After (who knows how many) months of lockdown, three postponed destination weddings and one cancelled romantic getaway (with my better half), to say I was excited when I was invited to review the cheeky London outpost of Mama Shelter in Hackney, is an understatement! It’s been on my bucket list for some time and it didn’t disappoint.
On arrival, I was instantly greeted by all of the things that helped propel Mama Shelter as one of the world’s leading hotel brands: bombastic décor, welcoming and knowledgeable staff and of course, incredible location in London’s culture hub of Hackney. Needless to say, it offered a more subdued version of its usual self, but that’s fair given it now has to operate in a COVID-19 world, but they still did well to retain the playful personality it’s known and loved for. This included the team’s mandatory face masks, each emblazoned with its own unique mouth design (tongue out, lip biting, smiling with braces) turning a dull and restrictive item into a fun and desirable accessory.
The overall style of the played on its location in the heart of trendy east end with a mixture of mid-century and vintage furnishing throughout. The ground floor was a kaleidoscope of colours with a mish-mash of lampshades, long tables (which also double-up as great workspace), booths and chalkboard ceilings, along with an open plan kitchen. The Greenhouse, where I was met by their resident mixologist trying out new concoctions, was airy and bright with a retractable roof – a perfect space for dining with friends and drinking cocktails al-fresco. In winter, I can imagine it also offers a cosy alternative.
My room was 70’s inspired with playful little touches, including a novel corner booth with lush velvet emerald green cushions, super comfy bedding and perfectly proportioned (and very well lit bathroom). The room also had a great view over the old gasworks synonymous with nearby Regents Canal. And of course, it wouldn’t be a stay with Mama without their lovely selection of Mama Organic Skin Range (along with their suggestive namesakes, ‘Mama wants to cream you up’).
My beautiful room overlooking the famous gasworks on Regent’s Canal
After unpacking and freshening up, I headed to the Greenhouse for dinner. The (paperless QR) menu offers generous family-style dishes with some Turkish influences. My favourites: the burrata with borlotti beans, golden raising and gremolata and the simple (but delicious) cured sea trout with heritage beetroot, horseradish and lime. For the main, I devoured the Chicken Za’atar with harissa yoghurt, pickled cucumber and pistachio. The downstairs space and Greenhouse would also make a great brunch spot – the fluffy American pancakes were incredible! – with your friends or family and ideally located for exploring the area after.
As a former Hackney resident, I know the neighbourhood well and I couldn’t recommend it enough for readers looking to discover a new part of London or just fancied a fun night out without the hassle of getting a taxi home later. The hotel is perfectly placed between bustling Broadway Market (for lazy Saturday mornings) and Columbia Road (the infamous flower market runs on Sunday’s) and about a 15 minutes walk from Shoreditch High Street, offering endless art galleries, contemporary furniture and clothing stores and live music venues (although this is on pause for the time being).
Mama normally offers an unmissable program of events (currently on hold due to government guidelines) which has helped it to create a great sense of community among locals. Downstairs, Japanese-style karaoke rooms – they often host drag karaoke nights – are decked out with pinball machines, retro video games and classic 50s-style microphones and are available to hire for groups. Guests can also create personal souvenirs of their Mama Shelter experience with the photo and video booths, via the brand’s social platforms.
My first Mama experience was in Paris for my birthday a while back. It was one of their first hotels – Mama Shelter East – and I remember thinking then that it was ahead of its time, offering an affordable boutique hotel experience with all the trimmings you’d expect from a five-star hotel: great food, buzzing atmosphere, service and modern design (but without the hefty price tag).
The Mama Shelter journey started in 2008 with the launch of Mama Paris East. Founded by the Trigano family – co-Founder of Club Med – and world-renowned designer Philippe Starck, Mama Shelter believed in launching in lesser-known, ‘out of the way’ neighbourhoods in iconic cities, allowing guests to discover new creative corners with Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Belgrade, Prague and Toulouse soon added to the group’s portfolio. Today, MAMA’s international footprint continues to grow, with hotel openings in Lille and Paris West this year, and properties in Luxembourg, Dubaï, Santiago de Chile, Lisbon and further locations set to open by 2022.
It was lovely to see Mama’s managed to retain her charm even after global domination.
To celebrate their reopening, Mama London is offering stays from as little as £49* per night. The only condition is that you have dinner in their restaurant or via room service – seems fair to me!
For more information please visit: www.mamashelter.com/en/london/special-offers/staycation