When it’s hot in the city, your first instinct might be to run for the hills (or the coast) but I was pleased to discover last week that just steps from the sweltering heat of Tottenham Court Road tube station, The Bloomsbury hotel was the perfect spot in which to cool down.
Its hidden secret is the Dalloway Terrace which runs along the side of the hotel: from the outside it doesn’t look like anything special, but those who ascend the steps will find a perfectly lovely two-tiered terrace with lush plants – the perfect place in which to shelter from the boiling sun and enjoy afternoon tea, a cocktail or two, or even an al fresco dinner as night descends.
Having endured a sweltering Tube journey across town, I was somewhat surprised to be asked: ‘Would you like a hot towel?’ when I checked in at reception. Rather than risk over-heating, I accepted a cooling mint water instead from the water coolers in the lobby and headed up to my room, a studio suite, which was on the fifth floor.
It was vast, especially by London standards, with a king-sized bed, desk, a bright pink chaise-longue, ample storage space and a massive TV on a clever swivel stand. The bathroom was smart in a black and white art deco marble style, with walk-in shower, twin sinks, rolltop bath (with a TV at one end) and separate loo.
There were lovely touches such as an umbrella on a stand for if the weather turned and, as befits a hotel in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, an invite to a walking tour of the area, following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Charles Dickens and of course, Virginia Woolf.
The shaded terrace was calling so a quick turnaround meant I was soon in seated at the Dalloway Terrace, in cooler clothes and about to dive into a cool drink. While there was a decent cocktail list, there was also a special pop-up bar and list of cocktails made with the French G’vine gin. It seemed rude not to try them, so I went for a Bloomsbury Martini and my friend Duncan, who worked just round the corner, chose the Dalloway Spritz.
They were both very refreshing and tasty – possibly the menu could have hinted at size though, as Duncan’s was three times the size of mine, but sitting out in the heat without feeling hot and bothered was lovely.
Round two of the cocktails was a little less successful as my cucumber sour looked pretty but seemed to not contain any alcohol at all. After a little discussion as to whether it did or not, the waiter admitted that some cocktails weren’t actually made in-house but were brought in ready-made, which seemed a shame considering there was a very impressive bar downstairs.
Duncan had no complaints about his Honeycombe Old-Fashioned though, and things looked up again when we realised we could eat outside rather than having to leave the lovely terrace, and from the proper restaurant menu too.
It’s always a good sign when it’s impossible to decide what you’re having and there was a good 20 minutes of dithering before we decided on our starters of Dorset crab on toast and seared tuna, followed by seared scallops with spinach and chanterelles, and the day’s special of roast hake with olive pesto.
The chef didn’t put a foot wrong with all dishes being extremely tasty and as the sun went down and the night lights came on, the whole effect was of a Mediterranean evening rather than one just steps away from the roadworks hell of Tottenham Court Road.
Breakfast the following morning was sadly a bit of a let-down after such a memorable dinner, as even though the Dalloway Terrace was open, hotel guests weren’t allowed to eat there, as the breakfast buffet was served downstairs in a low-ceiled, claustrophobic room. Not only was it sad to miss out on a lovely al fresco breakfast opportunity but I wasn’t even having the buffet. Service was slow and while the cooked option was fine, breakfast in the sun could have been a perfect end to my stay.
However the rooms are priced very reasonably for such a central location and smart hotel, and I will most certainly be back for another evening of cocktails and excellent food on the Dalloway Terrace, even after the summer is over.
Rooms at The Bloomsbury start from £225 and Studio Suites (like the one I stayed in) are from £420.