Two hotel greats in the centre of London have been lovingly restored to their former glory without compromising the requirements of the contemporary traveller. Catering to the sophisticated voyager, those with an eye for style and a taste for the finer things in life will be delighted to discover The Principal and Kettner’s on their next visit to London.
Formerly Hotel Russel, The Principal has remained a hotel since it first opened in 1898 on the north east corner of Bloomsbury’s Russel Square. The Principal Hotel Company has breathed a new lease of life into this stunning Grade II listed building, renovating the interiors to match the grandeur of the hotel’s striking terracotta exterior – complete with twin turrets.
The Principal’s style isn’t exactly subtle, but it manages to carry off glorious ostentation without ever becoming tacky. The hotel’s unique and characterful design, particularly in the darkly glamorous Fitz’s Bar, is not without a sense of humour: the deliberate decadence and self-conscious opulence are just enough to put a smile on your face.
The Principal’s bedrooms range from the extremely cosy (but nevertheless functional and comfortable) to the luxuriously spacious. Prospective guests will be pleased to know that the elegant bedrooms are blessed with more calming décor, classic lines are finished in muted tones creating the perfect atmosphere for a good night’s sleep.
Bloomsbury, where Russel Square can be found, is a famously literary neighbourhood, previously the haunt of authors Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forester, and one of central London’s most charming areas. Now a haven of independent book stores (Persephone Books is a must!), trendy coffee shops and eateries from Store Street to Lamb’s Conduit, visitors can wander the rooms of the British Museum or cross Tottenham Court Road to explore the fine bars and restaurants of village-esque Fitzrovia.
For those who prefer to be right in the heart of the action, Soho is the place to be – home to some of the best bars in London, next door to the West End theatres and a short hop to shopping heaven in Covent Garden. Dating from the 19th century, when it opened as one of the first French restaurants in London, Kettner’s quickly became a Soho institution, playing host to the cream of society (including Oscar Wilde and King Edward VII) and courting salacious scandal.
After some time in the wilderness, this historic property has been reopened as Kettner’s Townhouse by the ever-so-fashionable Soho House Group. Synonymous with the more exclusive element of Soho’s trademark glamour and excess, they are the perfect partner to bring this once legendary house back to the fore.
The combination of sumptuous vintage textiles with clever contemporary touches adds to the hotel’s carefully cultivated air of cool. 1920s-inspired design invokes the spirit of the Jazz Age and there’s nowhere better to indulge your inner hedonist than at the Piano or Champagne Bar where you can sip cocktails from cut glass, make toasts by candlelight and give your best Daisy Buchanan to the jaunty strains of tinkling ivories.
On a dinner menu that showcases the best of British, the Kettner’s restaurant gives a welcome nod to its roots, serving up indulgent French classics such as steak tartare and bouillabaisse. After dinner in Soho, the world is your oyster: head around the corner to legendary jazz bar Ronnie Scott’s or stroll down to theatreland to catch a show. In the morning, after a reviving breakfast, the nearby quiet halls of the National Gallery are the perfect place to nurse a sore head.
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