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Town Halls

Bethnal Green Town Hall, 1965

After three and a half years, I am kicking the Bethnal Green bucket - this is my last weekend in Bethy G before I move to South East London (via perhaps the Chiltern Hills as we are yet to exchange on the flat we're buying...humph.) It is a little over 4 years since I rocked up to my first flat in Bethnal Green (I had a lovely mini sabbatical from the area between my 2 Bethy G flats, living on Camden Passage in Angel). 4 years. With or without the sabbatical, I've lived in this little corner of zone 2 for longer than I was at uni! And uni seemed like such an epic era of my life, I can't believe I've spent more of my adult life here than there.

Bethnal Green is an example of the typical gritty chic east London: pub A sells pints for £1.40 if you buy them before 11am. Across the road, pub B, doesn't open til 5, sells only "craft beers" and you can't buy a pint for less than a fiver. And next door pub C, is no longer a pub but has turned into a speakeasy with an extensive whisky based cocktail list.

In the time I've lived here Bethnal Green has changed quite a bit. It has been labelled this whole type as "up and coming" but when I first lived here, 70% of the pubs were type A's, now 70% are B's and C's. Where there were sari shops and fried chicken places, there are now prosecco bars and cat cafes. McDonalds wasn't open 24 hours and Paradise Row was just some railway arches behind a petrol station. But what has stood here the whole time, moving in at the same time as I did, is the Town Hall Hotel.

Well, the Town Hall itself has been as it was since 1910, but someone marched in and made it into a 5 star hotel in 2011. Yep, that is right Bethnal Green has a 5 star hotel! And, before I left Bethnal Green, one of my top things to do on my bucket list, was to visit it for a meal in their 3 AA rosette restaurant - the Typing Room. So, booking a few weeks in advance (as you need to to get a table here), I headed down there for what was meant to be my last Friday in Bethnal Green (but was actually 3 weeks ago, damn house buying slowness).

My rhubarb gin and tonic must have gone to my head, as I think I sort of melted down into relaxation and didn't take many snapshots to share, but to be honest, I wouldn't be able to match the amazing photography on their website and blog - here and here.

Basically the only photos I took, and 1 photo Will took when I was clearly too engrossed in the wine menu to notice...

They only do a tasting menu in the evenings, but you do get to choose between 5 courses and 7 courses and they will swap out anything you don't like. For 5 courses and the quality of food, I thought the cost was pretty good - £60 plus tip for 5 courses, £75 plus tip for 7. We went for 5. The food is a little experimental, but not a crazy "open this box of dry ice, pull out this mushroom which is actually a jellied pig ear" type of experimental. The menu changes reguarly - you can see an example here, but I really enjoyed what we were served that night - smoked reindeer, which they actually showed as smoking in a little oak box (!), chargrilled curried cauliflower, deep fried pigs trotters with bacon jam. For food that good, the atmosphere and service was friendly and relaxed.

I want to eat all my cauliflowers this way please. #5aday

It might seem a bit weird having something so luxe on Cambridge Heath Road, not the swishest of places or even of Bethnal Green, but actually I sort of liked that juxtaposition of a super swanky place, in less than swanky surroundings. Sort of like when you feel extra cosy when being driven down country roads in the dark, looking out at all the pitch black woods and fields and feeling all snuggled and safe inside. Anyone else have that? Anyhoo, that was sort of what it was like to sit in a grand hotel in the middle of an east London estate, drinking wine and eating foie gras.

I've come up with a little Bethnal Green bucket list, which I'll share next post, but ticking off dinner at the Town Hall was definitely a good start. You can book dinner at the Typing Room online here or if you fancy something more chillaxed, head to their bar or second restaurant.

Do you live in the east end or are visiting London soon? Try an east London walking tour.

Copyrights: The top photo is taken from Town Hall Hotel's website.

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