UK hotel review: The Inspector calls at Artist Residence, a ‘gorgeous’ former squat in Bristol


The Inspector stays in a former squat in Bristol that has been transformed into an industrial-chic hotel… and declares it a ‘triumph’

  • Artist Residence in Portland Square is fifth in a chain of boho boutique hotels
  • Before it was a squat, the building was once a boot factory, the Inspector reveals
  • ‘To bring this building back to life is truly heroic,’ he says of its restoration 
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is… 

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Bristol has some dreadful buildings of the kind only urban planners in the 1960s could have dreamt up. So it’s a relief to turn in to Grade I-listed Portland Square, laid out around central gardens, with St Paul’s church in one corner — and Artist Residence in another.

This gorgeous building was once a boot factory, then a squat for many years, and the clever people behind the boho boutique chain (this is the fifth) have managed to retain a strong sense of both.

There are steel girders and pulleys here, exposed brick and timber joists there, wacky art on the distressed walls (much of it involving phrases such as ‘party like it’s 1999’ and ‘if it’s not weird I’m not interested’), a wonderful steel lift shaft, concrete floors.

The Inspector checks into Bristol's Artist Residence, which is housed on a corner of the Grade I-listed Portland Square in a 'gorgeous' building that was once a boot factory, then a squat for many years

The Inspector checks into Bristol’s Artist Residence, which is housed on a corner of the Grade I-listed Portland Square in a ‘gorgeous’ building that was once a boot factory, then a squat for many years

Pictured above is the Inspector's ¿Factory¿ room, which has high ceilings, two big sash windows , a small black Smeg fridge and a Roberts radio

Pictured above is the Inspector's ¿Factory¿ room, which has high ceilings, two big sash windows , a small black Smeg fridge and a Roberts radio

Pictured above is the Inspector’s ‘Factory’ room, which has high ceilings, two big sash windows , a small black Smeg fridge and a Roberts radio

This picture offers a glimpse into a Factory room ensuite

This picture offers a glimpse into a Factory room ensuite

This picture offers a glimpse into a Factory room ensuite 

'There are 23 rooms, ranging from tiny broom cupboards (look away Boris Becker) to two large suites,' writes the Inspector. Above is the hotel's 'Loft' room

'There are 23 rooms, ranging from tiny broom cupboards (look away Boris Becker) to two large suites,' writes the Inspector. Above is the hotel's 'Loft' room

‘There are 23 rooms, ranging from tiny broom cupboards (look away Boris Becker) to two large suites,’ writes the Inspector. Above is the hotel’s ‘Loft’ room

The rolltop bathtub in the 'Loft 'room. 'To bring this building back to life is truly heroic,' says the Inspector

The rolltop bathtub in the 'Loft 'room. 'To bring this building back to life is truly heroic,' says the Inspector

The rolltop bathtub in the ‘Loft ‘room. ‘To bring this building back to life is truly heroic,’ says the Inspector  

If you thought industrial chic was on the wane, think again.

There are 23 rooms, ranging from tiny broom cupboards (look away Boris Becker) to two large suites. 

Only a few rooms are taken when I arrive on Tuesday evening after the Bank Holiday — so the friendly young man in charge offers to upgrade me to a billet with a bath. But on reaching the room, it transpires that the sheets haven’t been changed from the previous occupants.

‘Oops,’ he says, and off we go back down the seagrass corridor to my original ‘Factory’ room, which has high ceilings, two big sash windows (three if you count the one in the shower room), a small black Smeg fridge, clothes rack with chunky hangers and touches such as a phone charger, ‘deep sleep’ pillow spray and Roberts radio.

Pictured is the hotel's 'Club Suite'. Doubles are priced from £125 room only

Pictured is the hotel's 'Club Suite'. Doubles are priced from £125 room only

Pictured is the hotel’s ‘Club Suite’. Doubles are priced from £125 room only

'The atmosphere is such that if you can¿t have a good time here, you won¿t have a good time anywhere,' the Inspector says of the hotel

'The atmosphere is such that if you can¿t have a good time here, you won¿t have a good time anywhere,' the Inspector says of the hotel

‘The atmosphere is such that if you can’t have a good time here, you won’t have a good time anywhere,’ the Inspector says of the hotel 

The Inspector notes that there's 'wacky art on the distressed walls (much of it involving phrases such as "party like it¿s 1999")'

The Inspector notes that there's 'wacky art on the distressed walls (much of it involving phrases such as "party like it¿s 1999")'

The Inspector notes that there’s ‘wacky art on the distressed walls (much of it involving phrases such as “party like it’s 1999”)’

There is a massive amount of space on the ground floor. One area has a ping-pong table and photo booth — and the long wooden bar (with ‘Snog’ written above it) wouldn’t be out of place in a cowboy film. Yes, it’s a touch contrived in places (a lollipop sign says ‘gone to sea’) but the atmosphere is such that if you can’t have a good time here, you won’t have a good time anywhere. 

Plans are afoot for a proper restaurant. For now, there are pizzas and several starters. I have three of the latter (sticky chicken wings, smoked bacon Caesar salad, rosemary fries) — all delicious.

This latest Artist Residence is a triumph. Not many people would have taken on such an audacious restoration project. To bring this building back to life is truly heroic.

TRAVEL FACTS

Artist Residence, 28 Portland Square, St Pauls, Bristol, BS2 8SA. 

Doubles are priced from £125 room only. For more information, call 0117 4288440, or visit artistresidence.co.uk. 

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Written by bourbiza

bourbiza is an entertainment reporter for iltuoiphone News and is based in Los Angeles.

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