Tag Archives: the bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury


Words & Photography Kirk Truman


“The Bloomsbury is about staying true to Lutyens’ design, to the neighbourhood itself and to the era in which the building was born…”

We’re sitting in the once underused hotel reception area, today reincarnated as The Coral Room, also known as Bloomsbury’s ‘grand café’. Michael Neve is talking to me about The Bloomsbury, the hotel in the centre of the eponymous neighbourhood. It’s his second home, and as the hotel’s General Manager he probably knows all there is to know about the place: every corner of every room, every single detail of the building’s history, its past and its present.

Michael tells me how The Bloomsbury’s story began back in 1928, the year that English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned by the YWCA Central Club to design the building. Lutyens’ projects ranged from country houses in England and to the restoration of Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland to India’s new imperial capital in far-flung New Delhi. Today, the area is still called ‘Lutyens Delhi’ in his honour. The old Central Club building on Great Russell Street is perhaps Lutyens’ major contribution to London. The building’s rich historical detail, sturdy foundations and elegant, pared-down façade has led to it being lauded as his ‘finest neo-Georgian building’ in the capital by Chairman of the Lutyens Trust, Martin Lutyens.

Lutyens, faced with the colossal task of designing the YWCA’s Central Club, responded with an essay in austere and materially rich neo-Georgian architecture. Years later the building was listed as a striking example of the inter-war style by an international master. As Michael guides me about The Bloomsbury’s corridors, it is clear to see that Lutyens’ legacy lives on in the building today, its rich heritage clearly apparent from the moment the hotel comes into view. “The Corinthian pilasters that flank the doorways, the original windows facing outwards and the street-lamps which line the hotel’s side lane reveal something of the internal aesthetics; bold and beautiful without ostentation,” he says. “We may be in The Bloomsbury today, but the YWCA’s spirit is still very much at the centre of how we operate as a hotel.”

The Doyle Collection, which Michael explains is very much a family concern, bought The Central Club in 1998. While staying faithful to the original building, a major renovation was carried out. Key features of the original building, including the old Chapel and the Library, now dedicated to Irish poet Seamus Heaney, were retained. The structural and decorative features were fully renovated and the building was returned to its former glory. The Bloomsbury was born, opening in September 2000.

Michael has been The Bloomsbury’s General Manager ever since that turn-of-the-century opening nearly two decades ago. “I’ve been here since it was a blank piece of paper,” he tells me. “The building was originally opened in 1932, and is today Grade II listed. We’ve remained faithful to Lutyens’ concept for the building. I guess you could say, it is today as we feel he would’ve liked it.” Michael explains that The Bloomsbury is very much about staying true to Lutyens’ design, to the neighbourhood itself and to the era in which the building was born. This is a hotel that is as much about literature and the arts as is it is about hospitality. “Every change, every project at The Bloomsbury and The Doyle Collection, is overseen by our owner, Bernadette Gallagher, and her design team. We’re a small company really, and it’s a refreshing feeling to have our owner so involved every step of the way.”

Bloomsbury is  obviously a key neighbourhood and vital factor too. The hotel is not simply connected to the area by its name but is central to it in other ways, with a number of key partnerships in place playing homage to Bloomsbury’s creative, artistic and literary DNA. “It’s been a conscious effort for us to tie ourselves to the character of the neighbourhood which defines us. Poet in the City and the Royal Society of Literature are just two of the organisations we work with in partnership. Given our positioning, it is important for us to connect and work together closely.” Today, The Bloomsbury continues to stay true to the spirit of its creator and its neighbourhood, with carefully curated bars and restaurants on site, including Dalloway Terrace and the recently opened, Martin Brudnizki designed, The Coral Room. As Michael guides me around and tells me the story of the hotel which has become so central to his life, he reminds me that The Bloomsbury’s success is mainly on his team members. His knowledge of the place is unmatched, as is The Bloomsbury itself among the area’s hotels. I for one count myself as a regular, and so should you.

doylecollection.com

@hotelbloomsbury

Giovanni Spezziga

Giovanni Spezziga


Words & Portraits Kirk Truman


“…you know, I guess you could say it’s a grand café, and I’m the gatekeeper.”

