Travel: First-class stay amid five-star luxury that's had a Renaissance...
We're in a cathedral, surely '“ surrounded by soaring arches, stained-glass windows, carved stone and intricate mosaic floors.
But this isn’t a church. Or if it is, the golden age of rail travel is the only faith hymned by the former Midland Grand Hotel in King’s Cross, London.
Built in 1873 and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic Revival style, the hotel originally closed to guests in the 1920s, became the head offices for British Rail and was then abandoned, considered too costly to restore.
Then, when the adjoining St Pancras station was chosen as the international rail hub for Eurostar, the Grade I listed building was treated to a multi-million-pound restoration, finally reopening in 2013 as the 245-room St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
Four years on, the results are still a triumph – five-star luxury of the kind London excels at.
We arrive by train at King’s Cross station, immediately next door, perfect for travellers on the East Coast line.
Virgin Trains East Coast’s carriages have been refitted with impressively hefty leather seats, and complimentary refreshments are still the order of the day for those in First Class, making for a relaxing and pleasant journey.
The hotel was extended as part of its refurbishment, with a newer wing of standard bedrooms added.
However, those in the venue’s Chambers suites can fully experience the original Victorian part of the building, with views of the London skyline or the train platforms where Eurostar arrives and departs.
Our junior suite – accessed via an ornately-carpeted grand staircase – is spacious, plushly-upholstered and well-appointed, comprising sitting room, bedroom and large, marble-floored bathroom.
There’s an added benefit for those in the suites, too. Admission is provided to the Chambers Lounge, a space where guests are served drinks, a buffet breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and afternoon tea for no extra cost.
The stunning tea is the lounge’s winner – a help-yourself selection of savoury delicacies, pastries and cakes, from flavourful fruit tarts to a pistachio and chocolate slice topped with gold leaf.
Guests in the suites are also entitled to a choice of ‘bath rituals’ – scents and oils – and complimentary wet shaves for men in the hotel’s in-house barbers.
The St Pancras food extravaganza is furthered by its slate of eateries, from leading chef Marcus Wareing’s Gilbert Scott restaurant to MI+ME, a deli-style place.
We ate at the Booking Office, which as the name suggests, was created in the station’s old ticket hall, although an air of intimacy has somehow been created for diners in the cavernous, vaulted space, complete with 29-metre-long bar.
Starters of tender, seared Cornish hand-dived scallops were followed by good, rare fillet steaks in a rich, buttery Bearnaise sauce, accompanied by fries seasoned indulgently with parmesan.
The recommended wine, a 2010 Rioja, complimented the meal superbly.
With other sights to see in London, one night isn’t enough to experience the breadth of what the hotel has to offer – best to pick and choose, and return to savour the splendour again.
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, visit https://www.stpancraslondon.com to book. Rates on rooms and suites available from £209 per night.
Virgin Trains East Coast runs 54 services every weekday from Doncaster, Leeds, York and Edinburgh to King’s Cross. See https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com for details.