depending on traffic it can be over an hour to drive from London's Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) airports, costing around $60 - $80 in a ride hailing service. If you don't mind carrying luggage up and down some stairs and a bit of a walk, you can take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then transfer onto the London Underground Central line to Liverpool Street Station. That option takes about the same amount of time as driving but costs as little as $15 per person if you purchase train tickets well in advance. If you are flying in from Europe, London City Airport (LCY) is a much more convenient way to arrive. From there, you can take public transport to Shoreditch via the Docklands Light Rail and London Overground; the trip takes just 30 minutes and costs less than $5.
Don't be put off by the brutalist parking garage and discount car wash directly opposite the hotel – Shoreditch is the beating heart of a working city where luxury and grit can be common bedfellows.
London hotel prices are somewhat seasonal, with cash rates for a base room at this hotel starting at $250 per night in winter and rising to $350 per night next summer. The hotel is a member of the Accor Live Limitless, which has a simple redemption system where you can reduce the cost by €40 ($46) for every 2,000 Accor points you redeem. I booked through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts, which offers a space-available room upgrade and an up to $100 food and beverage credit to use during your stay to American Express cardmembers with a Platinum or Centurion-branded card, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. That's a great offer considering room rates were the same price as booking through other channels.
- Rooms are refurbished to an exceptionally high standard with luxe details like aged leather sofas, vintage wardrobes and side tables, and sumptuous showers that double as steam rooms.
- The public spaces are not huge, but are all thoughtfully designed with leafy, potted tropical plants that give off the aura of a modernist greenhouse in the midst of the city.
- Breakfast items on the sunny rooftop included a light yet tasty omelette with perfectly charred sourdough bread. Downstairs the hotel's Spanish restaurant flamed chorizo tableside and served up the biggest chocolate mousse I have ever seen for dessert.
- Staff members were professional yet welcoming from start to finish, remembering me by name at checkout. They noted my Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts perks and delivered them smoothly.
- Rooms are minuscule, with the end of the bed almost touching the windows. Don't make any sudden turns.
- The small lobby would struggle to accommodate multiple guests checking in or out at the same time – there are only a handful of seats to wait your turn.
- The rooftop pool is more of a plunge pool and lacks lounging space.
- Even worse: Hotel guests are barred from the entire rooftop from midday onward every day, as the space is handed over to the private members club next door. This ridiculous rule is not communicated to guests when booking or checking in and is the hotel's greatest flaw.
The Mondrian Shoreditch has the amenities and comforts you would expect from a high-end hotel, like room service, porters to help you with your luggage and 24-hour reception. It also thrives on the buzz of creativity and energy in the surrounding area. Start-ups host informal pitch meetings over coffee, while well-dressed office workers drop by after 5 p.m. to decompress with a bespoke cocktail. I was impressed with how peaceful the hotel's common areas remained even when full of people. If you are tired of the tourist-trap areas of London like Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, Shoreditch provides a lovely, youthful energy. It feels like the sort of hotel Londoners would choose to staycation in.
At only 260 square feet, my Superior King Room (upgraded thanks to my Amex FHR booking) was cramped, and I could barely maneuver my suitcase around the end of the bed. But like New York City, London is a city of diminutive accommodations. The large windows provided plenty of natural light on a typically gray London day – but the view was directly into the bedrooms of residents in the building across the street, so privacy was lacking. Style was not. The retro Marshall speaker produced an excellent quality soundtrack to my workday and the aged leather sofa was comfy to sink into, though the small side table did not work very well as a desk due to its height and shape. In short, this is not a business travelers' hotel, and you might want to plan activities that get you out of the room.
The highlight was the bathroom. I loved the way the double faucets sat above a single giant marble sink, which got me rethinking my own bathroom décor at home. The large shower doubled as a private steam room, though when I tried it out, the thick steam in the enclosed space sparked mild claustrophobia. (My pores have never looked better, though.)
Food and drink
For a relatively small hotel, the Mondrian has invested in surprisingly high-quality dining and drinking outlets. À la carte breakfast options are served on the airy, sun-drenched rooftop or can be delivered as room service, which arrived on time and piping hot. All-day snacks (the Japanese chicken sandwich is delicious), coffee and pastries are served in the ground-floor bar along with thoughtful cocktails that go well beyond your usual Aperol spritz or espresso martini. The subterranean BiBo Shoreditch is helmed by three-Michelin starred chef Dani Garcia (he also has a restaurant at the Four Seasons Madrid), whose menu includes refined Andalusian fare. The chocolate mousse for two people was enormous and finished with a tantalizing drizzle of Pedro Ximénez dessert wine.
The good news is there is a spacious fitness center in the basement with plenty of treadmills, bikes and dumbbells. The bad news is the swimming pool, located on the rooftop, is tiny, has no reclined seating at all due to a lack of space and is only available for hotel guests until midday, when it reverts to the private members' club that shares the building. This frustrating rule is not disclosed to guests at booking or check-in and takes some of the shine off this otherwise excellent property.
Out and about
The Mondrian is situated in the heart of Shoreditch, so there are plenty of traditional British pubs to pop into for a pint, along with a plethora of excellent restaurants, trendy art galleries and sophisticated fashion boutiques. In warmer months you can catch an outdoor movie on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton pub. I love Andina, which serves Pisco brandy and food inspired by the Peruvian Andes, and nearby Blacklock, located in an old furniture factory, that proffers what could be the best Sunday roast in London (and believe me, I've tried more than a few). Just make sure you book in advance for either. If you're not sure what you're craving, try the nearby Boxpark Shoreditch, a huge street food, drink and retail complex with dozens of options all under one roof.
The ground floor areas are all wheelchair accessible, with easy wheelchair access to the elevators that go up to guest rooms or down to the lower-level Spanish restaurant. The rooftop also provides a flat surface from the elevator to the bar.
If the hotel can fix its frustrating rooftop amenity availability problem, the Mondrian Shoreditch London will be a pretty perfect boutique London hotel. Its refurbishment has been completed meticulously and balances the classic luxury and amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel with a vibe unstuffy enough to draw in the young creatives who frequent the area, as well as visitors looking for a London experience beyond the normal tourist spots. Pool issues aside, this could be my new favorite London hotel.