Just off Bedford Square, right in the heart of Bloomsbury, is a bar like no other, and today I’m getting the grand tour from its general manager, Giovanni Spezziga. We’re at The Bloomsbury’s Coral Room, where Gio, as he’s known, is looking as sharp as ever in a double-breasted velvet jacket as he takes me from room to room and floor to floor, greeting and charming guests and staff alike. Gio is well known in the industry as an established host and manager, and since late last year The Coral Room has been his stomping ground.

I recall my first visit here when, oddly perhaps, I was reminded of the bar which features in the Stanley Kubrick film of Stephen King’s The Shining. I assure you, it was meant as a compliment! You may remember the scene where Jack Nicholson sits and has a drink at the Overlook Hotel’s grand bar. The key difference is that The Coral Room, while equally grand, couldn’t be less sinister. In fact, the environment is both relaxed and glamorous. The vibrant coral walls are decorated with the works of acclaimed artist Edward Luke, while from the double-height ceilings are suspended five bespoke Murano glass chandeliers. The luxurious interior, designed by the acclaimed Martin Brudnizki, is redolent of the Bloomsbury of the 1920s, or of an exquisite country house transported to the heart of Central London. It’s candy for your eyes, and the food and drink offerings a true delight for your taste buds.

Gio was the perfect choice to helm this new venture. He has well established roots in hospitality, having spent seven years of his career in London, prior to which he had gained valuable experience back home in Italy. “I guess I’ve moved around since being in London. From the W Hotel in Leicester Square, to the Rosewood over in Holborn, I’m lucky enough to have worked in some of the best venues in the city,” he says. “After working with the Rosewood, an opportunity arose which interested me, and I think I knew from the off that I wanted to be involved. I couldn’t ignore the idea of the The Coral Room. Restaurants and bars have always been like bread and butter to me, you know? This felt like the beginning of a place which I wanted to be associated with.”

Gio was first introduced to The Bloomsbury last year when he was invited to meet with members of the team about the upcoming project. “The vision was clear. I was very happy to be given the opportunity to helm The Coral Room – and just to be invited in! The dream was always to be able to open a place afresh – it’s exciting to be part of a new opening, and to watch something unfold in front of you like that,” he says. Once on board, Gio worked closely with the team at the hotel and the interior designers in order to help perfect the vision that would become The Coral Room. From the trademark coral walls to the elegant fused marble bars and other immaculate details, Gio has been at the centre of the project, ensuring that functionality and good looks went hand in hand.

It’s an attention to detail that has paid off. The bar inhabits what was once a handsome but underused reception area. With its incredibly high ceilings and wooden panelling – now updated in striking coral – it was fitting that this huge Edwardian space should be brought back to life as a grand salon bar for the 21st century. The dining options, I’m pleased to say, are as desirable as the location itself, with a fantastic brunch menu, a selection of fine English sparkling wines and an inimitable cocktail list for the evening – I’d especially recommend the Barber & Barrel whiskey sour, a personal favourite.

Gio and I are passing back into The Coral Room via the terrace when he observes: “You know, I guess you could say it’s a grand café, and I’m the gatekeeper. We’re open from 8 o’clock every morning until late. The food and drink offerings are amazing, and the location ties it all together. It’s a meeting spot for Bloomsbury.” Gio goes on to explain how The Coral Room is used as an office away from work, or perhaps a living room away from home, by many people within the creative industries, agencies and companies in the surrounding area. As he greets guests around the room, it seems that he has got to know quite a few of them already.

Visit The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury, 16-22 Great Russell Street or alternatively visit their website to read more or to enquire about bookings