Nick Hammond joins the ‘set’ at the eponymous hotel and finds his inner bohemian – well, sort of…
If I had a spare hour to while away in Bloomsbury, I’d do it here.
Armed with a good book, I’d nip into the hotel foyer with a nod to the concierge and head to the right where there’s a beautiful little coffee window, replete with neatly arranged porcelain, gleaming silver spoons and a friendly face. I’d order a strong, black coffee and find a perch on a comfortable chair facing this wonderfully framed scene. Occasionally I’d look up into the eyes of Edwin Lutyens.
He looks a friendly enough cove. A little haughty, perhaps, but there’s a twinkle in those bespectacled eyes. His portrait looms large behind this little square of solace and the entirety of The Bloomsbury Hotel is another of the great architect’s gifts to the nation.
It’s a sprawling pile of a place, if it isn’t impolite to call it that; one thing that would never be tolerated at The Bloomsbury is impoliteness. The entire ambience is wonderfully decent, from the cosy library and portraits of favourite guests, to Malaka, Guest Relations Manager and Joel, the irrepressible Sri Lankan barman (incidentally, it’s a great bar and a joy to sit at).
Malaka is a Sri Lankan too, and his father worked here before him. He clearly loves the old place and delights in showing me each room and slice of history. One can even sit on an original Lutyens designed chair in some of these rooms – the attractive spider-web motif on the backrest of some wooden chairs is yet another Lutyens special, and also the hotel’s emblem.
It is part of The Doyle Collection of hotels and from this example, it’s a collection that is working some magic. The staff are superb, long-serving and clearly enjoying their work.
Malaka does a great job of cajoling me into taking dinner at The Landseer restaurant. The menu is a good one, leaving several difficult choices to be made and after a light meal I make my way to towards the tidal pull of Joel’s energy at the bar.
Apparently he’s a well-known musician in his native land, but here, he’s content to orchestrate bottles and glasses with equal dexterity. When I order a Scotch and soda (Johnnie Walker Black, if you must know) he nods approvingly.
“Best Scotch for a Scotch and soda,” he says, and I feel a couple of inches taller, even though I’m on a stool at this wonderfully backlit, atmospheric bar.
We chat for a while and he then Joel shows me out of a discreet side door onto a secluded terrace (watch this space; it’s being refurbished soon and the plans look sensational).
It’s a balmy night; the perfect chance to enjoy a cigar with my drink and listen to the sounds of nighttime Bloomsbury. Remarkably, I have the entire terrace to myself. An hour of contemplation, and so, to bed.
The suite is just about perfect; everything to hand, plenty of space and a football-pitched sized bed. The duvet is not one of those great overfluffed, crackling, sweat-inducing terrors, but a thin, light but still warm treat. The room is utterly silent and dark as a tomb. It delivered the best hotel night’s sleep I can remember.
I don’t, for once, opt to test out my patented KipFax rating in the morning. Instead, I take advantage of the juice bar, which offers freshly made concoctions of startling complexity; and I ask chef to construct a fresh, three-egg omelette with onions, cheese, tomato and – sausage. The latter was probably a bit overkill, but hey! I’ve never been one to reign myself in.
The aforementioned duly arrives, cooked to exact specifications and is quickly demolished before I have to take my leave.
After checking out, I slip to ‘my’ Lutyens hatch and give the old boy a grateful nod for his impeccable taste. We agree a date for our next collaboration.
The Bloomsbury Hotel, 16-22 Great Russell Street, London, United Kingdom, WC1B 3NN, Tel +44 (0)207 347 1000. The Bloomsbury is part of the Doyle Hotel Collection, for more information visit www.doylecollection.com.
‘Life in Squares’, about the Bloomsbury set, is currently on your small screen on Monday nights at 9pm on BBC2, and catch up on the BBC iPlayer…