The Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch is located in a Grade II listed Baroque building, which served as the Old Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station from 1903 until 1996. The great, good and downright bad have appeared in the dock – the Kray twins made their debut court appearance here in 1965. Following a period as a film location and a £40 million renovation, the hotel opened in June 2016. It is part of the Mastcraft Hotels portfolio, which includes four other properties in London: another Courthouse hotel in Soho, The Washington Mayfair, The Bentley in Kensington and Heston Hyde in Hounslow.
Where is it?
In Shoreditch in east London on Old Street, a grimy yet vibrant thoroughfare that connects the central area of Clerkenwell to Shoreditch. Old Street underground station is just over five minutes’ walk, with Hoxton overground station less than ten minutes away and the City of London no more than 20 minutes on foot. The area is excellent for entertainments of all kinds, from sleek bars to chic restaurants and lively nightclubs.
What’s it like?
The imposing Edwardian exterior is certainly arresting (pun intended) – approaching its doors must have been an intimidating experience for defendants as they arrived for trial. Now it gives a sense of occasion – a modern building simply can’t compete with its unique heritage.
Inside, the huge lobby has an original mosaic floor and internal stained glass windows and grand staircase. Décor is on the sparse side, ostensibly to allow the original features to shine, though I did feel a little lost when I arrived, as reception is tucked away in a room on the left and so not immediately apparent.
Once I’d found reception, I checked in and made my way to my room. Though the hotel was clean with undeniably striking architecture, there were occasional scenes en route that verged on the unkempt, such as the askew armchair with a broken leg beside the lifts on my floor and the storage area that had been left open to reveal cleaning appliance and other behind-the-scenes equipment on the lower ground floor. I’d expect a little more care to be taken in a five-star hotel.
The hotel appears to be popular for corporate events and parts were closed for meetings and parties, this being in the run up to Christmas, while a Kazakhstani football team who were due to be playing Arsenal the following night were also in residence. As such the hotel had a corporate rather than a leisure feel during my stay, though it was midweek. Those staying on business would feel at ease here.
There are 86 guest rooms and 42 suites ranging in size from 26 sqm for a Dalston king to 60 sqm for the Shoreditch Sky Terrace suite. I had an Xscape room (30 sqm). These rooms are set over the top two floors of the building; as well as being slightly larger they also tend to offer the best views, though mine wasn’t facing London’s most picturesque side.
My room was in dark, masculine colours of taupe and grey, with some rather jazzy upholstery on two chairs by the window, and was light, spacious and comfortable. Laminate furniture was built in, with a few patches of wear and tear such as scratches on the surfaces.
A large work desk had sockets for charging in every format. Above this was a 46 inch LED TV with a full Sky package. There was a kettle, but no coffee machine and the selection of beverages included freeze-dried coffee, rather than ground, while the minibar had a fairly minimal selection (in some ways a benefit). Most importantly, however, the king-size bed was comfortable and the room was quiet. Bathrobes were also provided.
The bathroom was finished with large-format tiles in dark brown. There was a good walk-in shower, with overhead and handheld options, although I didn’t manage to change the temperature – it was either broken or deceptively difficult to operate, but was fortunately stuck at a tolerable heat.
Food and drink
The hotel’s restaurant, Judge & Jury, is housed in the old courtroom itself – a strikingly beautiful space with wood panelling and a glass roof. On the Wednesday night in December I visited, there was only one other diner, which ensured service was attentive and friendly.
The menu was fairly short – never a bad thing in my book. I opted for goats curd, beetroot and cauliflower couscous with hazelnut pesto, which was tasty and healthy, though my main of crab pasta erred on stodgy and was overpriced at £18, despite the generous portion. Other dishes included salads, fish dishes, a vegetarian choice and steaks. All in all not a bad option for tired, hungry business folks who don’t want to head out into Shoreditch.
A good breakfast, included in the price of my room, is also served here, with continental and English buffet, plus fruit, pastries and cereal, though the coffee was below par.
There are two bars. The Jailhouse Bar is on the ground floor in what was the police station. It’s a large space with a fairly glamorous look, aside from some strange artworks including a picture of the Mona Lisa in handcuffs, and bar and table seating. A unique feature is the presence of the old cells, now secluded drinking cubbies with their own doors for privacy.
On the fifth floor is a rooftop bar, which was closed or winter when I visited but an essential pit stop in summer.
The hotel offers extensive meeting space, with five separate chambers housing from 40 to 80 in a theatre set-up that can be joined to provide room for 300 delegates. There is also a private dining room for ten and a private bar for 40.
While the hotel has a good range of facilities, most were inaccessible on my visit. The gym was shut as was the pool and spa, which has a sauna and steam room, and a bowling alley was hosting a private function on my visit. The cinema shows a selection of older films on Sunday afternoons.
A beautiful building in a good location, though the interiors could do with a spruce up in parts. There was a jailhouse theme running throughout that seemed out of step with the elegance of the hotel’s architecture and it was also a shame that the gym, pool and spa were unavailable when I visited. Not a bad option, but the building’s vast potential and unique heritage hasn’t quite been capitalised on.
- Best for Distinctive architecture, an intriguing history and extensive meeting and corporate event facilities
- Don’t miss A drink in one of the former jail cells in winter or on the roof in summer
- Contact 335-337 Old Street, EC1V 9LL; +44 (0)20 3310 5555; shoreditch.courthouse-hotel.com