Words: Annie Ridout  Image: Mads Perch

My husband was approaching the big 3-0 and I was determined to prove that although I was eight months pregnant – and massive – I could give him a 30th to remember. To pull off the surprise Caribbean BBQ I’d planned for the Saturday, I needed to keep him out of the house on Friday so I secretly booked us a night at Ace Hotel in East London’s Shoreditch.

We took the Overground to Shoreditch High Street after work and walked across Redchurch Street – now hailed the East End’s Mayfair – and then through Arnold Circus. As we approached the hotel, I was disappointed that the façade was hidden behind scaffolding. At the time, we were living – and Rich was working – in a building site, so this was supposed to be a break from the metal poles, dust and paint. Fortunately, only the exterior was being worked on. The lobby, complete with photo booth and bearded hipsters drinking coffee while tapping away on their laptops, was immaculate.

We were greeted American-style: big smiles, eye contact – it is, after all an American hotel chain – by a handful of chirpy staff members in the reception. As we approached the front desk, Rich clocked what was going on. Though not usually one for open displays of gratitude, he was actually quite chuffed – and surprised. Good start.

We took the lift to the third floor and navigated our way down the long, identical corridors, home to 264 ensuite bedrooms. The dark grey and blue décor of the industrial-style rooms feels overtly masculine, bachelor pad-esque, even. So more to Rich’s taste than mine. But I liked the street art mural, arty magazines fanned out on the coffee table and the vintage furniture. Some rooms have turntables – ours had a guitar, which I used to serenade Rich until we both started cringing and decided to pop a bottle of champagne from the mini bar.

The dark grey and blue décor of the industrial-style rooms feels overtly masculine, bachelor pad-esque.

Next, we made our way through the bedroom and bathroom trying to establish what was complimentary. It seems a condom and one bottle of mineral water are free; food, drink, stationary, boxed cosmetics and everything else has a price tag. It felt a little like we were setting up camp in a shop. But we liked that there were antacids and various other hangover essentials available – at a cost – even if we weren’t exactly planning a wild night on the Shoreditch tiles.

I’d booked a surprise meal (bit of a theme here) at pop-up connoisseurs The Disappearing Dining Club’s Brick Lane haunt: Back in Five Minutes. There we were led out the back of a vintage shop, through a heavy velvet curtain, into a romantically gloomy candle-lit storeroom. The set menu was delicious and Rich assured me that the cocktails were too – my pregnant belly gave me away and I was automatically given an alcohol-free alternative.

We left the party animals partying on Brick Lane, returned to the hotel at a decent hour and slept well in the low-lying king-sized bed. The windows don’t open, which was annoying but did mean that the drilling and banging that began at 8am on Saturday morning was slightly muffled. We decided that rather than lounging in our room, making the most of the midday checkout, we’d get dressed and head down to Hoi Polloi, one of a handful of eateries attached to Ace (the new sister to Bethnal Green’s celebrated Bistrotheque).

The Nordic-style wood-panelled walls and warm lighting were an appropriate backdrop for the string quartet playing pop covers as we ate delicious granola with fruit and yoghurt (me), a full English (Rich) and drank coffee.

We returned with our four-week-old daughter, Joni. She slept for six hours – her longest stint yet.

On the whole, there was little to fault with our stay but the building work did put a bit of a dampener on our morning, so I emailed the hotel about this. They responded with the offer of a free night’s stay so we returned two months later with our four-week-old daughter Joni, noting how good the buggy access was throughout the hotel. The scaffolding had been taken down and this time it felt like we were walking into a West End theatre. A nod, perhaps, to the Shoreditch Empire that once stood at this site, hosting the likes of Charlie Chaplin.

A travel cot was provided and the option to have hot lattes and delicious eggs benedict delivered to our bedroom in the morning meant we didn’t have to cart a crying newborn through the hotel. The non-opening windows weren’t a problem this time as we discovered Joni’s preference for air con – a combination of white noise and respite from the stifling summer heat. She slept a good six hours; her longest stint yet. That’s enough to make any new mother fall in love with a hotel.

Rooms from £186 a night

Getting there: Five minutes from Shoreditch High Street Overground, a 10 minute walk or a short bus ride from both Old Street and Liverpool Street stations.

Ace Hotel, London at a glance:

Transport links – 5
Overall value – 3
Kids rating – 4 (babies), 3 (toddlers +)
Adults rating – 4

Best for? Buggies, business trips and as a trendy base to explore east London

Worst for? Remnants of the former occupant: the Crowne Plaza – baths haven’t been updated, corridors lack soul

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