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Book into the perfect hotel for trainspotters at St Pancras station
HEARING a train announcement as your head hits a pristine Egyptian cotton pillowcase may not bode well for a great night’s sleep. But happily, the announcement was to say St Pancras station was about to close for the night.
Our suite, in the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance hotel, has the sort of view trainspotters would sell their grannies for – straight on to the tracks.
Looking out from our 20-ft window we could also see Paul Day’s gigantic bronze statue The Meeting Place, depicting a couple embracing, which has become an icon at the station.
Size matters at St Pancras. The scale and proportions of the station and hotel are hard to take in close-up. It’s only from a distance, as you leave King’s Cross and turn right, that you can appreciate its full gargantuan, Gothic glory.
The soaring red-brick façade with its turreted clock tower looks as if it has escaped from the pages of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The Gulliver scale continues inside. The corridors to our suite were as wide as a street; the windows in our room as high as a bungalow.
The hotel is a perfect stop for London or Europe-bound Yorkshire folk. Take the train to King’s Cross, disembark, and cross the road to St Pancras, home to the Eurostar terminal, as well as an upmarket selection of shops, cafés and even a Carluccio’s restaurant.
And, of course, the St Pancras Renaissance.
Opened in 1873 as the Midland Grand Hotel and designed by George Gilbert Scott, this hotel was an architectural sensation. Of it, Gilbert Scott said: “It is often spoken of to me as the finest building in London. My belief is that it is possibly too good for its purpose.”
Sadly, some 60 years later, the hotel was closed. There were calls to knock it down, until a campaign succeeded in having the building listed. It was used as railway offices for the next 50 years.
However, some £200 million has been spent returning the hotel to its former glory, including restoring the ornate interiors.
After 13 years hard slog, the hotel reopened last May and is already winning accolades: it was recently voted the best hotel in the UK by The Sunday Times Magazine.
Its grand focal point is a magnificent Gothic staircase that coils up through the centre of the building, giving you a reason not to take the lift.
The former booking office has been turned into a café-restaurant, simply named The Booking Office. We enjoyed a tasty dinner here, the beetroot salad with blue cheese and walnut offering a fresh and earthy starter with a perfectly cooked (medium-rare) rib eye steak with thrice-cooked chips (super crispy) to follow. Lemon tart with meringue and berry compote finished things off on a satisfyingly sweet note. A quaffable bottle of Chianti and a coffee and hot chocolate rounded things off nicely – the meal for two, with drinks and tips, cost around £100, which we though was good value.
The hotel is also home to the The Gilbert Scott, a brasserie run by top chef Marcus Wareing’s team and named in honour of the building’s original architect.
Our suite was in the Chambers section of the hotel, which gave us access to a sprawling and relaxing lounge, opened from 6.30am to midnight, and the place to unwind with the newspapers or a magazine, catch the news on TV, and enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks. A buffet style breakfast is served here, and light afternoon tea is on from 3pm to 5.30pm while pre-dinner canapés and drinks are on offer from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.
Our trip to London was a whirlwind one; we took in two art shows (David Hockney at the RA and Japanese artist Yoyoi Kusama at the Tate Modern), as well as a trip to Spitalfields Market, fashion shopping in Oxford Street and Regent Street and to the home stores of Tottenham Court Road.
So it was bliss to recharge our batteries in the hotel spa. Deep in the vaults of the hotel, the spa interior continues the Victorian theme, with ornate tiles on the wall and cavernous, pillared, spaces.
We loved the little touches, too; gorgeous Ren toiletries in the spa and hotel bathrooms and a butler service, which we called upon once when we realised we had forgotten our toothpaste!
Oh, how the other half live.
• St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel stpancrasrenaissance.com 0207 841 3400
• Chambers Suites are from £330 plus VAT which includes access to the Chamber’s Club offering 24-hour refreshments and breakfast In addition you also receive a £30 voucher redeemable in the spa, a wet shave or haircut in Melogy, the men’s grooming salon in the hotel and also VIP transfers to Eurostar and the WIFI is complimentary too.