This striking Grade II-listed building, designed by Charles Fitzroy in 1898 and launched as the Hotel Russell in 1900, recently had a £75 million renovation and opened under the Principal brand in April 2018.
That identity proved short-lived, with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) striking a deal with building owners Fonciere des Regions to reopen the property under luxury boutique brand Kimpton. IHG has undertaken “light renovations” to put a new stamp on it.
Founded by Bill Kimpton in San Francisco in the 1980s, Kimpton was acquired by IHG in late 2014. The brand has 60 hotels across the US, Caribbean and Greater China, with its first European property opening in Amsterdam last year.
Kimpton Fitzroy is its first UK property, but next year will see openings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
Where is it?
In Bloomsbury, two minutes’ walk from Russell Square station. It runs alongside Russell Square itself.
Unlike some grand London hotels, the relative calm of the area lets you take a moment to admire the architecture and London-made terracotta exterior without being pushed around by throngs of tourists and irritated commuters.
What’s it like?
Those with an aversion to marble need not apply. After arriving through large wooden doors on Russell Square road, which swing open as you approach, the foyer is an imposing sight, with brown-flecked marble walls, marble pillars and a beautiful marble mosaic floor. The hotel refurbishment saw 150 sqm of the original marble flooring restored and an additional 155 sqm of marble mosaic tiles made specially in Italy.
The reception is around the corner on the left, where two receptionists gave me a cheerful greeting (dispelling any air of pretension) and, on request, showed me around the ground floor’s four distinct areas – Fitz’s Bar, Burr & Co cafe, Neptune restaurant and The Palm Court, which serves drinks and afternoon tea. The latter is an interesting space with a glass panelled roof and abundance of plants giving the feel of an outdoor courtyard, despite being firmly sheltered from the elements.
The hotel is softly-lit and tastefully decorated throughout. Welcome features include free bike use, a promise to fetch items you may have forgotten, and a daily ‘social hour’ which sees complimentary wine and beer served from 5 to 6pm. Pets can stay for free, though I didn’t spot any roaming the halls.
There are 334 rooms ranging from 11 sqm singles to 68 sqm suites, including accessible rooms. Higher rooms will be better in case of noise creeping up from the road or events downstairs. Obviously they are they cheapest option, but the single rooms are on the small side given that you are still signing up for a five-star experience.
The room design is clean and classic, with a colour scheme of cream and taupe with dark detailing. My one-bedroom suite had a seating area with a TV, Nespresso machine, well-stocked minibar including free snacks and water, and a large window that you could crack open just enough to peer over Russell Square. Space did not abound in this room but it felt cosy on a cold December night at least. As well as regular channels, the TVs in the living room and bedroom had Netflix and the main on-demand services.
The bed was extremely comfortable, with 300 thread-count linen and mound of large pillows (plus several of those small, hard, decorative pillows you often find on hotel beds.) Copies of classic books in the bedroom was a nice touch. However the many light switches weren’t very intuitive. Not all of the bedroom lights could be controlled from the bed, and we had to scour the room to work out how to turn off one particularly persistent light coming from the wardrobe.
For me, the stand-out was the bathroom, or rather bathrooms, which returned to the marble theme of the lobby but lighter and brighter. A tad excessive, but there were two toilets in their own rooms, a shower room, plus a main area with two sinks and a large freestanding bath. I could have happily spent a day working from the main bathroom it was so inviting. I also liked the ‘Forgot It? We Got It!’ card, listing every bathroom item you could think of to prod and poke yourself with, along with a promise to go out and get anything they don’t have.
Food and drink
Fitz’s Bar is a dimly-lit hideaway that seemingly wants to attract a cool crowd (as well as City types in suits I’m pretty sure I spotted a very famous former child star). Somewhat improbably, the complementary table snack is a bowl of Twiglets, which I happily munched through while drinking a Peroni and sinking into one of the comfortable velvet sofas.
Given Fitz’s speciality, a better bet than beer would be something off the cocktail menu. I tried a tasty but fairly lethal Negroni at the hotel’s launch, as well as the delicious salmon Tolstoy and croquettes from the snack menu. Tragically, I arrived too late for social hour.
Fitz’s has a very different style to the rest of the hotel, with a large disco ball hanging from the roof, quirky decor like pink feathers and assorted antiques, a tented silk ceiling and dark walls featuring with brightly-coloured art. But the ‘relaxed luxury’ vibe ties the various spaces together.
Across the foyer but a world away is Burr & Co cafe, where we ate a breakfast buffet in the morning. There was nothing to complain about, although also not much to write home about. It does cater to all tastes, with ‘health shot’ mini juices and chia puddings as well as pastries, cheese and cold cuts, and standard hot options. The space itself is nice, somewhere between a hipster coffee shop and a farm house, with lots of space.
Guests who buy bed and breakfast packages can choose between this and a meal at Neptune, which for lunch and dinner becomes a seafood restaurant. I didn’t try a meal there, but its pink and cream decor (plus more marble) looks like something out of Wes Anderson movie. The website says you can “Start the meal with selections from our bountiful raw bar and a generous scoop of caviar from Exmoor, in Southwest England; then it’s on to local fish and meats cooked over a wood-fire grill.”
The huge original ballroom with a mezzanine gallery has been restored, while eight additional meeting and event spaces can accommodate gatherings from eight people to 80. There is free wifi throughout the building.
There is a 24-hour gym but no pool or spa.
The hotel meets its aim of laid-back, unpretentious luxury. The design is classic and tasteful, the staff young and friendly.
Celeb-spotting over Twiglets and free drinks during social hour at Fitz’s.
- Kimpton Fitzroy London, 1-8 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B 5BE
- UK Reservations: +44 (0)20 7520 1800
- Hotel: +44 (0)20 7123 5000