Kings Cross has enjoyed a widespread cultural and commercial revolution like no other across the entirety of Greater London. Once upon a time it was a rather sad borough, downtrodden by wave after wave of commuters pouring into London via the eponymous station. This is a long distant memory, and Kings Cross now burgeons with boutiques, trendy wine bars, brewery-to-bar pubs, art galleries and slick hotels. It is also home to the offices of business titans like Google, and is the setting of arguably the world’s most famous fashion school ‘Central Saint Martins’.
This regional paradigm shift, which started in the early naughties, has continued at a rate of knots and shows absolutely no sign of relenting. As a proud child of the Midlands myself, St Pancras has been my access point to the capital for my entire life, so I have witnessed the changing of the guard in real-time. Though of course the ultimate seal of approval that marks the arrival of an area which was once ‘up-and-coming’ and shows that it has at last reached the rank of ‘up-and-well-and-truly-arrived’, is the successful establishment of the five star boutique hotel.
The Great Northern Hotel has an enviable location with many of London’s main tourism attractions within easy walking distance; the British Museum (25 mins), Camden Market (29 mins), The British Library (8 mins), the list abounds. For any journey marginally further afield then the London Underground Station at Kings Cross is the best connected station on the tube map. In essence, the entirety of London is at the fingertips of the guests of the Great Northern Hotel.
The hotel itself may have undergone a marvelous recent renovation making it a market leader in terms of five star awarded boutique hotels in the borough, but its origins are remarkable and full of rich history. The building in which the Great Northern Hotel is set is Grade II listed complete with majestic facade and glorious high ceilings with carefully chosen period elements. The hotel was initially opened in 1854, to put this in perspective this was the same year as the Crimean war where the allied armies of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire did bloody battle with the Russian Imperial Army. This should help to chronologically contextualize the storms that the hotel has weathered throughout its 166 year life span.
The Great Northern Hotel is extremely proud to be the capital’s oldest railway hotel, and the only one to have been designed by reknowned civil engineer Lewis Cubitt. In fact, just round the corner from the hotel in the trendy Granary Square (a great spot for a tipple on your way back to the hotel) visitors may see another of Cubitt’s great inventions in action; the structural rivets, which were designed to join the granary’s stone parts which may still be found sitting on the ground amongst the square’s wonderful fountains.
Whilst the hotel may be exceedingly proud of, and shine a spotlight on, its roots, it also considers itself to be an active part of the current Kings Cross community. Part of this active role it plays is by showcasing the artwork of local artists, this means that each floor acts as a mini gallery where guests can enjoy these beautifully curated pictures.
The hotel has 91 rooms in total which have been carefully decorated to be simple but welcoming. There are three different categories that guests can select from; ‘Couchette’, which is designed to be reminiscent of a sleeping carriage on a train, ‘Wainscott’ which is handsomely wooden paneled, and the generously portioned ‘Cubitt’. All of them are well stocked with Malin and Goetz bath products and benefit from highly efficient soundproofing to ensure a restful night.
Whilst the smashing rooms may be an initial allure for guests, the hotel’s bar and restaurant are sure to seal the deal. The ‘GNH Bar’ is loved for its well mixed cocktails and its handsome decor including an extraordinary chandelier which hangs imperiously over the bar. However, the hotel’s own restaurant on the first floor is the real epicentre of indulgence. ‘Plum & Split Milk’ is an award winning venue which revolves around the best of British and is all about the use of locally sourced products in its wonderful creations.
The restaurant’s decoration is sumptuous, with over sized chestnut leather booths which curl and undulate around the room creating a natural and organic ambience. The lighting is also of note, dozens of miniature open bulb lamps hang asymmetrically like champagne bubbles rising in a flute. Plum & Split Milk offers spectacular food throughout the day, from the first Eggs Benedict for the morning meetings all the way through to the 225g Sirloin with bone marrow mash and lashings of Bernaise for supper. The restaurant also boasts a top notch wine list, with plenty of options available by the glass for those on the hop.
The Great Northern Hotel not only represents a singular slice of the borough’s contemporary cultural identity, but also marks an impressive mile stone in the area’s industrial history. Kings Cross has long been the first sighting of ‘the great smoke’ for those entering by train, if this hotel is the second thing they see upon leaving the station then my only concern is that their trip may be a little downhill from there.
Pancras Rd, Kings Cross, London N1C 4TB