BACKGROUND There can be few hotels in London with a past as chequered as this one’s. Attached to St Pancras station, it originally opened in 1873 as the Midland Grand. One of a handful of iconic London railway hotels, it closed in 1935, later becoming the offices of British Rail before being saved from demolition in the 1960s. It was finally redeveloped as a luxury property under Marriott’s Renaissance brand, opening in March 2011.
WHAT'S IT LIKE? The latest incarnation has retained the magnificent Gilbert Scott-designed neo-Gothic façade while adding a new wing (Barlow House) at the rear, running parallel to the Barlow Shed of St Pancras station. The former taxi forecourt has been transformed into a bright, airy lobby courtesy of a “Barlow Blue” painted wrought iron girder structure, and the former British Rail booking office has been reimagined as the hotel’s main all-day restaurant and bar.
WHERE IS IT? The entrance to the property is on Euston Road at the southern end of St Pancras station (it is signposted from the train and underground stations). It is also possible to access the Booking Office restaurant from the Eurostar platforms.
The make-up of the hotel means it can be confusing for a first-time visitor to find their way around, but getting lost means stumbling across original features such as the stunning grand staircase (featured in the Spice Girls’ Wannabe video), gold leaf ceilings and ornate murals. There are 245 rooms, with 38 rooms and suites in the original Chambers building, which have had en suite facilities added (the original hotel offered only communal bathrooms), and 207 modern rooms in the new wing.
ROOM FACILITIES Many of the elegant, high-ceilinged Chambers rooms feature original details such as fireplaces and ornate mouldings, and the top suites go even further – the Sir George Gilbert Scott features £47,000-worth of painstakingly restored Victorian wallpaper. While these rooms are more atmospheric than those in the modern wing, the downside is the lack of double glazing (as the building is listed). Having said that, the hotel has invested in heavy curtains for the street-facing rooms to cover the large windows, and I slept soundly. Some of the inner-facing rooms look directly into the station.
Rooms in Barlow House start from 28 sqm and feature air conditioning, double glazing, a queen-size bed, a workdesk with an ergonomic chair, wired and wifi internet access (charged at £15 for 24 hours), a 37-inch TV, a Bose radio, and tea- and coffee-making facilities. King rooms are available, measuring 32 sqm. There is also a Barlow Club option, which, along with the Chambers rooms, offers 24-hour access to the Chambers Club lounge next to the Booking Office. I found this to be a bit of a strange space, with little atmosphere and few people using it, though a good complimentary self-service breakfast was served here.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The Booking Office is a buzzing venue with exposed brickwork walls and a long bar. When I visited on a midweek evening, the restaurant was busy but service was swift – I tried the coarse duck and pistachio terrine starter (£11 and very tasty), followed by steak and chips cooked to perfection (£20).
The hotel’s other restaurant, the Gilbert Scott, is a fine-dining British brasserie and bar run by Marcus Wareing. Its David Collins-designed interior features high ceilings, limestone pillars, elaborate cornice work and large paintings. The menu has been “inspired by the pioneering and skilled cooks of old time England”, with choices including Mrs Beeton’s barbecue chicken and Queen Anne’s artichoke tart.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are nine meeting spaces, the largest of which is Hansom Hall. Capable of holding up to 550 people theatre-style, this space has a high glazed roof and an open-air terrace, and can be opened on to the lobby. The 200-capacity Gallery has been restored to its former glory, with beautiful ceilings and chandeliers, while the Ladies Smoking Room has been renovated as a pre-function area for 180 guests reception-style. There is a business centre on the ground floor.
LEISURE FACILITIES Located in the basement, in what was originally the hotel’s steam kitchens, the St Pancras spa has been decorated in Victorian tiling and features a 24-hour gym, steam room, sauna, relaxation pool, six treatment rooms, and male grooming salon Melogy.
VERDICT The hotel successfully combines the historic nature of the original building with the modern requirements of a city-centre property. The public areas and façade are stunning, and the Booking Office restaurant has already become a popular venue for travellers passing through St Pancras station.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in February started from £215 for a Barlow room.
CONTACT Marriott St Pancras Renaissance London hotel, Euston Road; tel +44 (0)20 7841 3540; stpancrasrenaissance.com