I had a bubble bath with a view in Bloomsbury.
Looking over from the turreted corner suite of the five-star Kimpton Fitzroy hotel I had a cheeky evening outlook above the twisting paths and lime trees of the pleasingly square Russell Square garden.
Here’s hoping nobody had a view of me because this bath wasn’t tucked away – it’s a roll-top number perched on a raised deck with only fig-leaf-like shutters to shield one’s privacy.
That a bathtub is centre stage in a knockout suite in this remarkable hotel has wheel-of-life resonance because, when it opened in 1898 as the Hotel Russell, it was not only one of London’s most opulent places to stay, but was the first of the capital’s hotels where all bedrooms sported en-suite facilities.
Squeaky clean and hopefully unseen, I set out to explore what is still one of London’s most jaw-dropping hotels, with a ground floor so ornate that it’s said by some to be the origin of the phrase ‘all dolled up’.
Carlton Reid checks in to London’s Kimpton Fitzroy, where he was treated to a bath with a view
The 334-room hotel was originally designed by star Victorian architect Charles Fitzroy Doll
That’s because the eight-storey hotel was designed by star Victorian architect Charles Fitzroy Doll, who was later commissioned by the White Star Line to replicate parts of his interior design for the first-class dining room of the Titanic.
Doll’s design for this corner of literary London was inspired by the Chateau de Madrid, a 16th-century Parisian palace in ruins by the time of the French Revolution. Like this royal residence, famous for its exterior bas-reliefs, the outside of the Kimpton Fitzroy is lavishly decorated. It is clad with soft brown Doulton terracotta known as thé-au-lait, or ‘tea with milk’.
The facade is also dotted with life-size statues of four Queens: Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, and Victoria, the work of the monument sculptor Henry Charles Fehr, known for his sculptures beside the Supreme Court in Parliament Square.
Inside the hotel, the decorations are just as exquisite. Doll went wild, creating a brown and cream marbled entrance lobby that’s dark, luxurious, and almost literally spellbinding.
His mosaic floor features zodiac symbols, evoking the Victorian era’s fascination with the occult.
The facade is dotted with life-size statues of four Queens: Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, and Victoria, the work of the monument sculptor Henry Charles Fehr, known for his sculptures beside the Supreme Court in Parliament Square
The brown and cream marbled entrance lobby is ‘dark and luxurious’ says Carlton
Above is the hotel’s resident mascot, ‘Lucky George’, a 75cm-long bronze dragon that guards a stairwell on the hotel’s second floor. It has a twin, which was affixed to the staircase of the Titanic’s first-class dining room
And tapping into today’s New Age Wellness, the 334-room hotel now offers a tarot reading experience delivered in partnership with occult expert Dr. Christina Oakley, founder of the nearby witchcraft book shop Treadwell’s.
The hotel even commissioned its own tarot deck. The Emperor card is based on suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst, the site of whose former home is now the Burr & Co brasserie within the hotel (where I had breakfast). The Wheel of Fortune card features the hotel’s resident mascot, ‘Lucky George’.
This is a 75cm-long bronze dragon that guards a stairwell on the hotel’s second floor.
Doll commissioned two such dragons. The twin was affixed to the staircase of the Titanic’s first-class dining room. Today, unlucky George is at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Soon after it reopened in 2018 following an expensive revamp, the hotel’s name was changed to Kimpton Fitzroy. Fitzroy, of course, is a nod to Doll, while Kimpton is an American chain of characterful boutique hotels founded in 1981 by Bill Kimpton.
This image shows Fitz’s cocktail bar. Carlton describes the interiors of the hotel as ‘exquisite’
Carlton explains that the hotel – designed by star Victorian architect Charles Fitzroy Doll – gave birth to the phrase ‘all dolled up’
The hotel makeover included an interior refresh by Tara Bernerd & Partners, a London-based studio that designs for many of the world’s plushest hotels.
Sensibly, much of Doll’s design was left intact, including the tiled floor, long hidden beneath wall-to-wall carpet.
Back in my corner suite, I lounged on the velvet sofa propped up with Kit Miles-designed silk cushions featuring a stylised dragon. Beside the fireplace, Bloomsbury’s literary links were highlighted with a selection of highbrow books.
I chose one and snuggled down to read, cosseted in five-star luxury.
Lucky George? Lucky me.
Carlton can be found tweeting at @carltonreid and his videos can be found at www.youtube.com/@cyclingnews.
Carlton was hosted by Kimpton Fitzroy London. Small single rooms start at £240 ($302) a night; suites start at £760 ($956) per night; the four-room Fitzroy Suite costs £7,000 ($8,806) per night. Stay in a suite for two nights, and the third night is free. Visit www.kimptonfitzroylondon.com.
PROS: Luxurious Victorian-era hotel with a stunning lobby oozing with history and intrigue, gloriously located in literary Bloomsbury.
CONS: The lobby is stylishly dark, but this might not suit all. And those averse to marble should steer clear because it’s awash with the shiny stuff.
Rating out of five: 5