Great cities are restless places, forever in the process of self-reinvention. At the beginning of the 20th century, London’s Bloomsbury district was a desirable place to live, its garden squares home to an affluent and controversial band of writers and intellectuals, the Bloomsbury Group, which included novelist Virginia Woolf and economist John Maynard Keynes. (I’ve always enjoyed Dorothy Parker’s famous quip “They lived in squares and loved in triangles.”) But over time, the area became progressively more dowdy.
In October 2013, when Rosewood opened on High Holborn, the busy thoroughfare that delineates the southern edge of Bloomsbury, I remember being surprised by the company’s choice of location. But then, in summer 2017, The Bloomsbury hotel debuted on Great Russell Street, housed within a 1920s building designed by Edwin Lutyens, with a new interior by the celebrated Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki. It was an immediate success, and overnight The Coral Room bar became one of most glamorous watering holes in the city.
Next up was The Principal London, which opened in a grand late-Victorian building on Russell Square in April. And no sooner had the final coupe of inaugural Champagne been quaffed than L’oscar, a 39-room boutique property with a characteristically colorful and flamboyant interior by the renowned French designer Jacques Garcia, debuted within a former Baptist church on Southampton Row. Bloomsbury, it seems, is once more the focal point of fashionable London.