Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Great Northern Hotel

30 Jan 2014 by Tom Otley


The Great Northern hotel certainly has a pedigree. Dating back to 1854, it reopened as a 91-room luxury boutique property in spring last year after a closure of more than a decade and a £42 million refurbishment.

The long curved building was originally designed by Victorian civil engineer Lewis Cubitt (brother of architect Thomas Cubitt).


Gorgeous to look at from the outside, with elegant white capitals spelling out its name – it’s almost a shame to arrive by rail and miss seeing the frontage.

There are a number of ways in, including an entrance from the concourse of King’s Cross that leads directly into the bar, but use the door next to the taxi rank (facing St Pancras International) to get to reception. The hotel is a little like the Tardis – you can walk around the outside in less than a minute, but once inside it’s quite easy to get lost.


On Pancras Road in WC1– great for transport connections, particularly to the north of England via both King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, and Europe via Eurostar. There's also the Piccadilly line for Heathrow or the Victoria line to catch the Gatwick Express from Victoria.

The area is much improved by redevelopment, which is continuing – Google will be moving in nearby in 2015. 


There are three room types – Couchette (15 sqm), Wainscot (22 sqm) and Cubitt (25 sqm) – all of which are very well designed and feel larger than they are. One of the challenges of renovating the Grade II Listed property was that many of the rooms were small and some were not en suite.

The elegant solution to this is the Couchette – "small but perfectly appointed" just about sums it up. Wardrobe space is limited, but sufficient for shirts and trousers, and a large leather panel by the door provides a coat hanger.

The Cubitt rooms have a king-size Hypnos bed, and eight have roll-top baths. Each is decorated in Farrow and Ball olive green paint, with station lamps on bedside tables shaped like Victorian vanity cases.

The Wainscot rooms, which are named after their dark American walnut panelling, are on the top (sixth) floor and painted in Farrow and Ball’s Pelt hue, with a small shuttered window in the roof. These are very romantic (some have a double shower).

At the end of each corridor is a pantry with a coffee machine, kettle, Tea Pigs tea, snacks, newspapers and magazines.

All rooms have Loewe LCD TVs, a free wifi and entertainment package including movies, Nespresso machines, tea and coffee-making facilities and Lefroy-Brooks bathrooms with black slate floors, power showers, and Malin and Goetz toiletries.

In Cubitt rooms, a banquette seat sits in one corner with a small work table and a couple of plugs on the wall to power devices, while Wainscott and Couchette rooms just have a small table for working at. All the rooms have incredibly efficient double glazing.


The main bar is accessible from the platform during the day. It has a long central pewter bar, two bespoke chandeliers and elegant furniture. At one end, an original wrought iron staircase takes you up to the bar’s mezzanine level (a small space that is good for private drinks).

Another staircase at the other end leads to the restaurant, Plum and Spilt Milk, overseen by Mark Sargeant, with its own small bar. The British cuisine here is superb, as is the service (for a full review, click here).


None, though you can reserve the mezzanine floor of the bar for drinks, or part of the restaurant.


I was bowled over by the Great Northern. The building is lovely, the interior decoration is elegant without being fussy, and the renovation is just right.


  • HOW MANY ROOMS? 91 – 21 Couchette, 51 Cubitt and 19 Wainscot
  • HIGHLIGHTS Excellent sound-proofing, and the free wifi and movies
  • PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in March started from £209 for a Couchette room
  • CONTACT Great Northern hotel, Pancras Road; tel +44 (0)20 3388 0800;

Tom Otley

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