Kimpton Fitzroy London is one of those surprises that, once found, could easily become a habit. First, where is it? Well, walk 10 minutes north of Aldwych, up Kingsway, past Holborn and its tube (underground) station and you are in Bloomsbury, an area of London named after 13th-century Norman landowner William de Blemond. Russell Square, a football field-sized cornucopia of meticulously tended greenery, colourful flowers and working fountains, is on your left. Look east, across the road to the dark apricot-brickwork of a classic 1900s building, which in October 2018 became IHG’s first Kimpton in London, with 334 rooms that seem to be full most of the time.
The exterior and much of the interior is pure turn-of-the-century, when the hotel opened as The Russell. Today’s owners and designer Tara Bernerd – who also did The Hari, across London in Belgravia – have sensibly left as much of the original, conceived by architect Charles Fitzroy Doll (1850-1929), as possible. The lobby is a textbook example of thé-au-lait, ‘tea with milk’, dark brown and pale cream marble, a reminder that Mr Doll based the hotel on the 17th-century Château de Madrid in Bois de Boulogne, Paris. He gained considerable stature as a result of this hotel, and when the Titanic was built, its first-class dining room was based on the hotel’s restaurant. The only true memory of the Titanic association, by the way, is Lucky George, a 75-centimetre-long bronze dragon sculpture fixed firmly to the newel post at the second floor of the main staircase – he was one of two cast, the other, the unlucky one, sailed on the ill-fated liner.
Today the hotel has an excellent 24/7 gym. Its food offerings include the Fitz Bar and a popular Burr & Co, which looks more like a freestanding brasserie. The main restaurant, Neptune, is a splendid room, with design elements that could just hark back to yesteryear. Being Kimpton, there are daily complimentary cocktail-hour wine tastings. Another big plus is having the UK’s champion pastry chefs on duty. Last month Thibault Marchand and his colleague Erica Sangiorgi won Channel 4 cult-following Bake Off: The Professionals. As a result of this, covers at the hotel’s Palm Court afternoon tea, only served Fridays to Sundays, have jumped from 10 to at least 80. The hotel partners with Laurent-Perrier, so the savvy opt for a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé to complement the bestselling flower-shaped French choux edible delicacies.
Favourite rooms certainly overlook Russell Square. I found suite 356, up 82 stairs from the lobby, really comfortable. A now-decorative fireplace was a reminder that when the hotel opened all rooms would have had working coal fires, and by contrast, bathrooms would have been shared. Colouring throughout the suite was shades of taupe, enlivened by a scarlet phone and a scatter cushion on the bed that seemed to have all the colours of the rainbow and more.
An entire stay here is utterly agreeable. You are two minutes’ walk from Russell Square tube station – take the Piccadilly Line to Knightsbridge for Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Sloane Street’s designer boutiques. Then there is the outdoor appeal of Russell Square. Walk through these gardens, six minutes’ total, to the British Museum, where free exhibitions, running until 1 September, include Collecting Histories: Solomon Islands and At Home: Royal Etchings by Queen Victoria & Prince Albert. Also, if you are planning ahead, Troy: Myth and Reality, runs from 21 November 2019 to 8 March 2020.