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JC Stays: The Bloomsbury London

Literary luxe as one of London's historic hotels gets a makeover

(Picture: Bloomsbury Hotel)
(Picture: Bloomsbury Hotel)

You might not be overly familiar with the name Martin Brudnizki, but there’s a good chance you’ve eaten in one of the many dining rooms he has designed. The interiors guru is the man to have on speed dial if you’re thinking of opening a hip restaurant or cool hotel and want to attract an uber-glamourous crowd. 

From The Ivy, and its many Brasserie offshoots, to Le Caprice and Scott’s, Brudnizki’s signature style can be seen throughout London’s most chi chi hotspots.

He may have been born in Sweden but with his penchant for dramatic colour palettes, vintage furniture and seductive lighting, his look is about as far as you can get from Scandi minimalism. 

The Bloomsbury Hotel, on Great Russell Street, is his latest showpiece. Owned by The Doyle Collection — the Irish group renowned for its charming collection of hotels across Ireland and the UK — the property has been given a major refurbishment headed up by Brudnizki.

As a Grade II listed Lutyens building, period details have been sensitively restored and much is being made of its history, as well as the surrounding Bloomsbury area. This corner of London was, of course, the stomping ground of choice for the Bloomsbury Group, the group of intellectuals, writers and artists, such as Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes, who lived and worked here in the early 20th century.

Adding to the literary revival of the borough, spearheaded by the nearby British Museum’s major refurbishment due to be finished at the end of this year, the hotel has employed its own Poet in Residence. 

There’s also the Seamus Heaney Library — a wood-panelled room filled with the work of the area’s former residents. In the Bloomsbury Club Bar, which channels the hedonistic feel of the 20s, with its leather armchairs and outside ‘grotto’, you can order a cocktail named after your favourite literary icon (try the Dora Carrington for a sweet-sour gin and pomegranate blend).

(Picture: Bloomsbury Hotel)
(Picture: Bloomsbury Hotel)

Meanwhile, the hotel’s restaurant, Dalloway Terrace is named after Virginia Woolf’s eponymous character. 

The hotel comes into its own after sundown. Dalloway Terrace, an indoor/outdoor space, has a magical feel with cosy tables lit by candles and its ceilings festooned with firs and winter shrubbery. Designed around a ‘secret garden’ concept, when summer arrives, diners can eat al fresco on a wrap-around terrace. It’s relaxed yet intimate. 

Sharing plates include Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue and Burrata & Tomato Crostini, while the rest of the menu celebrates British produce — from whole Dover Sole to Grilled Mackerel, Black Bream to vegetarian risottos.

Brudnizki’s opulent touch is best played out in the public spaces. There’s a cosy living room, with roaring fire, forest-green botanical wallpaper, rose-pink velvet chairs and gold-trimmed side tables. Just the place to pen your own masterpiece.

Most impressive of all is the huge bar, The Coral Room. With its original panelled walls painted in a high-gloss vivid coral colour, five bespoke Murano glass chandeliers and a marble and mirrored bar, it’s like stepping back into the roaring 20s. 

Dotted around are 36 original pieces of art by British illustrator Luke Edward Hall, inspired by the surrounding Bloomsbury area. You can order light bites to eat and classic small plates as well as drinks and cocktails and there’s a surprisingly extensive menu of premium English sparkling wines.

Rooms and suites have a more pared back ethos but are no less sumptuous. The Luxury Studio Suites are arty cool. A dressing area has bloom-laden Colefax wallpaper in petrol blue and dark pink, and — continuing the literary theme — there are portraits of contemporary poets and writers. 

My room had an oil of Patience Agbabi, the former Poet Laureate for Canterbury, painted by Rosalie Watkins. Elsewhere, sky-blue panelled walls, a shimmery light inspired by a Flapper dress and an Art Deco-style red-leather headboard add a sense of fun. 

Marble bathrooms have stand-alone tubs and plenty of Aromatherapy Associates products to while away the hours in the tub. And, with the many must-read tomes scattered around, you don’t have to worry if you forget your book.

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