‘We’re very sex positive,’ says David O’Connor, head of something swishy at Mama Shelter London, smiling with his eyes because you can see sod all with those Covid masks.

‘Sex positive’ are two of our favourite words, but not something you’d expect to hear from a hotel, especially a nice one. But then Mama Shelter isn’t your average hotel. Middle of the road, par for the course, off the shelf? Not on any of your nellies. (Though maybe someone else’s.)

Because when Mama Shelter launched into the staid (that’s clever for ‘boring’) mid-priced (that’s industry for ‘not-silly-expensive’) boutique hotel market back in 2008 with 170 Philippe Starck-designed rooms in east Paris, a hop and maybe even a skip from Père Lachaise (where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried if you’re taking notes) it took the mould, shook it up, and unleashed a whole new world of sexy-quirk. Fun, accessible, eccentric boutique hotels in not-your-obvious neighbourhoods of iconic world cities, there are now, ooh, a good dozen of them, from Luxembourg to Los Angeles via Rio and Dubai. Mama Shelter London – which opened in 2019 – is seconds (minutes in those clogs) from Hackney’s Broadway Market.

So when London’s very own reopened a few weeks ago with a ‘Sexcation’ package, no-one batted an eyelid. Not even a smoky one. With an idea to zhuzh up Londoners’ sex lives post-lockdown, the come-hither offer gives you two nights in a Medium Mama – roomy, bright, big telly, slick bathroom with good lighting (it’s amazing how many hotels bugger up the latter) – with breakfast each morning (it’s also amazing how many hotels have done away with an included breakfast, tight-wads), £30 to spend in the restaurant or bar (which is a decent amount, right?) complimentary XXX movies (‘porn’ in old money), a bottle of fizz on arrival to get that party started plus a ‘Sexy Mama’ box full of adult goodies like… oh wait, that’d be telling. Oh, and late-check out, in case that party’s going on and on and on. And all of this comes in at £198, which is penny-pricewise in anyone’s book.

Bargain bonking aside, Mama London just gets it all right. The rooms are pitch-perfect crash-pads (you have Parisian designers Dion & Arles to thank for that, who have cast their cutting-edge but hygge-heavy magic across the whole Mama) while downstairs think stylish frat house, a playful expanse that pulls in the restaurant with its huuuge bar spread under a canopy of oversized lamps right in the middle, a very nice outdoor Garden Bar just to the side that totally works whatever the weather, and funky karaoke pods dotted somewhere we didn’t actually make it to. And the food, seeing as you ask, ranges from spruced up comfort-meets-urban grub (they do kebabs! Lots of them!) to bottomless Sunday roasts because they’d be silly not to.

Everywhere you look it’s a menagerie of stuff that’s been gone and found – animal ceramics, random teddies, funny little sculptures, gnomes, is that Nanna’s bedside lamp? – aphorisms graffitied on ceilings, books that not only look good but you actually want to read, perhaps with your Cubitts spectacles pulled down just so, plus a nifty little range of gorgeous things you can buy if you fancy, like a limited edition Herschel backpack or a designer gonk. You know, stuff you don’t really need but should totally have anyway. And as is the way, this space is peppered with (very cool) co-working types during the day, sipping all the right coffees as they churn out yet another smash-hit screenplay. Which is exactly what we were doing.

‘We like to think of Mama Shelter as your favourite pair of jeans,’ continues David, the star of our first paragraph. ‘Looks great, is the perfect fit, and always makes you feel amazing.’ We’d add sexy-as-hell to that, especially when you get a load of what’s inside that ‘Sexy Mama’ box we mentioned.


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‘Sexcation’ two-night package, from £198. Use the promo ‘Sexy’ when booking.