Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch is built from the Kray gangsters’ jail
PUBLISHED: 16:01 03 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:01 03 May 2017
Emma Bartholomew travels down to Shoreditch for a night in an old magistrate’s court, where the Kray brothers were once held in the cells
Judging by the grandeur of Old Street’s newest boutique hotel, it’s hard to imagine that at one time the East End’s most notorious gangsters – the Kray brothers – were banged up in the cells here.
The Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch has undergone a £40m transformation into five star luxury.
It wasn’t like this for Ronnie and Reggie when they were detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
The Grade II listed building was the Old Street Magistrates’ Court from 1903 until 1996 and a police station until 2008.
Back in the day there
was accommodation for a “married inspector” on the first floor of the eastern half of the building and rooms for 40 single men on the second and third floors.
The western half of the building meanwhile contained two courtrooms, with a grand public entrance in Old Street.
The only place the two buildings interconnected was through the ground-floor cells where 18 men and 11 women could be incarcerated.
You can get inside five of these cells now, which have been converted into private drinking booths in which you sit behind the old menacing heavy wooden doors.
The inside has been decorated with graffiti-style paintings of fantasy inhabitants like the Krays, and strangely, Banksy.
They’re at the back of the former Courtroom Number 1 which is now a casual dining restaurant.
The place was pretty quiet when we went for dinner on New Year’s Day, but had apparently been heaving the night before when the uber trendy “secret bar” Nola hosted a cocktail soireé.
Food is simple and hearty. I had a goats’ cheese salad while my friend chose smoked salmon, before we both tucked into fish and chips for mains, and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Period features like the original courtroom wood panelling and restored stained glass windows add grandeur.
For a more fine dining experience, a new restaurant called Judge and Jury has just opened in the other courtroom, where breakfast is also served.
This is the courtroom where writer Joe Orton stood accused of stealing books from Islington library, and the manager points out a wooden cupboard where defendants were made to sit enclosed behind a door, before the judge entered.
The Kray twins - Reggie and Ronnie - were also charged here with demanding “money with menaces”.
It’s a pretty impressive place to eat a meal, and in the calm of night you can appreciate its grandeur.
Food is top notch too. A melt-in-your-mouth fatty pork belly starter (£7) was complimented by kale which had been given a dry and crispy texture, similar to seaweed.
The steak tartare was quite pricey for a starter at £18, but out of this world and really quite an unusual variant with sesame oil and pumpkin seeds.
Mains include a fillet steak, priced at £28, was a good cut of meat, and came with the most amazing chips flavoured with truffles.
We stayed in an Xscape – one of the hotel’s 128 rooms. It has a huge top-end bathroom where you can watch TV in the bath with all the channels you could wish for.
The bed is huge too and so comfy I could have slept for a week.
There can’t be many hotels which can boast of having a subterranean bowling alley but there’s one here and it costs £45 an hour to hire.
There’s also a luxurious basement spa with sauna, steam room and an “endless” pool where it’s quite amusing to try and reach the end against the current – I couldn’t do it.
All too soon our stay sadly came to an all-too-sudden end - something Reggie and Ronnie didn’t have a problem with.