The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
In a city like London - with more than its share of imposing edifices and ageless architecture - it really takes something special to stand out. Luckily, the recently refurbished St. Pancras hotel allows visitors to not only gawp at one of the capital's most eye-popping constructions, but also to bed down in its alcoves, dine in its innards, and even take a dip in its bowels, so to speak.
The endlessly grand gothic hulk was designed by the great Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (who now lends his name to Marcus Wareing's on site restaurant) in the 1860s when the Midland rail company decided to build a new terminus in London. After spending a staggering amount of money on the ornate design - £438,000 or about £500 million in today's money - the then Midland Grand hotel received its first guests in May of 1873, nearly five years after the station opened.
The next one hundred and thirty eight years would see the hotel plunge from the heights of London's hottest destination to the gloomy lows of an out-of-touch establishment, with an unfashionably frugal nine baths for 300 bedrooms. Further indignities followed: including a spell as a bombing target during World War Two and a stretch as a drab and decrepit British Rail office building. Finally, earlier this year, it arrived back where it began: as the most stylish place in town.
The Grade 1 listed building reopened its doors as a hotel this year and it is well worth a visit. No matter how many 5 star establishments you've seen before, we guarantee this hotel will surprise and impress even the most experienced traveller.
The USP: The building was faithfully refurbished creating an atmosphere that is at once modern and timeless. It is like going back in time and into the future all at once.
Book it now if: You are looking for a new way to see the capital, or have always dreamed of recreating the romance of the golden age of travel. Nothing beats the charm (and ease) of staying in this gorgeous hotel and then zipping off on the Eurostar to Paris.
The Booking Office restaurant
Bedding down: Each of the rooms is a unique shape thanks to the extra sturdy construction - the floors alone were made from 22 inch think concrete slabs in an attempt at fire proofing the building. The restoration used this to its advantage creating boutique type spaces in a large hotel. The wonky bed chambers are in keeping with the intricate detailing and idiosyncratic design of the building as a whole - just wandering the corridors finds strange little bits of tiling and antique wallpaper at every turn. The end result is a hotel which feels somewhat magical (helped along if you are a Harry Potter fan and remember it from the Chamber of Secrets). Spend your evening snuggled up, or visit the spa in the basement. Relaxing in the gothic gloom of the old hotel kitchens, it feels less a standard spa pool, steam room and relaxation area, and more some secret, old world bathhouse.
Feed me: We would normally encourage anyone visiting London to look beyond their hotel when planning their meals, but there is no need with the St. Pancras. Much has been written about Marcus Wareing's incredible menu at the Gilbert Scott (a year ago who would have known you could eat 'soles in coffins'?), but it would be a mistake to miss out on hotel's other offering, the Booking Office. Beer in traditional mugs and custom mixed punches in Victorian punch bowls are just two of the details that help bring the charming restaurant to life. Elevated traditional English dishes and pub classics are done to perfection at the Bookings Office including a surprisingly perfect mushroom wellington (we're always impressed when a meaty establishment doesn't fall down on its vegetarian offering).
If you are lucking enough to be staying in one of the chambers rooms, nibbles are provided free of charge in the Chambers Club. And if that isn't enough, housekeeping leaves a tiny box of train-shaped chocolates on your bed with the turn down service. Let's put it this way, you are more likely to go home having happily gained a half a stone than to have had a bad bite of food during your stay.
Easily bored: London is on your door step, and with the train station right behind the hotel, the North of England, Paris and Brussels are effectively in your backyard.
What's the damage: Rates from £225 + VAT.
Point me in the right direction: The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, Euston Road, England NW1 2AR. Tel: +44-20-7841 3540 Web: http://www.marriott.com/
To take a virtual tour of the hotel check out our gallery below.