Sandwiched between the hipsterrific neighborhood of Clerkenwell and, to the west, Fitzrovia, which has also been generating fashionable buzz these last few years, Bloomsbury (with its glittering literary history) is one of those areas of London which doesn’t necessarily beg for attention.
Fittingly, it’s newest hotel, The Principal London, isn’t trying at all to be cloyingly chic. Rather, it’s housed in a rather awe-inspiring listed building dating to 1898, and charms with its historical gravitas above all.
Here’s what you need to know.
Historic interiors were left ultimately intact by designers Tara Bernard & Partners, instilling the hotel with a sense of unshowy sophistication (a reasonable comparison would be The Beekman in New York). The Grade II listed building is decked out in Royal Doulton thé-au-lait terracotta, and is a striking presence above Russell Square.
Done up in subdued, comforting tones, so perfect for creative souls, the rooms (playing to Bloomsbury’s bookish soul) also come with a selection of cloth bound Penguin Classics. Corner Suites are particularly comely, and flooded with natural light.
Eschewing hipster preciousness, Burr is the Principal’s on-site, Victorian-inspired coffeehouse. Healthy breakfasts include protein balls, fruit pots, and passion-fruit-almond chia pots. Tall, arched windows beautifully frame the surrounding neighborhood.
Margaret Crow and Chef Brett Redman’s cosmopolitan new eatery promises something with a bit more flair than the typical trend-forward hotel restaurant – with some dishes theatrically prepared tableside, and a number of sharing options. If the name hadn’t given it away, it will be seafood-focused, but with a Continental twist. So, scallop carpaccio with ajo blanco & dulse; agnolotti with red prawn & lemon dashi broth; tagliolini with crab, Datterini tomato, basil & long pepper; but also an excellent steak dressed up with porcini and peppercorn. The etched ceilings and neoclassical columns add a bit of drama.
Just the way we like our drinking establishments: all dark woods, plush armchairs, lavish fabrics – and yet with a glittering disco ball floating cheekily above the proceedings. Lorded over by Milk & Honey’s Sean Fennelly, with former Callooh Callay drinks alchemist Carey Hanlon overseeing the day to day, martinis are a specialty – though those seeking divinity in a glass should consider the Word of God specialty cocktail, with Lot 40 rye whiskey, cynar, salt, and perhaps even a bit of sanctification.
Notably home to the monumental British Museum, the neighborhood also boasts The British Library, the Gagosian Gallery Britannia Street, the Charles Dickens Museum, and the gloriously eccentric Sir John Soane’s Museum, with its more than 40,000 curiosities gathered from around the globe. The gardens of Russell Square are wonderful for relaxing with a book or just your thoughts.
The Principal lobby; Burr & Co; The Principal facade