If you’re faced with an early train to Paris, Brussels or even Scotland, and you don’t fancy a panicky morning through the rush hour, you could spend a relaxing night in King’s Cross instead.
Relaxing? King’s Cross? An oxymoron, surely?
Well, as it turns out, it’s entirely possible. Which is funny given you’re in one of the busiest bits of London with Eurostar literally a few steps away and the buzz of King’s Cross all around.
The Great Northern Hotel was the first ever railway hotel in the world, created by master architect Thomas Cubitt with wide hallways and high ceilings. Given a head-to-toe refurb four years ago, it is now as far as it’s possible to get from the awful image of your usual railway hotel – somewhere in the back of my mind I conjure a dark and murky place full of travelling salesmen and Graham Greene-style secret agents.
This is quite another matter. There’s a discreet, small reception and from there you go through a lot of security (they’re very conscious of that here) and into a very contemporary, chilled take on a historic building. The rooms have calm neutral colours, huge windows (the original ones plus a thick internal glass panel that cuts out all that noise), curved leather sofas and Art Deco bathrooms. It was all done just four years ago and there’s a lot of attention to detail here. It’s all very pleasing.
The bar (GNH) is cool and very buzzy with enormous chandeliers, mirrored ceilings and a curved pewter bar. There’s a long list of cocktails as you’d expect but you could give a historical nod to GNH’s early years with a Lady Violet (elderflower, Chambourd and Champagne). Lady Violet was the proprietor of London’s first smoking room for ladies on this very spot.
The restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk features regularly in the Tatler’s UK Top Restaurants with a menu devised by Michelin-starred chef Mark Sargeant, a protégé of Gordon Ramsay. It doesn’t disappoint. I had a delicious celeriac rosti to start while my friend Diana went for the Cornish fish soup. Main courses were pan-fried scallops (my favourite shellfish, delicately cooked) with roast cauliflower and sherry vinegar caramel and a sweet, rich caramelised beetroot tart.
We both declared ourselves unable to face a pudding but the waitress tempted us with “little puddings” – a daintier version of the ones on the main menu. Now, as a rule, I don’t eat sweet things but that Iced peanut and salted caramel mousse was just about perfect – and only three mouthfuls.
Then it was back to my room, next to the Pantry where, in the unlikely event I was feeling a bit peckish, I could find tea, coffee and home-made cakes. Instead, I headed for my extremely comfortable bed and, despite the non-stop trains and the traffic outside, slept soundly in my sound-proofed room till morning.
The Great Northern Hotel is a Tribute Portfolio property, acclaimed in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller 2014 Hot List, Telegraph’s Top 10 UK Hotels, Tatler’s Top 300 UK Restaurants and presented the Trip Advisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence award. For more information, including details of offers and local information, visit www.ghhlondon.com.