This gritty corner of London is finally cool: 11 years late

The Gantry Hotel – Ryan Wicks

At some point, everyone in the UK will have seen ABBA Voyage. Through word of mouth, it has become an impossible phenomenon to resist, even for the most curmudgeonly of kitsch haters. I went recently and, like everyone I know, found it challenging for the genre, as exciting as it was expensive and deeply strange.

A friend from Philly sat next to me, repeating every few minutes, “Look, I’m sorry, but these aren’t holograms.” Meanwhile, my older sister was dancing like no one was watching and slowly losing her mind. By Dancing Queen, she had walked through the looking glass.

ABBA Voyage - Alamy Stock Photo

ABBA Voyage – Alamy Stock Photo

One of the strange aspects of going on ABBA Voyage is going to Stratford, which, even before the 2012 Olympics and the building of that weird red Anish Kapoor thing with Carsten Höller’s slide woven into it, was touted as London’s borough. that define the future.

It’s one of the best-connected places in the city in terms of transportation, and the mega-Westfield has both a casino and a Greggs branch. There really is something for everyone. And yet it still feels like a non-place in search of an identity.

Perhaps this may finally be changing, with Sadler’s Wells East opening this year and a V&A East to follow. Then there’s the long-planned MSG Sphere stadium, which if realized will dwarf everything else in the area, its globe surface covered in over 1m of LEDs to broadcast visual nonsense throughout the neighborhood. Hmm.

The Gantry Hotel recently opened opposite the station, on the fabulously named Celebration Avenue. Aside from the little pods that make up the arena-front Snoozebox, and the Stratford (housed in a skyscraper with a top-tier restaurant on the top floor, Allegra), the Gantry is perhaps the default hotel for those in town for ABBA. , and certainly for those who want to do it in style.

Coupe the Gantry Hotel - Ryan Wicks

Coupe the Gantry Hotel – Ryan Wicks

It’s one of Hilton’s new Curio Collections and works well as a new local landmark. It’s a glass box, 18 stories high, clad in a kind of sculptural birdcage, with an elegant wavy grille. Once inside, you know the procedure: turn things around 180 degrees from the corporate blandness, add a funky-looking cafe in the lobby, and a pop-up restaurant that specializes in dumplings.

The upstairs rooms are a beautiful blue color. To reassure you that this is a 21st century version of Hilton, there is a pod coffee machine, along with elegant martini glasses in the minibar that are ersatz cut crystal.

There are full-length mirrors with rounded edges, furniture that resembles metal travel trunks, and a few industrial touches, like metal gears on the wall alongside monochrome photographs of clocks and typewriters. Everything feels fresh. You will sleep well here after the show. My only complaint about my room was that it lacked a functional desk area, a necessary evil if you are somewhere on part business.

The Gantry Hotel Room - Ryan Wicks

The Gantry Hotel Room – Ryan Wicks

Aside from the proximity to the ABBA Arena, would you choose this hotel for a stay in London? With the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, perhaps it should – it’s 16 minutes from here to Bond Street, which still amazes me, and it should, after 13 years of rail service development.

I checked in, dropped off my bags and went to the bar, Coupe, hoping to work my way through the list of British sparkling wines the hotel places so high importance on. But Coupe was kaput for the evening, so I went to the bar a few seats over where they still had Gusbourne Blanc de Kent Blancs by the glass.

Union Social London Rooftop Lounge - Ryan Wicks

Union Social London Rooftop Lounge – Ryan Wicks

There was a mix of residents, locals and after work people at the bar. People actually live and work in all the new construction nearby, and when it comes to the hotel’s casual bars and restaurants, the Union Social lounge is just about perfect. There are views of Stratford’s glittering hinterland and a menu that pleases everyone: Crispy miso-glazed cauliflower pops are a good vegetarian alternative to popcorn chicken, the wild mushroom falafel is juicy and flavorful, and some beef Beef in a sweet parsnip puree is the coziest of comfort foods.

Several floors up is a branch of STK, a restaurant that was all the rage when I first went to the New York original in 2007, and which promises a DJ “to create an energetic and infectious atmosphere”. Not one for me, but who knows, if you really get carried away by ABBA, it might just be the ticket.

Doubles from £189, including breakfast. There are 20 accessible rooms

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