Travel review: St Pancras renaissance hotel, london

GRAND: The exterior of the St Pancras Hotel.

GRAND: The exterior of the St Pancras Hotel.

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There is such a variety of hotels in the capital: there’s your minimal palaces of white and glass, austere Georgian masterpieces or red-brick Edwardian retreats overlooking leafy squares.

Each tend to slot conveniently into a neat little genre, grouped together with accommodation of similar, albeit not identical, ethos.

But the St Pancras Hotel is its own genre - there’s simply nothing else like it in London, in Britain, possibly the world.

What’s curious about this landmark is the fact that so many of us, particularly travellers from Leeds, will no doubt have had our eyes caught by the building.

Both train lines to London - one through the midlands, the other down the east coast - terminate at roughly the same place, and once you’ve emerged from the concourses there you’ll find it.

With a huge, dominating clock tower to rival St Stephen’s Tower (containing Big Ben) this Gothic style of architecture draws obvious parallels with that other masterstroke of Victorian design, the Houses of Parliament.

But there is something altogether more magical about this creation. It is closer to a Disney palace than a gloomy cathedral.

The hotel is one of the legacies of the 19th century when the railways were of such vital importance that it was viewed as essential to have status accommodation at the most important stoping-off points.

St Pancras - as a station and as a place to stay - speaks volumes about the class of people who used to depart and arrive in London.

It started out life as the Midland Grand Hotel, built between 1873 and 1876 with a design produced as a result of competition which saw 11 submissions put forward - one of which was by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the Gothic revivalist who created other landmarks in a similar style (among them the Albert Memorial and Glasgow University).

Although the competition required a smaller hotel, Sir George came up with a much larger scheme - in fact it was twice the size - but it was so impressive it still won through in the end.

Tragically, by 1935 it had closed, partly as a result of the fact that the hotel, like many of its day, had no bathrooms attached to rooms. Servicing 300 rooms with chamber pots, bowls and spittoons in the 20th Century was just too absurd and costly.

Eventually those rooms became mere offices of the railway and fell into disrepair, only rejuvenated on the exterior during the 1990s and inside by the Marriott group during the Noughties. Exactly two years ago St Pancras reopened as the glorious hotel it is today.

The main public rooms of the old Midland Grand have been beautifully restored, along with 245 bedrooms and the addition of two restaurants, two bars, a health and leisure centre, a ballroom, and 20 meeting and function rooms.

The £150 million renovation really is spectacular. As well as the rooms there is St Pancras Chambers, 38 elegant and spacious Victorian bedroom suites, and Barlow House, the newly created 120,000 square foot extension that features original artwork and contemporary design.

The restaurants are particularly eye-catching. The Booking Office Bar & Restaurant is, as the name suggests, recreated in the original ticket office. Meanwhile The Gilbert Scott restaurant (which is in the section of the hotel which once featured in the Spice Girl’s Wannabe video) is run by one of Britain’s most celebrated chefs, Marcus Wareing, and features an exquisite David Collins designed interior.

But it doesn’t end there. The hotel also features a 450 capacity event hall, a private club, a barber’s shop, and luxury spa, which includes a swimming pool and six treatment rooms.

Visitors will also be reassured to know that all the rooms do now, in fact have bathrooms - and rather opulent bathrooms at that. All the fittings are appropriate to the heritage of the place, though they haven’t been afraid to add tasteful contemporary flourishes in terms of the decor and furniture.

Adapting the old building into a modern facility has certainly been executed tastefully.

In the main drinking and dining areas the surroundings are distinctively 21st Century with contemporary paintings, sculptures and fixtures. But in corners of the building it feels almost untouched by time - you are transported back to the 19th century with the turning of a corner.

Another plus point of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is its location. It is just walking distance from either St Pancras Station itself or Kings Cross Station and from there you can catch a tube or a taxi to most attractions in London in minutes. In fact, you can probably walk there. In Kings Cross itself you can already see the fruits of a concerted effort to regenerate a previous down at heel section of the capital, and not much further away are even more upmarket suburbs, such as Islington, and theatres such as the world-famous Sadlers Wells. But, best of all, if you want an international experience then it is in prime position - you can practically roll out of bed and onto a train to the continent.

No matter, whether you’re passing through, using the hotel as a base to explore London or just a luxurious retreat there’s nowhere quite like St Pancras.

FACTFILE

Rates: £250 to £12,000 per night.

Visit www.marriott.co.uk or call 020 78413540
East Coast operates 65 weekday services from Leeds to Kings Cross. First Class customers can enjoy complimentary food and drinks plus unlimited Wi-Fi. Advance return fares, booked online at www.eastcoast.co.uk, start from £26 Standard Class or £79 First Class. Call 08457 225225 or visit any staffed station.

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