The Hotel Russell, situated along one side of Russell Square in the Bloomsbury area of the city was to be my home for my recent short break in the capital. Being in the hotel industry myself, I don't like to pay a fortune for hotels and I booked the hotel about two months prior to our arrival and managed to secure two double/twin rooms at the rate of £85 per room per night, through a contact. However this special rate was also available on the website, and so is achievable. Given that this rate included breakfast, seemed to be a luxurious four star hotel but at a price not dissimilar to some of the budget accommodation in London, was in walking distance of the theatre district which was the main reason for our trip and because Covent Garden/Leicester Square were also a stone's throw away, we decided to book and indulge.
The hotel is easily accessed from the main railway stations such as Euston, and King's Cross/St Pancras, and is in fact one short tube stop away on the Piccadilly line, or if you prefer to stay above ground, then is well served by buses from the stations. Travel time from Heathrow is around 40 minutes on the Piccadilly line.
The hotel itself takes up the entire block at the side of Russell Square and is one of the most imposing hotels within this location. This purpose built building dates from around the turn of the 20th century and its architecture is renaissance in style, with stunning terracotta brickwork. The hotel is large in size, with almost 400 rooms, and many overlook the square, including ours. The original floor to ceiling window frames do open out onto a small balcony area, if you want to absorb some of the atmosphere in the square below, but once closed, act as relatively good sound barriers.
Access to the hotel is via a small flight of steps and there is a wooden revolving doorway, which most people tend to use, despite the fact the adjoining doors are easier to manage and were always open. In reception you can find porters and a traditional London concierge, and the centrepiece of the reception area is the magnificent marble staircase.
Check in was efficient and I was provided with all the information needed about dining times and breakfast. The reception area also houses a small business centre/internet point, which was £6 for around 40 minutes access, so ideal if you have urgent matters to attend to. The rooms also had wired broadband points, although I did not try these out, having decided to leave the laptop at home for this break. I had been upgraded to a twin ambassador room, which was decorated in contemporary styling with neutral tones. The beds themselves were pushed together and were quite wide, although simply covered with neutral duvets. I was fighting side effects of flu and did in fact need both duvets to keep warm, luckily I was not sharing my room with anyone else! The room had a very generous hospitality tray, a laptop safe and ample storage for a stay of a few nights. There were two separate dressing table areas and a small seating area, and the bathroom was very contemporary and had a powerful shower complete with dustbin-lid shower head as well as a regular shower head. The toiletries provided were reasonable, although they were not of a brand I had heard of before.
My sister's room was more traditional in style, but tastefully done nevertheless. She had a family style room with two double beds, again with simple white duvets and overlooking the square.
We did not have any evening meals or drinks in the hotel, however I did partake of a cup of coffee in "tempus bar" on my final morning before departure. Coffee was £4.95 a cup, which seems expensive, but in fact is probably in line with most four star hotels even outside the city. The Tempus bar drinks menu was extremely comprehensive, and generally seemed reasonably priced, with a fairly decent wine available from £20 a bottle. There were special offers on champagne in the evening during our stay, a "two-for-one" promotion. The bar itself seemed to ooze the history of the hotel, and it was easy to spend time in there reading morning newspapers, and absorbing the character of the place.
Breakfast was actually served until 12 noon on the Sunday during our stay, something which will have been very welcoming to a lot of guests. We did make it down for breakfast at a far earlier hour. As well as the restaurant, the hotel was serving breakfast in an adjoining function room, ensuring that there was no waiting for a table. The restaurant Fitzroy Doll is allegedly similar to a Titanic dining room, being designed by the same architect and it certainly is of grand proportions although when set up for breakfast, it is hard to imagine it for a more intimate dining experience. In terms of the actual breakfast offering, this was buffet in style, although a la carte options were available. The hot plate was continually attended to, and items such as eggs were quickly replenished as they ran out. All in all it was a pleasant enough experience.
The hotel itself is now part of the Principal Hayley small chain of hotels, and their properties tend to be upper four star and five star hotels, but there is nothing standardised about this hotel in my opinion. The building oozes olde world charm and hospitality but offers up to date guest services whether you are travelling on business or for leisure. If you are stopping in London for more than one night, then it is worth checking for special offers, as the accommodation was outstanding especially given the price I paid.
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