Approaching The Bloomsbury hotel is a contradictory experience. Logic draws one to the steps at the front of the building — but much more seems to be going on round to the side, where small groups enjoy al fresco drinks on the Dalloway Terrace. Step toward this most inviting of settings — bathed in light during summer, warmed by heaters in winter — and you will be rewarded, for this is also the way to the hotel’s lobby.
As part of a multimillion-pound project by owners The Doyle Collection, the London property was remodelled late last year by design guru Martin Brudnizki; the relocation of the lobby to what was in fact the building’s original entrance is just one of the changes.
Don’t be deceived — this is the entrance to the hotel’s Coral Room bar rather than its lobby
Once inside, guests are welcomed at the check-in desk with hot towels and homemade lemonade. Whether gazing at the lobby area’s mythical forest-patterned walls, or reclining fireside in the living room, it’s easy to feel part of the club — that club being, of course, the Bloomsbury Set.
While the Grade II-listed building itself has no immediate connection to the group, its Bloomsbury location and the hotel’s name obviously draws associations. It’s something that is referenced deftly with simple touches rather than in a gimmicky way. Look out for appropriate books in the bedrooms to cocktails named after notable figures such as Dora Carrington and E.M. Foster.
The Sitting Room
Of the hotel’s 15 suites, 13 have been fully updated — all 11 Luxury Studio Suites, and two of the three Studio Suites (there is also a family suite) — each has been transformed from unremarkable to somewhere that really invites lingering. Stylish design touches in both categories include deep grey-blue and accent floral papered walls; distressed deep-red leather headboards; marble coffee table; and an intricate bejewelled side table next to deep claw-footed roll-top bathtubs.
One of the hotel’s updated suites
Disappointingly the 138 standard rooms have yet to receive the same consideration and lack the flair for style seen throughout the renovated areas, though they have been touched up to feature the odd bit of gold detailing or striking dark wall, with marble bathrooms and Aromatherapy Associates products adding comfort.
But back to the public areas. By relocating the lobby, the hotel created space for what is now its standout feature: the Coral Room bar, a cavernous and thoroughly glamorous Twenties-style space with centrepiece pink marble- and gold-detailed bar.
There’s a killer cocktail menu (try the summery Garden of England, a homegrown take on the Aperol Spritz that mixes the orange aperitif with sherry, lavender syrup, grapefruit and lemon juice, and sparkling wine, to perfectly sweet yet sharp effect), but the bar also places a real emphasis on English sparkling wines.
Their house bottle, the Ridgeview Wine Estate ‘Bloomsbury’ Cuvée 2014, from East Sussex, is very good, and it’s great to see genuine promotion of local industry. This is arguably one of the capital’s best new bars and a destination in its own right.
The Coral Room bar
Named after a character created by Virginia Woolf, Dalloway Terrace, meanwhile, changes with the seasons. It is flush with colourful floral displays in spring and summer; in winter, the ceiling is festooned with frosted pinecones and foliage, and woollen blankets are provided so guests can wrap up warm.
The menu here focuses on simple British cuisine, and does very good steaks, though the inclusion of burgers and fish and chips jars somewhat when you’ve been channeling the 20th-century heyday of the literary elite.
But you can re-establish the tone with a digestif at the hotel’s dimly lit, Chesterfield-clad Bloomsbury Club Bar, which hosts regular jazz nights. This is where you’ll find the cocktail menu that references the Bloomsbury Set explicitly, with an array of interconnecting arrows illustrating their connections to each other.
To clear your head the next morning, if you can breakfast on Dalloway Terrace, do, as the main setting for the breakfast service, a soulless basement room, is disappointingly pedestrian. Hopefully future investment will bring both that space and the rest of the bedrooms in line with the hotel’s pervading aesthetic, which really does make you feel like a modern-day member of the Bloomsbury Set — even if you do have the burger and chips.