BACKGROUND: The Courthouse Hotel is located in a Grade II listed Baroque building, which served as the Old Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station from 1903 until 1996. Following a period as a film location and a £40 million renovation, the hotel opened in June 2016.
WHERE IS IT? In Shoreditch in east London on Old Street, a grimy yet vibrant thoroughfare that connects the central area of Clerkenwell to Shoreditch. Old Street underground station is just over five minutes’ walk, with Hoxton overground station less than 10 minutes away and the City of London no more than 20 minutes on foot. The area is excellent for entertainments of all kinds, from sleek bars to chic restaurants and lively nightclubs.
ROOMS: There are 86 rooms and 42 suites ranging in size from 26m2 for a Dalston king to 60m2 for the Shoreditch Sky Terrace suite. I had an Xscape room (30m2). These rooms are set over the top two floors of the building; as well as being slightly larger they also tend to offer the best views, though mine wasn’t facing London’s most picturesque side. My room was in dark, masculine colours of taupe and grey, with some rather jazzy upholstery on two chairs by the window, and was light, spacious and comfortable. Laminate furniture was built in, with a few patches of wear and tear such as scratches on the surfaces. A large work desk had sockets for charging in every format. Above this was a 46-inch LED TV with a full satellite TV package. There was a kettle, but no coffee machine and the selection of beverages included freeze-dried coffee, rather than ground, while the mini-bar had a fairly minimal selection. Most importantly, however, the king-size bed was comfortable and the room was quiet. The bathroom was finished with large-format tiles in dark brown. There was a good walk-in shower, with overhead and handheld options, although I didn’t manage to change the temperature – it was either broken or deceptively difficult to operate, but was fortunately stuck at a tolerable heat.
FOOD & DRINK: The hotel’s restaurant, Judge & Jury, is housed in the old courtroom itself – a strikingly beautiful space with wood panelling and a glass roof. On the Wednesday night in December I visited, there was only one other diner, which ensured service was attentive and friendly. The menu was fairly short – never a bad thing in my book. I opted for goat’s curd, beetroot and cauliflower couscous with hazelnut pesto, which was tasty and healthy, though my main of crab pasta erred on stodgy and was overpriced at £18, despite the generous portion. Other dishes included salads, fish dishes, a vegetarian choice and steaks. All in all, not a bad option for tired, hungry business folk who don’t want to head out into Shoreditch. A good breakfast is also served here, with Continental and English buffet, plus fruit, pastries and cereal, though the coffee was below par. There are two bars. The Jailhouse Bar is on the ground floor in what was the police station. It’s a large space with a fairly glamorous look, aside from some strange artworks including a picture of the Mona Lisa in handcuffs, and bar and table seating. A unique feature is the presence of the old cells, now secluded drinking cubbies with their own doors for privacy. On the fifth floor is a rooftop bar, which was closed for winter when I visited, but an essential pit-stop in summer.
BUSINESS: The hotel offers extensive meeting space, with five separate chambers housing from 40 to 80 in a theatre set-up that can be joined to provide room for 300 delegates. There is also a private dining room for 10 and a private bar for 40.
LEISURE: While the hotel has a good range of facilities, most were inaccessible on my visit. The gym was shut as was the pool and spa, which has a sauna and steam room, and a bowling alley was hosting a private function on my visit. The cinema shows a selection of older films on Sunday afternoons.
VERDICT: A beautiful building in a good location, though the interiors could do with a spruce up in parts. There was a jailhouse theme running throughout that seemed out of step with the elegance of the hotel’s architecture and it was also a shame that the gym, pool and spa were unavailable when I visited. Not a bad option, but the building’s vast potential and unique heritage haven’t quite been capitalised on.