It is with some apprehension that I rub the bronze dragon on the landing of the new Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel. "Lucky George" is supposed to bring good fortune but given his identical twin was on the RMS Titanic, the family doesn't have a great track record.
Since emerging as the Principal London in April 2018, after a two-year refurb, this grand hotel in Bloomsbury has also navigated some choppy waters. After being bought in July 2018 by French conglomerate Foncière des Régions (now Covivio), it was relaunched as the UK's first Kimpton and is now being managed by the InterContinental Hotels Group.
Thankfully, none of these boardroom shenanigans detract from the property's allure. With its striking peach terracotta facade, the imposing Grade II-listed building in Russell Square is a contender for London's most handsome hotel. Designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll (who also decorated the Titanic's dining room), it's an ornate riot of Greek columns, intricate mosaic floors and sweeping marble staircases.
The property's 334 rooms have a more restrained, residential feel with a muted palette of beiges, browns and taupes. Entry level City Singles start at a cosy 11 square metres while suites are lavish three-room affairs with four-poster beds, walk-in wardrobes and capacious white marble bathrooms with freestanding baths. All rooms feature high-end toiletries by The Perfumer's Story, Nespresso coffee machines and complimentary non-alcoholic mini-bars.
More memorable are the hotel's bars and restaurants. Start your day with a freshly baked croissant and an A-grade flat white in Burr & Co., a busy street-fronting coffee shop with high ceilings and acres of wood panelling. For lunch, head to Neptune, an upscale seafood restaurant overseen by by Aussie chef Brett Redman. Enjoy platters of English oysters, scallops and langoustines among an eye-popping montage of marble columns and colourful banquettes. Afternoon tea in Palm Court is compulsory, not just for the innovative deconstructed presentation on Raynaud china, but also for the setting. The soaring, glass-ceilinged atrium is artfully filled with trees, shrubs and seating so comfortable you'll want to retire there.
Round off the evening with a cocktail and a bite at Fitz's, an opulent late-night boudoir with art deco lighting, ostrich feathers and a glittering disco ball.
Thanks to the efforts of interior designers Tara Bernerd and Russell Sage (plus a handy budget of £85 million), each venue has become a destination in its own right. In fact, so compelling are their collective appeal that it can be difficult to rouse any enthusiasm for venturing further afield. But venture you should, because the property is conveniently located in the heart of Bloomsbury, opposite the delightful Russell Square garden and a five-minute walk from the British Museum. Explore the area's literary connections at the nearby Charles Dickens Museum or head to Lamb's Conduit Street for some seriously good food at the likes of Noble Rot or Ciao Bella.
Of course, another benefit of stepping outside is that eventually you have to return. Do so at night and you'll be greeted by an illuminated facade of such sigh-inducing loveliness you'll spend 10 minutes trying to take a photo that captures its magnificence (well, I did).
Lucky George might not have been an auspicious omen for the Titanic but he's in safer hands here. After a convoluted start, the hotel is back on course to become one of London's grandest and most prestigious five-star properties.
City Single rooms start from £185 (about $340); double rooms from £225. See kimptonfitzroylondon.co.uk
Rob McFarland was a guest of the Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel and Visit Britain.