“Is it the actual Bloomsbury you’re going to?” asked my black cab driver when I arrived in London. There might be plenty of hotels in this stretch bordering Soho and Fitzrovia, but there is only one Bloomsbury—housed in a historic building designed by legendary British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1928.
Fresh from multimillion pound restoration, the Mr & Mrs Smith-approved hotel was imaginatively transformed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. As a Grade-II listed building, there were sensitivities to consider but Brudnizki wasn’t afraid to create a bold statement. Case in point: The Coral Room (pictured) but more on that later. I entered via the original Portland stone staircase into a space that felt more like a luxurious manor-meets-members club than a city centre hotel. Upon arrival, I settled into a plush armchair at The Sitting Room—its walls decorated with portraits of the Bloomsbury Set—and would have lingered if only my suite didn't beckon.
Do Not Disturb
The polished eclecticism extends to the hotel rooms, swathed in a flurry of deep hues, Deco-inspired graphics and rich textures. I stayed in a Luxury Studio Suite on the 8th floor, which immediately won me over with its bohemian yet quintessentially British interiors. Decked in vintage-style upholstery by Michaelis Boyd and Colefax wallpaper, it’s a bedroom designed to ease you into sweet slumber, as well as to maximise likes on Instagram.
The studio also comes with a generous work space and two “bars”—one in the snug by the entrance (along with the cocktail paraphernalia) and the other in the living room next to an array of hand-picked snacks. And while I’m usually opposed to exposed bathrooms, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the clawfoot tub at the end of the room. The minute I saw it, I had my evening plans sorted. The tub sits next to a window (which looks onto low-rise Georgian townhouses) and is just a step away from the bathroom clad in Italian marble, so it's easy to step into the shower to wash off the suds.
Much of Bloomsbury's reputation stems from its historical links to literary doyennes and intellectuals including Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes. You can follow in their footsteps right at the hotel's Seamus Heaney library, but no matter how much you want to stay in, I firmly recommend exploring the surroundings on foot.
As the haunt of London's greatest writers and thinkers, the upmarket residential district has plenty to offer. Stroll around the leafy squares, admire the well-preserved Georgian architecture, and enjoy the notable absence of tourists... though if you're keen for more action, Covent Garden and Soho are nearby. History buffs, in particular, are spoilt for choice: The British Musuem (free entry) is only 5-minutes away and the area is also home to lesser-known spots like Pollock's Toy Museum.
Food & Drink
Whether it's an apertif or a nightcap, a drink at The Coral Room is a must. You can't help but fall in love with this stunning bar, lacquered in vivid coral (apparently one of Lutyens's favourite colours) and illuminated with bespoke Murano crystal chandeliers. It may be a throwback to the Twenties, but I suggest you skip the classic cocktail in favour of trending English sparkling wines. They have a curated list of bubbly, a few of which are exclusive to the hotel. Later in the night, head to the Bloomsbury Club Bar below, which is a decadent den channelling Prohibition era celebration.
Dalloway Terrace, an all-day dining outlet inspired by a character from Virginia Woolf's novel, serves up refined yet casual fare such as Dorset Crab on Toast and Free Range Cotswold White Chicken. The crowd-pleasing menu mean it's quite a popular spot; book ahead to snag the coveted seat against the blooming floral wall. Being part of the Irish hospitality group The Doyle Collection, it's not surprising that they also feature something from the Emerald Isle—I spotted Clonakilty black pudding and Guinness bread at breakfast.
Take advantage of the intel shared in Slice of The City, which details The Bloomsbury's edit of places and events to check out every season. I followed their recommendation and set off to Lamb's Conduit Street, a partially pedestrianised street just 15 minutes away from the hotel. Considered one of London’s best-kept secrets, the street is lined with shops such as Persephone, a bookstore selling out-of-print books written by women; homegrown label Folk, which sells thoughtfully-designed, minimalist clothing; and Redemption Roasters, a socially conscious cafe that trains former young offenders.
(See also:7 Quintessential Must-Dos In London)