Bloomsbury Set: Doyle Collection's London bolthole is a Little Black Book come to life
The Doyle Collection's London bolthole is fresh from a multi-million euro refurb, says our travel editor...
"They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles," Dorothy Parker once quipped of London's Bloomsbury Set.
Set the mood
Parker's words come to mind as I slink, sigh and lounge my way around the Bloomsbury Hotel, a neo-Georgian hideaway in the heart of the literary group's old 'hood.
Originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as a club for the Young Women's Christian Association, today The Bloomsbury belongs to the Doyle Collection, and is fresh from a multi-million euro refurb led by Bernie Gallagher and designer Martin Brudnizki.
Take a pew at The Dalloway, a leafy restaurant cascading down its terrace. Bring a first date to the subterranean Bloomsbury Club. Or look for traces of Lutyens - a chapel here, a spiderback chair there. It feels like a deeper, darker, private club version of The Westbury - a Little Black Book come to life.
The beating heart of this reboot is The Coral Room (above and top), a 1920s-style Grand Salon with Murano chandeliers, tall ferns and splashy Luke Edward Hall illustrations breaking up the unusual colour.
Grab a cocktail, try an English sparkling wine, or nibble on a small plate (my seared tuna with Wasabi mayo tasted a little dry at £11, but Dorset crab on Guinness brown bread was sweet, fresh and filling at £12). Moods shift subtly as the room segues from breakfast to afternoon tea and the amber glow of evening.
The Doyle Collection is Irish-owned, and I love the way it stitches Irish culture into its London hotels without going all diddly-aye on it. Think of the Heaney connection here, the Butler's chocolate on your pillow, or the porridge oats for breakfast. Combined with a keen eye for British design and food, it's a lovely, unsung fusion that sneaks up on you. Why don't we explore it more often?
For a splash, book a corner suite. Along with slick London views, you'll be ensconced among a clawfoot tub, leather-topped writing desk, Bentwood chairs and design touches including a tassled lampshade that hangs like a 1920s flapper dress over a parquet floor. The catch? Rates start from £800/€905.
I'm wary of brands channelling literary movements or writers into cheesy marketing. But the devil is in the detail with the Doyle Collection.
The Bloomsbury of course evokes authors like Virginia Woolf and EM Forster in its cocktail menus and dens, but it's also fostering a living link - by commissioning a booklet of 'Poetry Portraits', for example, or working with arts organisation, Poet in the City.
Seamus Heaney was a regular visitor when in London, and its library is named for him. Have a look for the handwritten note he wrote to GM, Michael Neve, and pull out a few books at random - the date stamps reveal their origins with the Young Women's Christian Association. It all adds to a sense of stewardship and depth.
While generally warm, service felt slightly frosty at times (I was given curt directions to the breakfast room, for example). I think the hotel's stairwells break the design spell, too. They seem bare, crying out for a little love... some of the Doyle Collection's delicious art, perhaps?
Get me there
Pól was a guest of The Bloomsbury (doylecollection.com/bloomsbury), where rooms start from £295/€333 B&B.
The hotel is a short walk from the West End and Covent Garden, and a two-night, 'Slice of the City' package includes a City Unscripted walking tour from £250/€283 per night.
Another neat touch is 'The Good Shopper', a slickly curated little booklet produced by the hotel. It picks out local stores like Charlotte Tilbury, Paul Smith or Aesop's skin, hair and body care, with guest perks like 10pc discounts and consultations included.