St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London
There are probably more beautiful and opulent London hotels, though surely few, if any, boast such a sublime landmark heritage building as their location. Built inside the St Pancras International Eurostar terminal, this 207-room Victorian-era hotel is convenient not only before or after a high-speed train journey to or from Europe, but also because it has the London Tube with Kings Cross Station next door.
If these aren't sufficiently persuasive recommendations, then add the fact that Kings Cross itself is the site of one of Europe's most impressive urban-renewal projects, which saw the area transformed from a seedy, vice-riddled area to one of London's most desirable locales.
St Pancras Renaissance was once the Midland Grand Hotel, opened in 1873 and one of the original grand railway hotels. It and the 19th-century station in which it was housed fell into neglect and the hotel closed in 1935. Fortunately the buildings survived World War II and 1960s modernisation, and in 2011 St Pancras reopened almost a decade after a £1 billion restoration.
One of the most stunning and photographed features of St Pancras Renaissance is the central staircase inside the heart of the hotel. In a building brimful of stunning features, one of the most impressive is the gorgeous Hansom Lounge, the hotel's main entrance and reception.
It's so named as it was once the cobbled driveway for horse-drawn carriages arriving at the station and is nowadays covered with a glass roof supported by duck-egg blue coloured iron girders complementing those of the main station roof.
It's the building and the location that matter most here, not the suites though my 25-square-metre, understated deluxe queen room with all of the mandatory mod-cons is perfectly pleasant and overlooking the British Library on Euston Road, a polarising 1970s architectural icon.
However, based on a previous stay, by far the best rooms are those overlooking the Eurostar trains, which arrive and depart from below the terminal's spectacularly vast glass-and-iron vaulted ceiling. These considerably more stylish rooms, as well as the Chambers Suites, come with a host of perks, including access to the Chambers Club, a plush and private lounge.
The hotel has several dining options including the affordable being the Booking Office, the railway station's former ticket office. Dimly lit and often crowded (though much quieter at breakfast), it's nonetheless a beautiful space. Elsewhere, there's the opulent Gilbert Scott Restaurant, named after the hotel's architect, with dishes inspired by century-old British classics.
London is literally at your doorstep, though there's plenty around Kings Cross, including nearby Regents Canal, to keep you amused.
Opposite the Eurostar platforms on the terminal's Grand Terrace is the elegant Searcys, a Parisian-style brasserie which serves a range of classic British and continental fish and meat dishes with contemporary notes (there are good meal deals at lunchtimes). Searcys also operates St Pancras' famed trackside Champagne Bar, just across from the restaurant
If you hanker for antipodean-quality coffee, simply head up the road to Caravan, a cafe founded by a New Zealander (well, they do claim to have invented the flat white) housed within a historic grain store at Granary Square.
A little closer is the German Gymnasium, built by the London German community in 1865 as an actual gym; indeed, it was England's first purpose-built gym. Its spectacularly cavernous two-level space has been transformed into a top-notch restaurant with stunning effect.
You don't need to be an anorak to appreciate the grandeur of the fairytale-like railway terminal building inside which this superbly-restored hotel is located. Aside from the Eurostar platforms being moments away, St Pancras Renaissance also offers direct access from the also impressively rejuvenated Kings Cross precinct. Overall, it's an accommodation experience you easily won't forget.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of Visit Britain, St Pancras Renaissance and Qantas.
Stunning architecture; fabulous location.
The main public areas of hotels can be at times noisy and crowded, and difficult to navigate for arriving and departing.