Preview: St Pancras Renaissance London

Business Traveller takes a look around Marriott’s latest London property, partly housed within the former Midland Grand Hotel, and currently in a soft opening phase ahead of its official unveiling on May 5.

The Midland Grand Hotel was one of several iconic railway properties in London, others including the Great Western Hotel in Paddington (now the Hilton London Paddington), The Great Eastern Hotel (now the Andaz Liverpool Street), and the Charing Cross Hotel (part of the Guoman Hotels group).

Attached to St Pancras station, the original hotel opened on May 5 1873 (hence the date of the official unveiling this year), and operated until 1935, before being used as British Rail offices until the 1980s, since when it has lain empty.

Its Gilbert Scott-designed High Victorian Gothic exterior was restored in the 1990s, before plans for a Marriott hotel were announced as part of the regeneration of St Pancras station (click here for Business Traveller’s St Pancras special edition from November 2007).

Somewhere between £150-200 million has been spent on the hotel’s renovation, although a large chunk of this will have gone on adding a new wing (housing around 200 of the new hotel’s 245 rooms), located behind the original building parallel to the station’s Barlow train shed.

Guests enter the hotel either via the main entrance off Euston Road, or directly from the rail concourse into the Booking Office Bar, next to Carluccio’s and close to the Meeting Place statue and the recently-hung Olympic Rings (see online news March 7).

Formerly the station’s ticketing office, the atmospheric bar has retained the soaring cathedral-like ceiling, iron buttresses and red brick walls, and combined this with dark-wood furniture and a 29-metre long bar. Already open to the public, the Booking Office serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as “a range of Victorian and contemporary punches, served in hand-made copper punch bowls”, and “ales, ciders, perries and porters from historical and contemporary brewers across Britain”.

To the left of the main entrance will be Gilbert Scott, a restaurant headed up by Marcus Wareing and with interior designs by David Collins Studio. This area is not due to open until May, but example dishes quoted on the website thegilbertscott.co.uk include “Dorset Jugged Steak (braised featherblade with port, pork dumplings and redcurrant)”, and “Tweed Kettle (sea trout with a lemon, nutmeg and herb crust)”. There will also be a bar, private dining room and Kitchen Table.

Through the impressive archway entrance and under a walkway bridge (accessible to guests from the first floor and offering close up views of the building’s intricate architecture), guests arrive at the lobby, and are greeted by a gleaming 3D version of Eurostar’s new logo, which was unveiled earlier this week (see online news March 29).

The lobby is bright and airy, with its exposed brick walls, glass roof and steel girders painted in a light lilac colour. Behind this area is the Hansom Hall events space with a capacity for up to 550 guests – the hotel has a total of nine meeting rooms.

While the majority of the hotel’s guests will be accommodated in the new wing, the original building (known as the Chambers) houses 38 suites and all of the property’s public areas. There’s no doubt that this part of the hotel holds the most interest in terms of architecture and décor, including the restored grand staircase and vaulted ceiling (used in the Batman film and the Spice Girls Wannabe video), as well as ornate murals and restored gold-leaf ceilings.

The original Ladies Smoking Room (the first of its kind in Europe) has also been restored and is now an events space with balcony, and many of the suites also feature original design elements and replica period furniture. The Sir George Gilbert Scott Suite is a particularly fine example, with the original wallpaper having been completely restored at a cost of nearly £50,000, while the three-bedroom Royal Suite is housed within the former Venetian Ballroom.

The constraints of the original building mean that some suites have had ensuite bathrooms “created” within the rooms, and it’s worth noting that some of the suites look inwards onto the bustling station concourse. There is also wifi internet access throughout the hotel, something which can be difficult to achieve with older buildings.

We didn’t see the rooms in the new Barlow building, but the Marriott website says that they start from 28sqm, and feature double glazed windows (unlike those in the Chambers), air conditioning, wired and wifi internet access and 37-inch flatscreen TVs.

All guests staying in the Chambers suites (and those in Barlow Club rooms) have access to a club lounge adjacent to the hotel’s entrance, offering complimentary breakfast, snacks, afternoon tea and cocktails. Marriott says memberships may eventually be sold for this space, although a final decision has yet to be made.

Finally leisure facilities include a fitness centre and whirlpool, and a ground-floor spa with treatment rooms and a sauna.

Rates at the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel start from around £250 for a room in the Barlow Wing, rising to £450 for an entry level suite in the Chambers, all the way up to £10,000 per night for the Royal Suite.

The hotel is one of a raft of properties opening or being refurbished in London ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games. W Hotels opened its first London property in Leicester Square on February 14, while the Four Seasons London at Park Lane reopened in January after a two-year refurbishment. The Savoy unveiled its £220 million revamp late last year, and St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster will reopen following renovations in mid-April.

The Corinthia hotel London is also now taking reservations, and the boutique Eccleston Square hotel will follow suit in Pimlico later this year. Bulgari Hotels will also open its first London property in Knightsbridge towards the end of the year.

The Hyatt Regency London – the Churchill is to undergo a “multimillion-pound” refurbishment of all guestrooms over the next few months, and Guoman’s Charing Cross hotel is nearing the completion of its project to add a new Executive Wing.

For more information visit marriott.co.uk.

Report by Mark Caswell


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