Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd October 2007.
We were in Bath for the night, to see our friend Loo Brealey starring at the Theatre Royal in Peter Hall's production of Little Nell, a new play by Simon Gray about Dickens and his secret mistress.
But where to stay? The Bath hotel scene is an oddity, with a profusion of guesthouses and townhouse hotels crammed into a jumble of tight spaces behind elegant Georgian façades and stuck somewhere in the 1980s, swagged, draped and chintzily old fashioned. The Royal Crescent remains in a league of its own - for both its sensational location and inflated prices.
There's only one hotel, the Queensberry, that feels fashionable (in a city that was, in Georgian times, the very height of chic). In fact, its welcome resurgence over the past five years is a direct result of the Royal Crescent's sale to the von Essen hotel group: the then operations director, Laurence Beere, left the company and bought the Queensberry. Though 20 years ago the hotel was à la mode, by the time he took over it had become almost as much of a decorative time warp as its fellows.
You can see just how much tastes have changed in the past 20 years by staying in one of the Queensberry's three suites, No 4. But you'll have to hurry because, as the last room to receive the new look, its heavy brown furniture, Victorian bath, stencils, paint effects, tartan swags and fussy plates on the walls are about to be swept away in favour of touchy-feely fabrics, muted colours, an iPod docking station, a wet room and all the other requisites of 21st-century living.
The rest of the hotel - four Georgian townhouses knocked together and opened up in an extraordinary profusion of staircases, landings, corridors and tucked-away bedrooms (22 in all) - has already received the treatment, a successful and soothing mélange of chalky, dove-grey paint colours and contemporary furniture cleverly juxtaposed with older features.
Of the cheaper rooms, try for airy No 9, which boasts bold, amusing equine wallpaper and a fireplace.
As if to echo the warren of bedrooms, there's also a warren of sitting rooms and of little courtyard gardens, one leading to the next through stone arches. In the basement is the Olive Tree restaurant, where hotel guests also take an excellent breakfast.
It looks like the rest of the hotel, which is a shame; down in that view-less, subterranean space we longed for something richer and more surprising.
The core management at the Queensberry are all ex-Royal Crescent, including the concierges, who pounce on your car as you arrive and whisk it away to be parked.
There's a feeling of unity among the staff, which can only come from a privately-owned establishment.
Having arrived in time for reviving cups of tea and delicious home-made biscuits, we left the Queensberry a couple of hours later for the Theatre Royal, returning, elated, to a perfect bed.
Leafing sleepily through the hotel's brochure I discovered that both the Queensberry's original design and the new one was carried out by Jane Clayton, a local interior decorator and an old friend, who evidently who knows how to keep Bath fashionable.
Russell Street, Bath (01225 447928; www.thequeensberry.co.uk). Doubles from £125 per night, including breakfast.