Recently, I was given a tour of the Great Northern Hotel which reopened in April in Kings Cross after an extensive £40 million refurbishment.
Built during the heyday of train travel in 1854, the Great Northern Hotel is proud of being the first railway hotel in the world. The hotel was designed by renowned Victorian civil engineer, Lewis Cubitt, who also did the rest of the Kings Cross station. The Grade II building is crescent shaped because the hotel is structured around the Fleet River which the Victorians sent underground. Originally built as budget-friendly traveller accommodation, the hotel had gone through a period of decline in the 20th century even to the point of becoming squatters’ residences. At the skilled hands of Archer Humphryes Architects, the hotel has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel.
The main restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk, is named after the colours of the dining car for the Flying Scotsman train from Kings Cross. Having heard that the chef is Mark Sargeant, the former head chef at Claridges, I made a mental note to return for the food! The decor itself is divine. The hanging pendants are a work of beauty – made specifically for the hotel by combining three different products. The tables are made from lava stone and have such details as raised edges in homage to tables in train dining cars.
The Art Deco inspired hotel bar, GNH Bar, opens directly into Kings Cross. It has fabulous Swarovski chandeliers, mirrored ceilings sleek bar stools and a charming little snug in the corner.
You can really see the curve of the building in the hallway. The hotel is decorated in gorgeous Farrow & Ball colours which work well with the historical detailing. For example, the hallway is that old favourite, Elephant’s Breath.
The rooms are beautifully appointed but fairly small. There are three different room sizes (the Couchette, Wainscot and Cubitt), each a bit larger than the other. Because of the crescent-shaped building, even among the three categories of rooms, the layout may differ. The Wainscot rooms have walnut wainscotting! Cleverly, the designers have run with the romantic notion of railway carriages which makes a feature of their size. Especially in this location, I can’t imagine you spent much time in your room. Just don’t bring too much luggage.
All of the furnishings for the hotel are custom-made. For example, the tables have a beautiful wood veneer. The seating and the bedside tables are made to fit the space available with thought giving to little details which will increase space visually.
The drawers are lined in white leather – beautiful but not very practical I think. I’d hate to be the one who spilled make-up on this table.
Luckily, you will no longer have communal bathrooms like in Victorian times but instead bathrooms which are stylishly elegant. Rooms have either a giant double shower or a bathtub, neither of which seem to be tied into a specific category of room. Perhaps you can specify which you would prefer when you book because I, for one, would opt for the double shower.
Each floor has a pantry which is a lovely touch. Available to all hotel guests free of charge, there are drinks, treats and newspapers. Did I mention free home-made cake 24/7?
The hotel could not be more conveniently located for transportation. It is positioned across from the Eurostar entrance and above Kings Cross with its tube and overland train connections. It is proving very popular with guests as well. On the day of my visit, only two of the 91 rooms were available.
The Kings Cross area is undergoing a remarkable transformation. For example, from the hotel you can see the new Google headquarters. Luckily you can’t hear any of it because the windows are seriously double-glazed. I was amazed by the quiet of the rooms compared to the chaos outside. Moreover, the wooden shutters in some of the rooms create complete darkness when closed adding to the cocoon feel.
I think this hotel is great crash-pad if you need accommodation in the Kings Cross area. I’d read online reviews, however, because invariably hotel guests will start recommending which rooms are better than others. I would opt for the Wainscot aubergine-coloured room with a double shower and the wooden shutters. I wish I had remembered its number!!
This hotel is so photogenic, I’ve overloaded on the photos for this post. I have lots of other favourite photos though – check out my Flickr album for the pictures of the Plum + Spilt Milk lights and the purple Wainscot room.