Great Northern Hotel, London

Just the ticket for a London landmark

The station staff at King's Cross have been yelling "all change!" for decades. But only recently have the buildings started paying attention. A major regeneration has turned one of London's seediest quarters into the kind of place where Google and Central Saint Martins art school want to hang out. Two years ago, Gilbert Scott's Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras station – once earmarked for demolition – reopened as a Marriott Renaissance property. On the concourse, Europe's longest champagne bar welcomes Parisians off the Eurostar. At Kings Place, there are piano recitals and art exhibitions. One by one, every major edifice has had a facelift, and £2.5bn has been sunk on the railway infrastructure alone.

The latest butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis is the Great Northern Hotel, which stands alone between St Pancras and King's Cross stations. I couldn't picture it before I arrived, possibly because it has been boarded up since 2001. But it's a striking piece of Victorian pomp: curved and tall, topped with gabled windows and giant chimney stacks. It was designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1854 – he completed King's Cross station two years before – and is one of Britain's first purpose-built railway hotels.

If you're thinking net curtains and fry-ups, forget it. The GNH has been reinvented as a boutique hotel, with an emphasis on small-scale style and discretion. So there's no bustling lobby: the front door is a hole in the wall, more like a nightclub – complete with a bouncer, though much friendlier. Sensibly, given the hotel's position abutting the station, the ground floor is a bar. The one restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk, has been shunted on to the first floor, giving it elevated views and an airy feel.

The menu is impressive but unfussy – sweetbreads and twice-cooked haddock soufflé were big hits – and they try to use British ingredients wherever possible. Were it not for the annoying name – taken from the livery of the London and North Western Railway carriages – I'd predict great things for this restaurant.

Upstairs, there are 91 bedrooms, which are small, but well appointed. The decor – pea-green walls, dark hardwood floors, cream wainscots – is smart but unpretentious. The concept of a railway hotel was never about glamour: it was somewhere to wait in between trains. In this, the GNH has got it right. With a superior restaurant, comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi and newspapers, and a reasonable rate, there's no reason to look further afield. It may lack the visual drama of Gilbert Scott's Gothic monster, but ask for a St Pancras-facing room, and you get a great view. There is still a sense of history, too. While most of the Renaissance's rooms are in a modern block to one side of the historic building, all rooms here are part of the original structure. Fans of Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred will recall that the Great Northern was where the naughty and glamorous Northey was conceived, hence her name. The Northey may not have been glamorous in Mitford's day, but like everything round here, that's all changed.

Location

King's Cross station's new western concourse stands next to the hotel's inside curve, and rooms on that side overlook the latticed glass roof. You can enter straight from the station, otherwise the front door is on the street side, facing St Pancras. Trains from King's Cross take you to Edinburgh along the east coast, or cross the road for trains to Sheffield, Paris and other parts of Europe. Six Tube lines pass through King's Cross, and the station's main taxi rank is outside the front door.

Comfort

A railway theme runs throughout the design. The smallest rooms, the Couchettes, are literally that: double beds boxed in on three sides. The Cubitt rooms are somewhat more spacious, though still compact: there's space only for a small, white leather sofa and table, and the beds are king-size and no bigger.

In the fifth-floor attic are the Wainscot rooms, with sloping ceilings, dark-wood panelling and a brave rich red colour scheme. The effect is sexy, if slightly oppressive.

All rooms are equipped with chrome lamps, Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, air conditioning, a mini fridge, music and film libraries. Bathrooms, though small, are classically fitted with white tiles, chrome taps and Malin+Goetz products.

Travel Essentials

Great Northern Hotel, King's Cross, London, N1C 4TB (020-3388 0800; gnhlondon.com).

Rooms ***

Value ***

Service ****

Doubles start at £170, room only.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
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 Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee