As I wait for my hotel room card I reflect that I could be anywhere in the world. I’ve been at the hotel for three hours but haven’t met anyone else British apart from the friends I’m here with. The staff and guests at London’s Grange Tower Bridge hotel are a truly international bunch and the bland architecture and design give no clue to our location in the City (the capital’s main financial district) not far from the Tower of London.
I’m here with three friends on a belated and low-key hen weekend (no strippers, fancy dress or L-plates allowed). We wanted a decent hotel in London with a spa and were pleased to find rooms available here online at short notice.
Lunch at St Katherine Docks
The weekend starts for two of us with a delicious lunch at The Boat House in St Katherine Docks, a quirky café 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel. The soup is so good that we ask for the recipe. We’re told that we can’t afford it: there are about forty ingredients and the chef has already declined £200,000 to sell the recipe to a supermarket. We help ourselves to more slices of delicious soda bread from the bread table and discuss inventing our own marvellous soup recipe. St Katherine Docks is a nineteenth century dockyard which has been redeveloped into a marina and it’s interesting to wander around looking at the yachts and old warehouse buildings now housing shops, bars and cafés.
Grange Tower Bridge Hotel spa break package
We meet our friends and the four of us chat our way through the sauna, steam room, pool, hot tub and foot spa at the hotel. The spa area is fine but not really somewhere to linger as there are only a few wooden beds to stretch out on and a couple of dozen people in there. A few people are sitting on the floor on towels and we squish onto two seats when they become available. The overnight spa package we’ve booked includes a 30-minute massage and mine is absolutely wonderful.
Dinner at Café Spice Namaste
Massaged and relaxed we nip up to our very swish rooms to change for the evening. The five-star hotel is new and so the rooms have everything you’d expect in the way of toiletries, Wi-Fi and drinks as well as floor to ceiling windows offering fab views of the London skyline. We head back to St Katherine Docks for pre-dinner mojitos (a Porn Star Martini just didn’t appeal) at the Slug and Lettuce. Dinner is at the friendly and welcoming Café Spice Namaste on Prescot Street, just along from our hotel. I choose a mixed vegetarian starter followed by goan prawn curry and it all tastes divine and is beautifully presented.
Brick Lane market
Breakfast next morning is good but not amazing. We’ve been given a late check-out time of 2pm but all agree that we don’t want to spend any more time in the spa. We resolve to explore the area and so consult my brilliant DK Eyewitness Travel 2014 London guide and decide to walk to Brick Lane Market in Shoreditch.
This vibrant weekend market is at the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community and buzzes with everything from street food vendors to handmade crafts to second hand books and clothes. I’m too full from breakfast to eat anything at the market, unfortunately, but I enjoy wandering around looking at the different stalls and love these foxy handmade scarves:
On the way back to the hotel we pop in to the Whitechapel Gallery to see SITUATION, an interesting exhibition by Sarah Lucas. I’m surprised that SITUATION comes with a warning that it’s unsuitable for children: I think it would be fine for kids unless they’d be bothered by seeing a photo of a naked man. I reckon my kids would enjoy this exhibition in a faintly hilarious way, especially the food used to represent genitalia. Anyone for a cucumber sandwich?
We paid £107 per person for a one night spa package at the Grange Tower Bridge hotel including breakfast and a massage. The Whitechapel Gallery is free to enter. The DK Eyewitness Travel 2014 London guide rrp is £14.99 but I was sent a copy to review.