Review: Plum + Spilt Milk, Great Northern Hotel, Pancras Road, London

 

Not so long ago, the idea of going out for dinner at a self-styled boutique hotel in King's Cross would have been a joke. Rackety, crackety, crime-ridden KX was a place nice folk scuttled through, eyes averted.

What a difference a few years and a gazillion-pound regeneration programme can make. With its street-food market and open-air performance space, its buffed-up warehouse quartier and performing arts hub, King's Cross is now an area to travel to, not through. The opening last year of a dramatic new concourse brought the train station into line with its swanky hinterland. And now the next phase of its transformation is unveiled – the rebirth of the Great Northern Hotel, a Victorian survivor, connected to the new concourse on the St Pancras side, which has stood derelict these last dozen years.

Compared to the ornate swagger of its Gothic neighbour St Pancras Hotel, Lewis Cubitt's Great Northern is a plain Jane – a monumental, curving terrace like a generic building from a model railway set. But looks can be deceptive. While the reborn St Pancras is all about nostalgia for steam-age glamour, the Great Northern is determinedly, almost neurotically, modern.

If, having emerged from its hibernation, the hotel were to be resealed immediately, future historians would find a perfect encapsulation of early 21st-century design tropes. Guests are met by a brace of resting supermodels – that's boutique hotel 101. At ground level, opening almost directly on to the new western concourse, there's the mandatory moody, Manhattanish bar. One floor up, reached by a staircase whose walls are sprinkled with little gold stickers – quirky? check! – a restaurant with its own cast of gorgeous greeters.

Plum + Spilt Milk (yup, that's really the name) is glamorous, snug and surprisingly small, given the scale of the building. Curvy cream leather banquettes wrap around the walls, glowingly lit by low-hanging pendant lights holding those expensive exposed filament bulbs. Artfully arranged clusters of mirrors and wood-panelled walls emulate the current reclaimed, mismatched aesthetic in shiny new materials – a Mayfair designer's idea of shabby chic. But for all the would-be funky touches, there's still something slightly hotel-ish about the space.

The menu, from head chef Ray Patterson, offers trad Brit dishes – pie of the day, roasted cod with champ, pork loin with cider sauce – with some cheffier Anglo-French fare, and a selection of grills and the inevitable house burger. I remembered enjoying an indulgent smoked haddock soufflé at Patterson's eponymous Mayfair restaurant, and did so again here, albeit a more rarefied version given extra interest by the addition of oozy cheese and whole flakes of fish. Veal sweetbreads in a stickily reduced red-wine sauce were textbook good, although the delicacy of both dishes contrasted weirdly with the chunky Staub cocottes (very 2013) into which they had been pointlessly decanted.

Our mains came from the butch side of the menu. Grilled spatchcock poussin from the Inka grill didn't need more than a squoosh from the chargrilled lime that came with it. But slow-braised Jacob's Ladder (aka short rib) in a sweet, lip-sticking reduction, was tipped towards sickly by the parsnip mash. Only a side order of excellent gratin dauphinois supplied some much-needed umami.

We'd piled in indecently early – during the soft launch period – but service couldn't have been crisper or more charming.

I complimented the manager on the choice of music, which sounded like someone's favourite mix-tape. We have someone to help us with the selection, he confided. Of course. With this level of investment, no decision can be taken without the help of a consultant.

The dessert menu may well have been kept in a safe place since the hotel closed – bread and butter pudding, poached pear, and our shared choice, a darkly caramelised tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. The kitchen's missing a trick, surely, in not including a dessert that riffs on the restaurant's name.

That name, Plum + Spilt Milk, comes not from a gay porn website, in case you're wondering, but from the nickname given to the original LNWR dining car, painted in the railway's traditional livery colours. No doubt it, too, was chosen with the help of consultants. Brave of them to saddle a restaurant with a name whose main association is resigned disappointment – as in the phrase 'it's no good crying over…' .

By and large, P + SM isn't disappointing. It's a decent restaurant, with a female-friendly vibe – our fellow guests included several all-women groups. But with a less clear proposition than the Gilbert Scott, St Pancras's Brit-brasserie, it's going to have to work a lot harder to promote itself as a destination restaurant. Still I'm sure they've got a team of consultants working on that.

Plum + Spilt Milk, Great Northern Hotel, Pancras Road, London N1 (020-3388 0818). Around £50 a head for three courses including wine and service

Food ***
Ambience ***
Service ****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Transporting food

Number One

Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel hosts this Michelin-starred venue, overlooking the city's Victorian Waverley railway station.

Balmoral Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131 557 6727)

Plane Food

Gordon Ramsay's snazzy Heathrow outpost offers rushed jet-setters take-away picnics for Ramsay-approved in-flight meals.

Heathrow Terminal 5, London TW6 (020 8897 4545)

The Waterside Seafood Restaurant

Stunning end-of-the-pier views and fresh-from-the-Loch fish, all from the comfort of original carved-wood British Rail chairs.

Railway Buildings Station Road, Kyle of Lochalsh (01599 534 813)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on