Happy Anniversary!

The Hoxton Hotel London

I’ve just realised that I never got round to writing about our wedding anniversary, which was at the end of September. DorkyDad did say at the time that he was going to write me a guest post about it, but to be quite honest I think he has been working hard to forget it…

It was our fifth anniversary. We haven’t had many any nights out together since we moved house, so when we chatted over the summer about celebrating such a big occasion, we thought we’d do something quite special. But as the date came closer and other commitments were scribbled in both our diaries, we had to scale down our ambitions. Dreams of a long weekend by ourselves in Paris turned into dreams of a weekend somewhere on the Kent coast, and then, eventually to a night in London, chaperoned by DorkySon.

Our anniversary was a Saturday. Friday night was the Mad Blog Awards. Before I left on Friday afternoon, DorkyDad and DorkySon followed a treasure hunt that I had created around the house, at the end of which was an envelope containing a restaurant menu, a hotel booking and a bag of jellybeans. That set the romantic tone of the weekend right there.

It is surprisingly difficult to find a reasonably priced London hotel that is family friendly. After what felt like half a lifetime spent on Tripadvisor, numerous frustrating phone calls and unanswered emails, I finally plumped for The Hoxton. Guardian readers had voted it their hotel of the year twice running, it had a decent sounding restaurant, and it was in Shoreditch, which is an area of London I had heard DorkyDad talk about with some fondness.

As soon as the email confirmation pinged into my inbox, I popped onto Twitter, full of joy.

Excited! Just booked a surprise night at the Hoxton for my wedding anniversary. Anyone stayed there before?

A few minutes later someone tweeted me back.

Yes. It’s weird. The corridors remind me of being inside a prison.

Oh. Excellent.

Choosing where to eat had been a lot easier. DorkyDad and I have been missing good fresh seafood since we moved, so a few weeks previously I had tweeted Jay Rayner asking his recommendation for the best fish restaurant in North London, and he had recommended Bentley’s on Swallow Street. I had made a reservation by email, and was feeling good about it. The menus looked ace, they had offered to pour us a glass of celebratory champagne on arrival, and they seemed unfazed by the prospect of a three year old joining us for dinner.

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling grim – my fault entirely for staying up late drinking Strega. I skipped breakfast in favour of an extra hour’s sleep, and when DorkyDad texted to say they were on the way I finally hauled myself out of bed and made my way to St Pancras.

DorkySon came running towards me at full speed, beaming widely.

Mummeeee! Mummeee! I missed you Mummy! Guess what? Daddy forgot to lift me up through the gates at the station and they closed on me and knocked me over and made me cry.

Things could only get better, surely.

They did, sort of. Lunch at the Hoxton Grill was the perfect remedy for a hungover mummy blogger – poached egg on corned beef hash, and a large, cold Coke. DorkySon had delicious mac and cheese and an enormous chocolate milkshake, while DorkyDad got stuck into a big plate of ribs and wings. The room was clean, and just about big enough for the three of us, but the tweeter had been right – the fluorescent lighting, industrial steel beams and concrete walls (engraved with pictures of London landmarks) did make the corridors feel a bit like a prison.

The best thing BY FAR about the hotel was the old fashioned photobooth in reception, which takes four separate poses in retro style sepia. We crammed ourselves in and pulled our very best Dorky Faces – I was so proud that even though it was his first time in a photo booth DorkySon instinctively knew what to do – and got a truly brilliant souvenir from the weekend that still makes me howl with laughter when I look at it.

Hoxton Hotel retro photobooth

We had a nice walk around Shoreditch in the afternoon, admiring the street art and listening to some buskers, and then that evening we headed out for our much-anticipated dinner.

Bentley’s was, well, a bit weird. With the exception of one squishy langoustine, the food was delicious and fresh. We had beautiful oysters and crab bisque, and DorkySon scarfed a big plate of sole, but it was eye wateringly expensive and the service was shockingly slow. The whole vibe of the place was odd in a way we struggled to define. It was very cold – a bit like we had unwittingly crashed a private party at the house of some Russian Mafioso.

We returned to The Hoxton, where I paid £8.50 for a small glass of wine to take back to the room. Yikes. We knew that the courtyard bar would likely be busy and noisy on a Saturday night, so we had asked to be put in a quiet part of the hotel, and to be fair they had done their best. Our room overlooked a quiet street at the back of the hotel. Unfortunately, about 1am a car alarm started to go off on that street, and continued without pause until 5am. DorkySon somehow slept through it. DorkyDad and I lay awake all night, alternating between impressive swearing and hysterical laughter. At one point we gave up on trying to sleep and got our books out, but the bedside lights were bright red and not conducive to relaxing reading.

The next morning, giddy with tiredness, DorkySon and I headed home while DorkyDad made his way to the airport. He was on his way to Glasgow, to read poetry in the bottom of an empty swimming pool.

He hugged me goodbye.

I love you.‘ he said. ‘I really love you. But next time maybe I’ll take care of the anniversary surprise.

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23 responses

  1. Oh dear, a memorable experience if not a completely successful one?! I hate organising stuff as I always feel the pressure of expectation to get it right, especially as these types of trips are so rare. Well done for researching it and hopefully next time it’ll meet your expectations! x

  2. Lol, sounds like the sort of thing that happens to us! It’s our 12th Wedding Anniversary this Saturday and we are looking after my brother in law’s girlfriend’s 2 kids so that they can go out and celebrate a whole year together! Wasn’t my idea…..

  3. I know I’ve mentioned it before but that picture strip is great! And the Hoxton is lovely but I’d never have pegged it as a family hotel because of the late (public) bar. The mac & cheese is lush though.

  4. I love the photo booth, We have decided that the best family hotels we have stayed in London are Premier Inns. They are clean, quiet and do really great breakfasts! Happy Anniversary to you both. Mini and Maxi always have to share our anniversary meal with us now.

  5. I really enjoyed reading that. Now that was an anniversary you won’t forget – I wouldn’t have been very happy about the car alarm – but what can you do? Sounds like you both reacted to it very well. Anyway you are a very thoughtful person planning all of that – and I loved the treasure hunt – a lovely touch! And I just love that photo strip! X.

  6. An anniversary you will never forget! Last year we accidentally celebrated our anniversary a day early because we were both so tired that we didn’t know what day it was and then our son, who I had just started weaning, gagged at the restaurant table every time he tried to eat something so I had to run to a supermarket to buy some puree packs I knew he would go for. You are not alone. When you live away form your family and you don’t have babysitters on your doorstep anniversary celebrations are not always ideal but at least you can laugh.

  7. Happy Anniversary to you! Although the backdrop for your night out sounds less than perfection, laughing about it with Dorky Dad and his romantic farewell sounds more than :-)

  8. Tehee! That sounds like a fun weekend you’ll remember forever! I was just wondering if you could recommend a good restaurant for fresh seafood in Edinburgh? My husband and I haven’t been out much since we moved away from Hertfordshire and certainly haven’t made the most of being close to fresh seafood! Thanks!

    • Ooh yes! Definitely! I’d go for either Ondine on North Bridge, or Fishers down on the Shore in Leith. (There is a Fishers in the City too, but I prefer the original!). And if you haven’t found it yet, you MUST go to Eddie’s Seafood Market in Marchmont to buy your own fish to cook at home – tell him we said hello!

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