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In the past few years the property, which long sat atop the London-hotel food chain in its prime Knightsbridge position, had begun to feel a little frayed around the edges. Yet, quietly but persistently, the Berkeley has of late been introducing brilliant new design, venues, and programming on its seven floors, from its stylish Prêt-à-Portea afternoon-tea service to the inspired choice of Bamford to run its spa. The latest coup is the launch of two Pavilion suites reimagined by international designer Andre Fu. They are glass-walled aeries in the sky, exploiting their rooftop location to bring 180-degree city views right into the sitting room, bedroom, and sprawling travertine-and-oak master bath. But to better appreciate those views, guests just need to step onto the lushly planted terrace. To the south, the bell tower of lovely little St. Paul’s Church on Wilton Place is reach-out-and-touch-it close; to the north, Hyde Park beckons. An ingenious (and beautiful) automated shade transforms the suite into a private den in a matter of seconds, while around you London pulses in all its glory. Suites from $2,440.
The Bloomsbury Hotel
Originally built as the YWCA Central Club, the Bloomsbury was Sir Edwin Lutyens’s first neo-Georgian building in London,
its foundation stone laid in 1929 by Queen Mary herself (her granddaughters, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, enjoyed swimming in the subterranean indoor pool). In 1998 it became a hotel under the Jurys Doyle group, but when the Irish owners sold off the Jurys brand in 2008, the Bloomsbury was closed for an overhaul. In November it reopened as both a Doyle Collection showcase and a brick-and-mortar paean to its storied neighborhood. The designer Martin Brudnizki, who did the interiors of Annabel’s in Mayfair and the Beekman in lower Manhattan, was enlisted to bring his signature maximalist style. The Luxury Studio suites, with their parquet floors, vintage Oriental rugs, Colefax wallpaper, and vast marble-and-tile bathrooms, are the ones to book. Downstairs, it’s all about the Coral Room, currently the buzziest bar in Bloomsbury. Highlights include whimsical drawings by illustrator Luke Edward Hall and a charismatic Italian bartender who mixes five different regional versions of an Aperol spritz, each better than the last. Rooms from $490.
Long a derelict shell on Holborn’s Southampton Row, the former headquarters of the Baptist Church in England has Jacques Garcia to thank for its colorful new look as a 39-suite luxury hotel. All the hallmarks of fine early-20th-century construction (think 15-foot ceilings, carved-oak fireplaces, and soaring casement windows) form a backdrop to some extravagant flights of design fancy, not least among them hand-embroidered silk headboards with a peacock-feather design and bespoke Lalique crystal lampshades. The Baptist Bar and Grill, a two-story space in the building’s original octagonal chapel, will serve modern British cuisine. Rooms from $540.
Opened in 1867 as one of London’s first French restaurants, Kettner’s was a favorite of everyone from Oscar Wilde to Edward VII and Winston Churchill. By the aughts, it had long since lost its veneer of gentility—paving the way for Nick Jones and Soho House to snap up the property in late 2015. In January, the space reopened as Kettner’s Townhouse, a traditional French restaurant with 33 guest rooms and one fabulous 861-square-foot suite with its own private entrance on Greek Street. The decor is a nostalgic deep dive into Kettner’s heyday, all plush velvets, William Morris wallpaper, and frosted, etched glass. But key elements of the 19th-century interior— timber floorboards, floral plasterwork, and stunning wood paneling—have been cannily preserved. The “Tiny” rooms’ soft double beds and huge rainfall showers feel indulgent even with the cozy dimensions; the three “Big” rooms, overlooking Romilly Street, are a glorious trip back in time (but with central heating). A bonus: The jewel of a champagne bar at ground level is reserved for hotel guests only. Rooms from $303.
The Principal London
That location, those architectural bones, that immaculate terra-cotta façade. Anchoring one entire flank of Russell Square, the Russell Hotel, a historically listed building, was glorious on the outside—but dark and faded on the inside. For years, it had been crying out for someone to bring it back to glory. Enter veteran hotelier Barry Sternlicht, whose Principal Hotel Group rehabilitates landmark British buildings with the help of the U.K.’s best interior designers. After an 18-month overhaul, the Russell is now the 334-room Principal London, and it is everything a thoughtful, contemporary restoration should be. A whopping 848 blocks of new terra-cotta now mark the exterior, while the lobby’s original, soaring arches of red-seamed Italian marble have been buffed up. Designer Tara Bernerd gave the unusually spacious rooms and suites a clean palette. Book one on a corner for the stand-alone bathtubs. Russell Sage, known for flamboyance that stays just the right side of outré, created a deep, sexy color scheme (complete with a semi-ironic disco ball) for Fitz’s bar; Burr & Co., by contrast, is a light-filled, wood-paneled coffeehouse and deli. At Palm Court, a combination winter garden and lushly planted outdoor courtyard hosts afternoon tea that morphs into a chic gin-trolley service as the evening progresses. Rooms from $300.