Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

O my mum hip­sters were those low-rise pants she peered at, dis­ap­prov­ingly, over her glasses when I was a teenage girl.

To­day hip­sters have beards, wear clothes their grandads might have thought old-fash­ioned and gather like moths to a flame in the bar of The Hox­ton Ho­tel in Shored­itch, Lon­don.

The Hox­ton is a favourite haunt for Mac­Book jock­eys with its free wifi, smart leather couches and the end­less gur­gle of brew­ing cof­fee.

It’s pleas­ingly cool. Some­where to peo­ple watch in the bar, have a ter­rific din­ner in the res­tau­rant from a splen­didly re­strained menu, and overnight in the smart if self-con­sciously con­tem­po­rary rooms.

Break­fast you can have back down­stairs but the Hox­ton has a trick up its sleeve. Un­like the res­tau­rant, their break­fast bags are part of the tar­iff. Leave yours on the room door han­dle and it will mag­i­cally fill overnight with yo­ghurt, muesli and a ba­nana.

There’s also free fresh milk and wa­ter in your fridge and un­lim­ited top ups from re­cep­tion should you need them.

Vis­it­ing this part of Lon­don for the first time I found the East End to be sur­pris­ingly cen­tral.

Old Street Tube, the Hox­ton’s near­est stop, is only 10 min­utes from the main north Lon­don rail­way ter­mi­nals, with the Tower of Lon­don, the sights of the City and the Bar­bican arts cen­tre are all within easy reach.

Not to be missed is the free Mu­seum of Lon­don, which tells the story of the cap­i­tal from a sparsely set­tled river­side to eight mil­lion-strong global me­trop­o­lis. The Vic­to­rian walk-through streetscape ex­hi­bi­tion is par­tic­u­larly well done.

From the Hox­ton’s front door, Red­church Street is where the guide books point you for an “in­de­pen­dent shop­ping scene”.

I was slightly un­der­whelmed. Much bet­ter to press on across Beth­nal Green Road to Brick Lane, which is vi­brant, ex­cit­ing and fun, even on a week­day af­ter­noon. A shop sell­ing lo­cally made leather goods was fan­tas­tic value. The shop­keeper was on the phone or­der­ing more skins as I ri­fled the gor­geous bags.

The streets and churches off Brick Lane are worth a look too.

The brick ter­races are now smart town­houses but so steeped in his­tory that, once dark­ness falls, it is easy to imag­ine Jack the Rip­per stalk­ing from the shad­ows. Whitechapel, af­ter all, is but a short drive away.

There is no short­age of places to eat and Brick Lane’s in­flu­ence spills into sur­round­ing streets. We en­joyed a very late lunch at Dishoom in Bound­ary Street on the walk back to the Hox­ton. Highly rec­om­mended.

Later, we took the North­ern Line to Ele­phant and Cas­tle for the short walk to another free at­trac­tion, the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum. I could spend many days wan­der­ing around this amaz­ing build­ing but the Ex­tra­or­di­nary Heroes ex­hi­bi­tion is a must-see.

It is the world’s largest col­lec­tion of Vic­to­ria Crosses and tells the sto­ries of the peo­ple awarded them. Check out the First World War gallery too. His­tor­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, whether you’re five or 95, doesn’t get any bet­ter than this.

From the mu­seum, it is a 45-minute walk to Covent Gar­den where we en­joyed an early din­ner at Tan­door Chop House, where the quirky menu is not your stan­dard sauce and rice place. In­stead the melt-in-your-mouth meat comes with sides and breads. Very dif­fer­ent and very pop­u­lar too.

Satur­day night in the West End is usu­ally show time but in­stead of a big bud­get mu­si­cal, we took the Tube again (this time to Tower Hill) and a short walk to Wil­ton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel.

Wil­ton’s has sur­vived life as a ware­house, Hitler’s bombs and chronic ne­glect to be­come the world’s old­est, oper­a­tional grand music hall.

It’s worth a visit even if you’re not see­ing a show – and pro­vides an at­mo­spheric end to any East End ex­pe­di­tion.

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