At the World Travel Market in London, the speaker spoke about the boutique hotel experience and “how it makes you feel”. He noted that the experience starts the minute you arrive (or often times before that on social media and the hotel website) – the design, smell and people make all the difference. Do you fit into the story being told by the hotel? A boutique hotel should deliver a unique experience – one that makes you feel something, hopefully good. For me, I love boutique hotels in London – the luxurious Charlotte Street, the historic Great Northern and the contemporary Hoxton Holborn to name a few favorites. My next stay would be at My Bloomsbury, part of the My Hotels Group, an affordable U.K. chain with properties in Bloomsbury, Chelsea and Brighton.
I like to think that I’m pretty savvy with my hotel research before hitting “book/make a reservation”, My Bloomsbury tested me and not in a good way. When I walked into the lobby, I felt good, the décor is modern but when I opened the door to my room, my spirits were immediately crushed and I was disappointed not to experience the “design led luxury that is beautiful to have around you” that the website advertised.
I was lured in by the photos on the My Bloomsbury website – the bright yellow and white décor with black leather headboard and framed photos on the walls of the Standard Double Room. It felt like a hotel that would make me happy and deliver a comfortable experience with pleasant surroundings. I liked their philosophy (individual experiences to make it my hotel and “designer led luxury”) and the website was magazine swoon worthy and who doesn’t want that?
Last Minute Booking with Hotel Tonight
I didn’t clear my conference hotel waitlist for the Wednesday night stay and with a huge soccer event in the city, the hotel prices were soaring so I went to my HotelTonight app to see what choices I had. There I saw the My Bloomsbury on the app for $249 (a bit high for this property in my opinion but much lower than the My Bloomsbury website price of $400+). The HotelTonight app showed the same photos as the hotel website and a high “like” rating along with the classification as a “hip” hotel. Having had success with HotelTonight in Paris last year with another “hip” hotel, I booked one night at the hotel.
My Bloomsbury Hotel Location
My Bloomsbury Hotel is near The British museum in the Bloomsbury neighborhood. With garden squares and pretty homes, it is odd that it is so close to the frenetic pace that is Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road tube station. It is a lovely area with easy walking to Oxford Street, Holborn and Soho. It’s in the heart of everything you want for a visit to London – food, entertainment, transit, history, museums, shopping, etc.
My Bloomsbury Hotel Arrival
The lobby is small, wedged between Gail’s Bakery takeaway and restaurant. The modern table/desk with cute features were just as expected for a small boutique hotel (this hotel has 86 rooms). The photos online matched for a good first impression. Greeted after a long crazy taxi ride from the conference hotel, I had a quick check in despite a new staff member in training. I asked about the May renovations, she conferred with her colleague and told me they were complete so I also asked about a tour of the hotel the next day with the Sales Manager (who was gone for the day) and gave my business card with contact information.
With key in hand, I made my way to the third floor and when I exited the elevator I was met with old (carpet colors) and new (paint, room signs, some pictures) in the hallway and was concerned. It foreshadowed what was to come.
My Bloomsbury Hotel – Standard Double Room
The key didn’t work so I walked back down the hallway to the elevator and used the house phone to request a new key. Ten minutes later as I waited outside the door, the key arrived and staff quickly departed after a quick “sorry”. She didn’t stay to make sure my room was ok (another bad sign). I swiped the key and opened the door and became instantly sad by what welcomed me (or what didn’t welcome me).
What I expected from the website photos and descriptions
“In each of our 86 guestrooms every detail – from the fine Egyptian cotton bedding to the unique suites and the mix of vintage and designer furniture – has been carefully considered. Design-led luxury that is beautiful to have around you.”
“My Bloomsbury is a design led hotel. The rooms feature limited edition bespoke prints by illustrator Charlotte Trounce inspired by modern classic English writers, Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf who formed part of the Bloomsbury Set.”
Looks amazing right? Here’s my room – can spot the differences?
My Hotel Bloomsbury – First Impressions
I walked into a pink room – one wall was wallpapered pink, the ugly window covering (which doesn’t block the sun if you want to sleep late), blond wood furniture and a rug that showed much use. The room wasn’t renovated and it definitely wasn’t what was advertised online. This room was “basic”. Now basic isn’t necessarily bad but in this case I reserved “hip” and “design led luxury” and was expecting something to that effect.
The room had a desk with more outlets than I’ve ever seen, a minibar of snacks and drinks, in room tea/coffee accessories and a wall mounted flat screen television. There were no “limited edition bespoke prints” on the wall, actually there were no prints or photos at all in the room, no black leather headboard and no “boutique” or “designer led luxury” feel to this room.
