Mark Ludmon checks out hotel bar Fitz’s, the glamorous new destination at The Principal London
A sumptuous, decadent new bar has been created as part of the luxurious transformation of the faded grand Hotel Russell into The Principal London. With a striking, theatrical interior, Fitz’s is set to be a new destination for cocktails, with drinks put together under the hotel’s head of bars, Sean Fennelly, previously at leading London bar Milk & Honey. He worked with Julian de Féral of consultancy Gorgeous Group to develop an impressive line-up of cocktails that relate to the hotel’s history as well as the creativity associated with the surrounding Bloomsbury area.
The Vesca Negroni is a twist on the classic that evolves in the glass, made with Ford’s Gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Dolin Blanc, served over an ice cube made of woodland strawberry juice, aloe vera, coconut essence and Sacred English Dry Vermouth that releases flavour as it melts.
The inspiration for Orlando: A Daiquiri is Orlando: A Biography, a novel about a gender-fluid character by Virginia Woolf, part of the Bloomsbury Set. To reflect Orlando’s dual personality, it reinvents the classic by mixing Plantation Pineapple Rum and lime juice with bay leaf syrup, cucumber and the locally produced Bloomsbury Pastis plus Beavertown’s hoppy Gamma Ray pale ale.
The menu itself features illustrations by American artist John Held Jr, best known for his cartoons of the 1920s Jazz Age. The graphic design fits the overall concept, created by Gorgeous Group under founder Robbie Bargh with interiors by hospitality specialist Russell Sage Studio, working from an original brief of “Sunset Boulevard meets the Last Days of Disco”.
Entry is through thick curtains from the lobby, taking you into the main room where a giant glitter ball hangs from a tented ceiling of ombre silk. Seating is upholstered in velvet and leather, while the walls are filled with an eclectic array of artwork. A DJ booth is set up in the large bay window, part of the music offering managed by specialist Open Ear.
For a more chilled-out ambience, there is a second room past the bar counter, with more lounge-style seating, antique rugs and a large fireplace. It retains an original stained-glass window while a new mural has been commissioned from Italian street artist 2501. The design complements the original ornate, panelled interiors of the hotel which dates back to 1898 and was designed by architect Charles Fitzroy Doll – the inspiration for the bar’s name.
It is a welcome rebirth for the hotel which is a landmark of Russell Square with its exterior clad in decorative thé-au-lait terracotta, based on the Renaissance-era Château de Madrid near Paris. It already features café Burr & Co, inspired by Victorian coffeehouses but with a modern twist, and Neptune restaurant under chef Brett Redman and Margaret Crow. This summer, the grand Palm Court opens after a magnificent restoration, creating another stunning space for enjoying champagne and cocktails.
Fitz’s, The Principal London, 1-8 Russell Square, London WC1B 5BE
Behind the scenes
Consultancy: Gorgeous Group
Interior design: Russell Sage Studio
Music: Open Ear
Uniforms: Field Grey
Originally published in the June 2018 print edition of Bar magazine.