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Aiming high in East London

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Opening a successful landmark hotel or restaurant in the middle of Central London is a piece of cake – at least, it is compared to doing the same in the relative wilds of Stratford.

Seven years on from the Olympics, and although E20 has a lot more going on than it used to – Westfield, the Queen Elizabeth Park, a handful of big-name ventures and a nascent arts scene – it’s still seen as a bit of hinterland by the diners, drinkers and scenesters of the capital.

That might be about to change. May 2019 saw the official opening of Manhattan Loft Gardens – a 42-floor architectural trailblazer beside Stratford International. Housing a ‘vertical community’ comprising boutique hotel, private loft apartments, destination restaurant, and members’ club, the development is intended to pour rocket fuel on Stratford’s urban evolution, powering the neighbourhood’s transformation from uncertain post-Olympic muddle to confident, characterful and cultured London hub.

If anyone can pull it off, it’s Harry Handelsman. As founder of Manhattan Loft Corporation, he has prior, having led the restoration of the St Pancras Hotel, thus kickstarting the rehabilitation of King’s Cross; and co-launched the Chiltern Firehouse, turning Marylebone into London’s uncontested A-list ’hood.

The first six floors of the building belong to The Stratford – a 145-room design hotel stuffed with head-turning features, including a triple-height lobby, sky gardens (complete with pine trees and wildflower meadow). It comes with a duo of eating options – The Stratford Brasserie on the ground floor and destination dining care of Allegra on the seventh.

For the project, Harry assembled what even the most ardent critic would call a dream team. Architecture by SOM (Burj Khalifa, One World Trade Centre); interiors by Space Copenhagen, (NOMA, 11 Howard); food by head chef Patrick Powell (Chiltern Firehouse, Wild Honey) and music by, well, us.

Music Concierge came on board to ensure the project launched with a sonic impact to match its stellar design, dining and service credentials. Alongside developing the sound for all areas of the hotel, The Stratford team asked us to take responsibility for directing all aspects of its music, including putting together a suite of brand-matched Spotify playlists the hotel could share with its customers.

Needless to say, both the capital’s hospitality industry and Londoners at large have their eyes – and ears – open to see if Harry Handelsman and his new hotel really can pull off the reinvention of Stratford. We’re not normally betting types, but having seen the project from the inside, we certainly think they will.