The switches on the wall were also a sign that the room was not updated as were the very bright ceiling lights that could not be dimmed.
My Bloomsbury Hotel Bathroom
The bathroom was much better than expected from the pink room. It looked as if was just updated but then I saw the black mark in the tub and the cracked tiles under the shower head. The flush on the toilet was a bit tricky but I managed to figure it out. The toiletries were as advertised on the website, a brand I’m not familiar with Anyah in nice environment friendly packaging. The best feature was the water pressure in the morning for a shower – the very powerful water was definitely not environmentally friendly but quite welcome.
Gail’s Bakery at My Hotel Bloomsbury
The on site food provider is Gail’s Artisan Bakery, a local chain throughout London that I’ve frequented many times as I love their cookies. I was quickly seated for breakfast and given two menus – one for hotel guest and one for general diners. Having a yen for pancakes I chose the ala carte blueberry pancakes, which at first weren’t fully cooked but the second plate was fine (not sure why pancakes are such a problem in London). Next visite, I’d order the popular eggs with fresh bread or avocado toast that the tables around me were enjoying.
There was an American woman who (sadly) was loud and impatient with her continental breakfast order. She was a hotel guest (the hotel has a lot of corporate clients) and ended up leaving in a huff and without letting staff know before her food arrived, drinking a bit of her coffee and juice. If you need to rush, Gail’s Bakery has a takeaway area on the other side of the lobby or go across the road to Pret Manger.
Meeting the Hotel Manager
I was clearly disappointed and felt duped by the photos on the My Bloomsbury website and HotelTonight – the manager was available in the morning so after breakfast I asked to speak with her to address my concerns. Having spent over twenty years buying travel and doing hotel site visits, I wanted to talk travel with her and see what happened with my reservation – was I given the sad pink room because of HotelTonight (they don’t guarantee room type but my issue wasn’t room category)? Or was the pink room the normal?
Eleni spent almost ½ hour with me to talk about the hotel. I found out while the May renovation was complete as it was structural only (to convert suites to rooms and add inventory) the room renovation was not done. Only about 8 rooms (of 86 rooms) were renovated to the new design that is advertised on their hotel website and the HotelTonight app (if I complained the night before I wouldn’t have received a new room anyway). She expected the room décor updates to take a bit more than a year so ready end of 2017, early 2018!
I was shocked by this and told her that it wasn’t noted on the hotel website and they should be transparent about that type of renovation and long timeline. When I said “I guess the eight update rooms are to show corporate buyers”, she confirmed that a majority of guests are corporate clients (i.e. – the impatient lady at breakfast). While I was grateful for her time, I still felt duped by the sad pink room vs. the bright yellow room I expected.
Hotel Tonight Response
I uploaded the real photo from the room to the app so others are not duped. I opened a chat on the HotelTonight app to express my dismay at the false advertising in my opinion. The rep said she would reach out to the hotel manager to see what happened. A few back and forth communications ensued – I emailed my photos and then HotelTonight closed my case as the My Bloomsbury hotel told them that they were working with me directly (they were not!). As of this writing, I’ve heard nothing from the hotel or follow-up from the manager, Eleni, as they led HotelTonight to believe.
I wanted HotelTonight to investigate how the hotel was classified “hip” and if the photos were validated in person. If less than 10% of the rooms available look like what you are selling that is just wrong. I had to follow-up offline with HotelTonight who confirmed that they sent the issue to the local London marketing team to follow-up further with the hotel and evaluate their listing. I didn’t ask for a refund (I stayed in the room) but HotelTonight provided a small credit toward a future booking (within 90 days) which was a nice gesture.
My Bloomsbury Final Thoughts
The My Bloomsbury hotel is in a great location but the boutique hotel experience expected wasn’t delivered. Their website claims they are “design led luxury that is beautiful to have around you” and it sounds like a lovely concept that isn’t ready for guests yet. Maybe add an ** with a date one gets to experience this beautiful luxury. The basic standard double room I was given, while extremely ugly was functional and the bed comfortable. Need a basic hotel in a good location, then it’s fine. Expect a boutique experience like I did, you will be disappointed.
If you want “design led luxury”, read some of my other London hotel reviews for those properties that are delivering this experience now, not in a year from now, not in only 8 rooms! So set your expectations, consider this a basic, affordable option in London – a place to drop bags and sleep but not to be wowed by design or luxury.